How to Read the Litter Box for Health Clues

Monitoring and analyzing your cat’s litter box could tell you all you need to know about your cat’s current health status. Here’s what we mean!

Jan 28, 2024By Ryan Brennan
how to read the litter box for health clues

Let’s be honest – none of us actually enjoy cleaning our cat’s litter box. The only reason we do it is because we love our cat and want to make sure they have everything they need to live a happy life.

That’s reason enough to scoop those clumps at least once per day, but what if I told you there was more to it? What if those clumps were your ticket to understanding your cat’s health?

If this sounds wild to you, then prepare to have your mind blown – because it’s true!

Analyzing Your Cat’s Stool

cat litter box dirty

I know what you’re thinking – do I really have to examine my cat’s stool?

Don’t worry. You won’t have to take out a microscope and perform an at-home stool test to see how healthy your cat is. Instead, make a simple mental note of the size, consistency, shape, color, and smell of your cat’s stool. If it’s not dark brown, shaped like a sausage, and firm, something might be wrong.

For example, white spots in your cat’s stool could be a sign of intestinal parasites, while green stool is often a sign of gallbladder issues. You should also be on the lookout for recurring diarrhea, constipation, foul smells, and any foreign contents inside the stool – like a rubber band, plant materials, or thread.

You know your cat better than anyone – you do pick up their stool daily, after all. If something seems wrong, don’t hesitate to investigate.

Longer or More Frequent Trips to the Litter Box

orange black cat litter box

Most cats visit their litter box around 3-5 times per day – though all cats are different. If your cat is going potty more than five times per day, or more frequently than usual, something might be wrong internally.

Frequent elimination could be a sign of feline idiopathic cystitis (inflammation of the bladder), a urinary tract infection (UTI), polyuria and polydipsia (PUPD), or bladder stones. Either way, they’ll need a vet.

You should also pay attention to how long your cat spends in the litter box.

Most cats step in their litter box, handle their business, and then leave. If they’re spending more than a few moments in the litter box, it could be a sign of constipation, feline anxiety, a UTI, or displeasure with their surroundings.

More frequent or longer trips to the litter box aren’t always a cause for concern, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Shorter or Less Frequent Trips to the Litter Box

cat exit litter box

If your cat isn’t using the litter box as often (or at all), there’s a good chance it has something to do with the environment. They could be dissatisfied with the type of litter, the litter box itself, or where the litter box is located. In some cases, however, it could be a sign of an untreated medical issue.

Similar to frequent elimination, not using the litter box could indicate a urinary tract infection, bladder stones, inflammation, or pain while urinating or defecating. Anything that’s causing discomfort while using the litter box will cause your cat to avoid it at all costs.

Likewise, a cat that’s spending a shorter amount of time in the litter box could be having difficult urinating or defecating. If their trips seem shorter and their clumps are smaller, consider a trip to the vet – your cat will appreciate it!

Finding Blood in the Litter Box

owner scoop cat litter

Nothing will give a cat owner more of a mini heart attack than finding blood in the litter box. Bloody stool or urine is one of the most tell-tale and obvious signs that your cat is struggling with a disease, infection, or injury.

First, let’s talk about bloody stool. Believe it or not, there are two types of blood found in stool – digested blood (which appears black) and fresh blood (which appears red). Black stool often indicates bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract, while red stool could be a sign of a cut or open wound near the anus.

Next, let’s discuss bloody urine, which can appear bright red or light pink. Most cases of blood in the urine are caused by a urinary tract infection, feline interstitial cystitis, or urinary stones. While changes in eating habits and medication can help treat the underlying cause, some cats may require surgery.

Finding Intestinal Worms in the Litter Box

owner clean litter box

I might be unlocking a new fear for some of you, but yes – finding worms (or eggs) in your cat’s litter box is a real thing. These worms often originate in the intestine, where they rob your cat of precious nutrients, but there comes a time when they must travel through the digestive system.

There are various types of intestinal worms commonly found in cat feces – such as tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, heartworms, lungworms, and whipworms. None of these are healthy for your cat, and their presence is always worthy of an immediate trip to your veterinarian’s office.

Intestinal worms are often present with other symptoms – such as diarrhea, discoloration of the gums, frequent vomiting (with the presence of worms), and an increase in appetite (despite losing weight).

If you find worms in your cat’s feces or vomit, clean the litter box right away to prevent them from wreaking further havoc.

Howling or Crying While Using the Litter Box

gray cat blue litter box

Is your cat meowing, crying, howling, or caterwauling while using the litter box? While this could certainly be a sign of displeasure with their environment, it could also be an obvious sign that they’re in pain. Either way, it’s important that you address the concern to prevent the issue from growing worse.

Before you start to worry, first examine the environment. Have you changed to a different brand of litter recently? Have you moved the location of their litter box? Have you changed the litter box itself? If so, your cat is likely trying to tell you they’re unhappy with the changes.

If everything about their litter box is the same and their howling is happening out of the blue, consider a trip to the vet. Their pain could be caused by urinary tract obstruction (blockage) or infection, which could be fatal if not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner.

Can Health-Monitoring Cat Litter Help?

different types cat litter

If you’re worried that you’re missing some of the tell-tale signs of health issues in your cat, then you’re in luck. Health-monitoring cat litter is one of the newest advancements in pet care and can help you spot pH changes in your cat’s urine. If the wrong color appears, then it’s time to take your cat to the vet!

Health-monitoring litter isn’t fool-proof, and pH changes don’t always indicate something is terribly wrong, but they act as an alarm to investigate further. For example, urine that is too acidic could be a sign of kidney problems in cats, while urine that is too alkaline could indicate a urinary tract infection.

Whether you use your own two eyes or a health-monitoring cat litter, examining the contents of your cat’s litter box is crucial to keeping them healthy and happy. If it’s not already a part of your daily routine, then there’s no better time to start than right now!

Ryan Brennan
By Ryan Brennan

Ryan is a content writer with 10+ years of experience in the field. He is the proud owner of a white domestic short-haired cat with black spots named Jaxx - he looks like a cow, but acts and sounds like a cat. They enjoy doing laps around the house with a laser pointer and snuggling when it’s time for bed. Ryan hopes to give Jaxx a puppy friend someday.