My Cat Keeps Going to the Litter Box, But Nothing Happens!

My girl, Chelle

It’s alarming when your cat goes to the litter box and nothing happens. After she got in and out for the third time in a span of 10 minutes, I got spooked and made an appointment to see my vet the next morning. 

She had a urinalysis done and it revealed the presence of bacteria. And we went home with a fish-flavored antibiotic (doxycycline, I believe).

So your cat who is going in and out of the litter box unproductively may be in the same boat. Or, she might not. This puzzling behavior could be a sign of something more serious. As a pet parent, it’s crucial to understand when it’s time to ring the vet vs what’s behavioral or environmental .

So on this article, I share what I learned about this odd feline behavior and how you can help your furry buddy out. Let’s begin. 

Reasons a Cat Goes to Litter Box But Nothing Happens

Your cat’s urinary tract system is pretty similar to ours – kidneys filter out waste from the blood which then travels down the ureters into the bladder before being expelled through the urethra.

But when something goes awry in this system can cause discomfort for your feline friend which may explain those fruitless trips to the litter box. So as a cat owner, any change in litter box behavior is worth noticing.

If your kitty is frequenting the litter box more often but peeing (or very little), it might mean they’re dealing with any number of medical, behavioral, or environmental reasons.


Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is one of the most common reasons why cats have frequent visits to their litter boxes without much result. Now, FLUTD is not a specific disease but a term that covers a whole range of issues including bladder infections, urinary stones or even more serious conditions like bladder cancer.

And how do you help? Well, you can start by making sure they have access to plenty of water at all times – hydration helps keep things flowing smoothly. Try switching up their diet too – wet food can aid hydration and may ease any discomfort.

But most importantly? Get them checked out by a vet ASAP. They’ll be able to properly diagnose what’s going on and provide appropriate treatment options for your feline friend.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

UTIs in cats are quite common and can happen due to multiple reasons – from stress to bladder stones. And just like us humans, they can cause discomfort and pain in our furry pals too.

The symptoms might vary from cat to cat. Some kitties may squirm or cry out in pain while urinating; others might start avoiding their litter boxes altogether in the future. And let me tell you this – if Fluffy starts peeing outside her usual spot or her urine seems bloody or cloudy, that’s a red flag right there!

So how do we deal with these pesky UTIs? Well, the first step is getting a proper diagnosis from the vet – typically through urinalysis and maybe an ultrasound if needed. Treatment options range from antibiotics for bacterial infections to dietary changes for managing bladder stones.

But remember guys, prevention is better than cure. Keeping your cat hydrated and provide plenty of opportunities for exercise can help keep those nasty UTIs at bay.

Urethral Obstruction or Blockage

Another potential culprit could be a urethral blockage or obstruction. Sounds scary right? It can be.

If a cat is trying to urinate frequently and can’t, it’s an emergency that requires immediate veterinary attention. Urethral obstruction, especially in male cats, can be life-threatening in a matter of hours.

Symptoms to Watch For:

  • Straining to urinate
  • Visiting the litter box frequently without producing much urine
  • Vocalizing or showing signs of pain

What You Can Do:

  • If you suspect a urinary blockage, seek veterinary care immediately. This isn’t something to wait on.
  • Ensure your cat has access to fresh water at all times. Hydration can help prevent blockages.
  • I advise feeding a balanced diet. Some specialized urinary diets can help reduce the risk of blockages.

Bladder Stones or Kidney Stones

Speaking of stones – bladder and kidney stones are another thing we gotta watch out for with our furry friends’ health. These nasty things form from mineral deposits and they’re not just extremely painful but also dangerous if left untreated.

Bladder stones, or uroliths, are hard collections of minerals that form in the bladder. They can range in size and number.

Symptoms to Watch For:

  • Blood in the urine.
  • Straining to urinate.
  • Frequent urination, often in small amounts.
  • Urinating outside the litter box.

What You Can Do:

  • If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s crucial to consult your vet. They can diagnose the type of stone and recommend a treatment plan.
  • Dietary changes can be beneficial. Prescription only special diets can dissolve certain types of stones and prevent them from returning.
  • In some cases, surgery might be necessary to remove larger stones.

Kidney stones, while less common than bladder stones, are mineral deposits that form in the kidneys.

Symptoms to Watch For:

  • Many of the symptoms overlap with bladder stones: blood in urine, frequent urination, and discomfort.
  • Lethargy or depression.
  • Loss of appetite.

What You Can Do:

  • Again, a vet consultation is paramount. They’ll likely use X-rays or ultrasounds to diagnose.
  • Increasing water intake is essential. This can help flush out smaller stones and prevent new ones from forming.
  • Dietary changes, under the guidance of your vet, can help manage and prevent kidney stones.
  • In severe cases, surgery or other medical interventions might be necessary.

Prevention is Key

For both bladder and kidney stones, prevention is often the best approach. Here’s what I advise:

  • Hydration: Always ensure your cat has access to fresh water. If your cat isn’t a big drinker, consider a cat water fountain or wet food to increase their water intake.
  • Diet: Feed a balanced diet. Some prescription cat foods are formulated to maintain a urinary pH that helps prevent stone formation.
  • Regular Vet Check-ups: Routine vet visits can catch potential problems early on.

Interstitial Cystitis

Then there’s Feline Interstitial Cystitis. It’s an inflammation of the bladder that can cause frequent urination attempts, and comes with symptoms similar to UTIs but more chronic in nature. Stress is often its trigger point, so keep an eye out for any changes in your home environment that might stress out your cat.

Symptoms to Watch For:

  • Similar to urethral obstruction: frequent litter box visits, straining, and discomfort.
  • Blood in the urine.

What You Can Do:

  • Reduce stressors in your cat’s environment. This might mean adding more litter boxes, providing safe spaces, or introducing interactive toys.
  • Consult with your vet about pain management and potential treatments.


A second potential cause could be constipation. If your cat’s diet isn’t quite right or they’re dehydrated, it could lead to infrequent and unsuccessful bathroom trips.

Symptoms to Watch For:

  • Infrequent or hard stools.
  • Straining in the litter box.
  • Loss of appetite.

What You Can Do:

  • Increase fiber in their diet. Feed a higher fiber cat food. Also, pumpkin puree (unsweetened) is a popular choice many cat parents swear by.
  • Ensure they’re drinking enough water. Consider a cat water fountain to entice them.
  • If constipation persists, consult your vet. They might recommend a gentle laxative or other treatments.

Constipation in cats is not the only GI issue that can influence litter box behavior of course. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and diarrhea are other common ones.

Other Medical Issues

There are other medical issues like diabetes and hyperthyroidism that can make your cat frequent the litter box with no results.

These conditions can cause excessive drinking and consequently lead to frequent urination attempts. But wait – how do we know if it’s one of these? Well, you’ll notice other signs such as weight loss despite increased appetite in hyperthyroidism, while diabetes may show signs like excessive thirst and weight loss with no changes in food intake.

For older cats—arthritis might be the culprit here. You see, if it hurts every time your cat tries to squat in the box due to arthritis pain in their joints… well, they won’t be heading there anymore, and they might go somewhere else. 

We need to mention kidney disease which is common in senior (or even adult) cats. Signs include more frequent peeing attempts with less output each time along with weight loss and decreased appetite.

Non Medical Reasons

Let’s not forget about behavioral or environmental issues either. Cats are creatures of habit (and sometimes mischief!) and many things can upset their delicate litter box habits.

Stress and Anxiety

New people, pets, or even a change in their litter could stress them out. When cats are stressed or anxious, they might visit the litter box frequently without actually doing anything or only pass small amounts of urine. 

So why do sources of stress influence your cat’s bathroom habits? Well, when a cat’s feeling stressed or anxious, their bodies may produce more adrenaline than usual. This floods their system and can lead to the Feline Interstitial Cystitis (FIC) mentioned above.

Another example would be if a cat has had a negative or painful experience in the litter box (like straining to urinate due to a UTI), they might associate the litter box with that discomfort and avoid it or frequently visit it without urinating.


If you’ve recently switched to a different type or brand of litter, your cat might just be trying to get used to it. They may make frequent visits every few minutes, sniff around, maybe even scratch a bit but not actually do their business until they’re comfortable with the new setup.

Territorial Dispute

Territorial marking is especially common if there are other cats (or even dogs) in the house. Your cat might repeatedly visit the litter box as an act of claiming territory rather than doing any actual ‘business’. It’s like they’re telling everyone else, “This is MY spot!”

Observing Changes in Diet and Hydration

This is my advise to you: if your cat is making frequent trips to the litter box but to no avail, you will want to check out their eating and drinking habits. 

First off, if your furry friend seems to be eating less than usual or is outright refusing food, that could spell trouble. Cats are notorious for hiding their discomfort, so this may be one of the few signs you get. It’s always good to keep an eye on what they’re munching on – sudden disinterest in favorite treats? That’s definitely reason enough for concern.

Next up – water intake. Has Fluffy been drinking more than usual? Excessive thirst can often go hand in hand with frequent (unsuccessful) bathroom breaks. Even if it doesn’t seem like a lot more water than usual, any significant increase should have you reaching for the phone and calling up your vet.

Keep an eye on the water bowl. If it’s emptying quicker than normal or if you see your cat by the water dish more frequently – take note!

And don’t forget about changes in weight too! Rapid weight loss can also signal health problems including urinary issues. So while we’re at it, maybe give Fluffy a gentle squeeze from time to time near her ribs. 

Professional Help: When to Visit the Vet

You know your cat better than anyone else. If you’ve noticed they’re visiting their litter box way too often but nothing happens, it could be a sign of a health issue. It’s not always be a medical emergency, but there are moments when professional help is needed ASAP.

In some cases, it might just turn out that your cat is dealing with behavioral issues rather than medical ones – maybe they’re unhappy with their litter box type or location, a dirty liter box, or type of litter used? But it might not be, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

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