Why Does My Cat Strain in the Litter box?

Why Does My Cat Strain in the Litter box?

Our question this week was:

Hi Dr. Debra,

I was hoping you could help clarify some questions I have about bladder infections. Recently my 2-year-old cat has been “straining,” I can’t tell if it’s number 1 or number 2, but he started having accidents of both around the same time the straining started. He licks himself quite a bit when it happens and is very annoyed with anyone who walks by him. Then, almost as quickly as it started, it ends and he’s fine.

His eating and water intake has never changed. A few days ago I took him to his vet and she told me he had a nasty bladder infection, so we got him started on a pretty heavy dose of Amoxicillin. She also said he may have bladder stones — she was pretty vague, so I’m assuming they are similar to kidney stones in humans? She explained that if it is stones, he will need a surgery that will cost around $3000, which I simply do not have. There is little help on the internet that I have found. Are they life threatening? Can he pass them? How can I judge a good low-cost vet to possibly do the surgery cheaper? I appreciate any advice you can give me.

Blaire MacDonald


Hi – thanks for your email Blaire.

You wrote that your 2-year-old cat is straining in the litter box and you can’t tell if he is straining to urinate or defecate.

The most common cause is feline urinary problems. Frequent urination is also called Pollikuria. It has several possible causes from an infection, bladder stones, bleeding problems to tumors. There is also a condition called Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC) – this disease also has many other names that can cause blood in the urine of some cats. Regardless of the cause, it is abnormal.

The most likely cause is the Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC) problem. Many cats can have symptoms that come and go. I’d recommend have your cat checked out to determine the underlying cause.

To be honest $3000.00 sounds like a LOT for surgery. If stones are the he underlying cause, I’d rediscuss with your vet and confirm the fees/price. Fees vary from practice to practice and in different parts of the country but it is firm at $3000.00 for bladder stone removal, I’d consider getting a second opinion.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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