It may not be the most pleasant of subjects; but when and how often your cat poops can tell you a lot about their health. It’s also crucial to be aware of, and at least familiar with, your cats typical schedule, pooping preferences and any subsequent changes. But how long will a cat typically hold their poop and when should it start to become a concern. Here is what you must know.
So, how long can cats hold their poop? Cats can generally hold their poop for up to a day without there being a cause of concern. You should, however, contact your vet if you suspect your cat has not used the litter tray for about 2-3 days. Do consider that every cat is different and pooping frequency is dependent on several factors, such as age and diet.
Cats are strongly routine-based animals; this is something we can use to our advantage.
And it is essential to monitor your cat’s bowel movements as much as you can.
Besides, it can help give us an overview of what is going on.
And constipation can get serious pretty quickly in cats, especially as it often goes hand in hand with dehydration.
In such instances, you may find your cat using their litter box less often, or spending longer than usual in it.
Either way, always seek advice if you are concerned, especially if the change in toileting behavior is accompanied by other signs such as the presence of blood or mucus in the stool.
If you find that they are suddenly using the litter box less often or spending longer than usual in it, you should consider seeking the advice of a vet.
Let us now delve much deeper into the subject so that you know exactly what to expect, do and how to approach any issues that may arise along the way.
How Long Can A Cat Go Without Pooping?
How long a cat can go without pooping is reasonably complex; it will depend on a variety of factors, including the age and the overall size of your cat, as well as their eating and drinking habits. However, professionals generally state that two days or longer is a cause for concern.
If constipation is left untreated, it can seriously impact the welfare of your cat.
It can lead to costly vet visits in the future.
In extreme cases, constipation can be fatal, especially in young kittens.
And constipation can develop in a variety of different ways, with dehydration being perhaps the most common.
Why? Because cats can be pretty picky about where they get their water.
Despite the vast array of combined water and food bowl products on the market, cats don’t actually like their water next to their food.
In fact, many cats will avoid drinking it altogether and will literally cause themselves to dehydrate if there is no other suitable water source available – this is a particular issue in indoor cats as they have fewer options when it comes to water availability.
There are certain cats that also have a strong preference for running water over still water, which is why you will have probably seen comical YouTube videos of cats trying to lick up water from the tap in a kitchen sink!
To avoid this problem, many cat welfare charities suggest that you offer several water bowls in your house so your cat can pick and choose which one it prefers.
There are also a number of cat water fountains available on the market that you can consider if you think your cat has a love of moving water.
- High grade stainless steel is durable, hygienic and dishwasher safe. It is easy to observe the water level through transparent fountain wall. Food grade material and BPA free cat fountain is safe for your pets.
- The pump is whisper-quiet and stays below 40 decibels. Low-voltage pump is reliable and easy to maintain. Stainless Steel top pet fountain features LED light that will decorate your room in the evening.
- The circulating filtration system uses a replaceable filter to purify the water, remove dirt and food particles plus a pre-filter sponge to catch the hair and debris. Crystal Cat Fountain comes with 3 replacement filters instead of 1. No need to purchase filters immediately.
- A source of running water encourages pets to drink more rather than still water. This fountain has 3 different drinking modes. It provides more options for your pets and attracts them to drink more water.
- Wonder Creature pet fountain only takes a few minutes to set up. Disassembling for cleaning and maintenance is easy.
This stubborn behavior is a common feline trait amongst wild species too.
Cats in the wild will never drink water close to the area where they hunt and kill prey, as this proximity often leads to the water becoming contaminated with bacteria which can lead to illness.
So basically, your cat is avoiding becoming ill from dirty water, which ironically leads to dehydration in pet cats which is just as detrimental as any illness!
The other problem that contributes to dehydration in our pet cats is the food we offer them.
Dry cat food has become a staple diet for most cats, but it only has a water content of 10-15%.
In the wild, cats will gain 70-80% of their water intake from the food they eat.
This knowledge is slowly becoming more widespread in the pet industry, which has led to an explosion of more ‘natural’ diets being developed, such as raw, freeze-dried meat options.
Of course, dehydration and stubbornness are not the only causes of constipation in cats.
There are a wide range of causes, from stress to bladder infections, so it is important for you to monitor your cat regularly and seek the advice of a vet if you are worried.
Luckily, many cases of constipation in cats are easily treated if picked up early enough.
How Often Should Cats Poop?
As a general guide, you should expect your cat to poop at least once a day if they are healthy. However, the frequency can vary from cat to cat, so it is important to know what is normal for your particular cat.
As unpleasant as it sounds, it’s also a good idea to keep an eye on the appearance of your cats’ feces when you are cleaning out the litter tray.
Any change in consistency can also indicate a problem, even if your pet is pooping regularly.
The feces of a healthy cat should be a deep brown color and form a distinct sausage shape.
It should also not give off any strong foul odors, although I do admit that it certainly shouldn’t smell like roses either!
It is important to remember that pooping too often can also indicate a problem, especially if the feces is a lighter color and a runnier consistency.
Diarrhea is fairly common in cats and also has a range of possible causes, from mild to severe.
Occasional bouts of diarrhea are not normally a cause for concern and should generally clear up within a 24-hour period.
They are often caused by a dietary change or food allergy, so it is important to monitor your cat closely whenever you decide to change the type or brand of food you are offering.
However, if diarrhea lasts longer than 24 hours or the signs are more severe, then you should contact your vet.
Severe diarrhea symptoms include:
- Bloody or watery diarrhea
- Significant changes in eating and drinking habits
- Hunched posture (this could indicate a painful abdomen)
- Periods of diarrhea for two weeks or more
- Constant diarrhea for more than 24 hours
- Lethargy (bear in mind that cats normally sleep between 18-20 hours a day when they are healthy, so this is more about looking at any behavior changes you notice and if your cat seems ‘out of character’)
Do Cats Need A Litter Box At Night?
You should ensure that your cat has access to a litter box at all times – so this should include during the night. Cats are mainly nocturnal animals, so it is simply not worth the risk of removing their toilet area at night. This is actually when they are more likely to go!
It is important to note that the litter should be cleaned often.
Cats will not use a litter tray if it is dirty, which may result in your cat using the carpet instead!
Litter trays should also be placed in an area that is easily accessible at all times.
According to the ISFM (International Society of Feline Medicine), you should ensure you have one litter box for each cat in the household, plus one more.
This may seem a little extreme, but the advice is based on years of cat research.
Cats are extremely territorial animals and like to do their ‘business’ in private, just like humans.
Cats that are forced to share litter trays often display stress-related behavioral problems like inappropriate toileting, which can lead to more serious health issues in the long run.
These litter trays should also be placed in separate areas of the house because the smell of another cat near the litter tray can be just as distressing as sharing the same tray.
You will probably find that each of your cats will stick to their own litter tray, so you must ensure they are all kept clean as much as possible.
If you find that your cat is regularly toileting outside of the litter box, you will first need to assess the surrounding environment for any potential stressful factors;
- Is the litter tray in a quiet area of the house?
- Are there any cleaning scents or air fresheners regularly used in that area?
- (Cats have a very sensitive sense of smell), have you recently changed the type of litter you use?
- Have you noticed any other changes in your cat which may indicate a health problem?
You may also need to think about the type of tray you have.
Nervous cats are often more comfortable using a litter tray that has a hood, as this creates more privacy.
Elderly cats or ones with limited mobility, i.e., arthritis or a long-term injury, may need a litter tray that has shallow sides to make it easier for them to get in and out comfortably.
And then there is the actual litter itself.
Be sure to invest in a good litter, like pellets; which are soft, comfortable, and naturally odor-reducing.
How Can You Tell If Your Cat Is Constipated?
The most obvious sign a cat is constipated is if they show changes in their behavior and their pooping frequency reduces. These typically go hand in hand.
Firstly, we should define what is meant by constipation. The term is used to describe difficulties in the passage of feces, which can range from infrequent to absent in the most extreme cases.
It is very important to act quickly if you suspect your cat is constipated because prolonged constipation can lead to a whole host of medical issues.
If constipation is prolonged, the feces may become compacted in your cat’s rectum and colon, which effectively stops the large intestines from doing their job properly, a condition known as obstipation.
In cases where the cause of obstipation is not successfully treated, the condition can progress into a syndrome called Megacolon which is when the intestines become abnormally swollen.
This can permanently block the passage of feces and even gas.
Every breed of cat is susceptible to constipation, as well as these more severe conditions.
However, the Manx cat, in particular, has been found to be more at risk.
This is thought to be caused by a rectal and sacral spinal deformity that is presumably a result of the breeding process that causes the absence of a tail.
There are a number of signs you can watch out for that may suggest your cat is suffering from a bout of constipation.
Initial symptoms include:
- Straining when trying to go to the toilet
- Reduced frequency in pooping
- Harder or drier poop than normal
- Straining or pooping outside of the litter box
If this develops into a more serious condition, your cat may show additional symptoms such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Signs of depression and lethargy
- Dehydration – this can be determined by performing the ‘pinch test.’ Simply pinch the skin on the back of the neck between the shoulders, and lift gently. Hold in that position for a second or so and then release. The skin should drop back almost immediately into its original position; if it doesn’t, then your cat is most likely dehydrated.
You MUST contact a vet if you spot these signs in your cat, as the condition can be fatal if not treated.
It is prevalent in older cats over the age of 8, where it often indicates a kidney problem.
Because of the range of issues that can cause constipation, your vet will probably have to run numerous tests to determine the underlying cause.
These can include blood and urine tests, X-rays, and even an endoscopy in the most extreme cases.
The good news is that, if caught early, constipation can be treated successfully with a few lifestyle changes that you can maintain at home, such as:
- Dietary changes – especially if the cause is allergy-related. Your vet may also suggest adding in more ‘wet food’ if the cats have mainly been on a dry diet.
- Ensuring your cat remains hydrated – this can include adding additional water bowls around the house and monitoring your cat’s water intake.
- Litter tray management – this includes regular cleaning of litter trays and considering if the position of the tray is correct for your cat and not causing additional stress.
- Medication – Sometimes, your vet will prescribe laxatives or prescription drugs in the short term to stimulate regular bowel movements. Your vet will offer advice on the best way to administer these to your cat.
Cats may hold their poop now and again.
That’s only natural.
Besides, there may be times we need to travel. Do we really want them to poop in the carrier?
But if poop holding does become a persistent behavior, or there are other negative signs and symptoms, you may need to contact your vet.
Better safe than sorry.
Just consider that cats’ bowel movements will change throughout their life or in the immediate aftermath following any sudden changes – whether to diet or even in their environment.
Generally, so long as you keep a close eye, learn to understand your cat’s schedule and preferences, and act quickly should any negative developments arise, your cat will be in good hands.
Other related guides you may want to read:
- Why Do Cats Poop In Their Carrier? [And How To Stop Them]
- Why Does Cat Poop Smell So Bad? [And The Things You Can Do]
- Why Is My Cat Peeing In The House All Of A Sudden?
- Cat Not Using Litter Box After Moving [Why & What To Do]
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.