If your cat likes to meow in the litter box, you are most likely wondering why they are doing so, especially if it is a new development! Is this normal behavior in cats? Can you do anything to stop it? And if you can, should you? How do you know it isn’t a medical problem? These are the questions you likely have and that we will be discussing here today.
So, why is my cat meowing in the litter box? Cats may meow in the litter box because they aren’t happy with where it’s placed, how it smells, what the litter feels like on their paw pads, or the type of litter box. Some cats have bad associations with their litter box because of noise or other bad experiences. Other times a medical problem or stress is the cause.
Perhaps you have recently moved your litter box.
Maybe you have upgraded to a new one.
Or it could be that you haven’t changed a thing.
Only you will know.
But to help you identify the potential cause, let’s delve deeper into each potential underlying cause.
Then we will move on to how you should respond in each context.
Reasons Why A Cat May Meow In The Litter Box
Your cat may meow in the litter box because there’s something about the litter box they don’t like, such as the location, smell, type of litter, or type of box. Other times they’ve had a negative experience in or near their litter tray, so they complain if they have to use it again. Sometimes a serious medical issue or stress is the problem.
There’s Something About the Litter Box They Don’t Like
It could be there’s something about the litter box that your cat doesn’t like.
Maybe the litter box is in the wrong place for your cat to feel comfortable. Consider these possibilities:
- The litter box is too close to their food or water bowls. Cats don’t want to go to the toilet near the places where they eat and drink.
- The litter box is shared by other cats. Cats are territorial by nature, so they don’t like going to the toilet in the same place as other cats. Each cat should have their own litter box in a different location for them to feel comfortable.
- The litter box is in a busy or noisy place. If the litter box is near a window with heavy traffic, a barking dog, or another source of noise, chances are your cat won’t feel at ease and will complain to you (by meowing). Your cat needs peace and quiet to go to the toilet comfortably.
If the litter or the area around the litter box smells bad to your cat, they won’t want to go to the toilet there.
Some smells that we enjoy, such as lemony or cinnamon smells, act as natural cat repellents.
Air fresheners, cleaners and other items with strong smells aren’t healthy for cats, and they naturally will stay away from these powerful smells.
It’s essential to clean out any poop as soon as possible, as well as remove soiled litter from pee two or three times a day.
Litter boxes should be completely cleaned and deodorized two to three times weekly, using pet-friendly products (preferably odor-free ones).
The Type Of Litter
Most cats like a sandy type of litter, though there are some cats who prefer granular or chunky litter.
Experiment with different types (using identical litter trays) to see what your cat prefers.
Recommended litter -> Tuft and Paw Exceptionally Low Tracking Tofu Cat Litter
Try different depths of litter, too, as some cats love to dig through a deeper layer of litter, whereas others prefer being able to feel the bottom of the tray on their claws.
Note: No matter what type of litter you choose to use for your cat, stay away from clumping cat litter. Clumping cat litter may sound appealing because of easier cleaning, but it’s very dangerous for cats. When your cat licks its paws clean, bits of litter are swallowed, clumping together when they reach your cat’s moist digestive tract to literally form rocks which your cat then can have difficulty passing. Blocked rocks of clumping cat litter can have fatal consequences for your cat, so the risk simply isn’t worth it!
The Type Of Litter Tray
While every cat needs a tray that’s large enough to turn around comfortably in, some cats prefer a tighter fit than others.
Experiment with different sizes for your cat, as well as different depths.
Deeper trays can be hard for older cats to climb into, causing them pain if they have issues such as arthritis (see below).
Covered trays can be ideal for some cats as they feel safe, whereas other cats feel trapped when they can’t see all around them while they go to the toilet.
Try the litter tray with and without the cover to see what your cat likes best.
Note: Don’t be tempted to use plastic liners in your cat’s litter tray – some cats get their claws caught in the plastic, which causes leaks, defeating the purpose of the liner. Then there are those cats who love chewing on plastic bags, which in this case would also cause leaks as well as being unhygienic.
Associated Memories Near The Litter Box
Sometimes if a cat has an extremely unpleasant experience in or near their litter box, they’ll associate the litter box with that experience and complain any time they have to use it.
If your cat has gotten frightened by a very loud noise or another cat while in or near their tray, or an overeager child has picked it up awkwardly and caused it stress, you may hear lots of protesting meows if your cat has to go to the toilet there again.
You can sometimes tell if a cat has had a negative experience around their litter box if they:
- Jump in and out of the box quickly
- Go to the toilet near the litter tray but not inside it
- Avoid the litter tray altogether
There’s A Medical Issue
Sometimes your cat can meow in the litter box because of a medical issue is the problem, particularly if your cat used to use the litter box quietly and then suddenly started meowing inside it.
If you notice any unusual behavior in your cat, it’s always best to go to the vet for a check-up, as cats can’t tell us when something’s wrong (see below).
Your Cat Is Stressed
Stress can cause not only meowing from unhappiness, but some male cats can develop a blocked urinary tract as a result.
Do what you can to mitigate stress in your cat (see below).
Is It Normal For Cats To Meow In Their Litter Box?
It can be normal for cats to meow in their litter box if they’re naturally chatty or if they’ve developed meowing in the litter box as a habit. Other times it’s not normal behavior and can require medical attention or adjustments at home to lower stress levels.
When It’s Normal For A Cat To Meow In Their Litter Box
You probably don’t need to be concerned if your cat is meowing in their litter box because they’re talkative or are used to talking to you while they’re going to the toilet.
Your Cat Is Talkative
Some cat breeds are very chatty, particularly:
- Turkish Vans
- Japanese Bobtails
- Turkish Angoras
- Maine Coons
It could be your cat just likes talking, even while in the litter box. They may be letting you know they’re going to the toilet.
Be careful, though, to observe whether your cat meows before, during or after using the litter box.
Your Cat Is In The Habit Of Talking On The Toilet
Sometimes a cat will form the habit of talking on the toilet, particularly if they’ve been rewarded for this behavior in the past.
Cats are clever creatures who are alert to ways of getting what they want.
If you have rewarded your cat for chatting to you in the litter box in the past, your cat may have decided that meowing while there is a way to get more rewards from you.
When It’s Not Normal For A Cat To Meow In Their Litter Box
It isn’t normal for your cat to meow in their litter box if they have a medical issue or are stressed.
If Your Cat Has A Medical Issue
Some medical issues that can cause your cat to meow in the litter tray include:
- A urinary tract infection (UTI). UTIs are caused by bacteria getting into the bladder via the urethra. It could be your cat needs to urinate more often and finds urinating painful.
- Cystitis. Cystitis is an inflamed bladder and is often referred to as Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). While the exact cause can be one of several things, common signs and symptoms include cloudy or foul-smelling urine, excessive licking and grooming, trouble urinating, blood in the urine and urinating more frequently.
- Diarrhea. Diarrhea can be caused by your cat eating something toxic like a poisonous plant. Other causes of diarrhea include worms, bacteria, or a virus. Straining to poo is a common sign of diarrhea and can cause discomfort for your cat. Sometimes food allergies or a change in diet can bring on diarrhea – get your cat to the vet if the diarrhea lasts two days or more.
- Constipation or Impacted Anal Sacs. Sometimes a result of diarrhea, impacted anal sacs can retain fluid, causing pain and constipation. Watch for a swollen anus and excessive licking. Your vet can drain your cat’s anal sacs, if required.
- Arthritis. Arthritis is characterized by pain in the joints and is common in older cats. Your cat can experience pain while getting into the box as well as while they’re trying to go to the toilet or even turn around in the litter tray.
- Blocked Intestinal Tract. An intestinal blockage constitutes a medical emergency and you will need to act quickly to save your cat’s life. Cats can get blockages from foreign objects, impacted hairballs, or clumping cat litter. Symptoms include smaller stools than usual, straining to go to the toilet, lethargy, hiding, aggression, diarrhea and vomiting.
- Blocked Urethra. Some cats can get a blocked urethra, which is also a life-threatening medical emergency. Go to your vet or emergency clinic immediately if you notice your cat can’t pass urine, is only urinating in drops, or if there’s blood in the urine.
If Your Cat Is Stressed
Stress can cause cats to meow in their litter box. Common causes of stress in cats can come from simple changes in their daily routine (as cats don’t like change).
Some common reasons for stress include:
- A new family member (a baby, an adult, another pet)
- A new home
- Home renovations
- A new diet
- Seeing other cats through the window
- Being bullied or even attacked by another pet in the home
- Losing someone they love
Can You Get Your Cat To Stop Meowing In Their Litter Box?
Depending on the cause, you could be able to get your cat to stop meowing in the litter box. Sometimes, though, you’ll just have to let your cat do their thing. As long as your cat is happy and healthy, there’s no need to try and implement a behavioral treatment strategy for something they are content to do.
When You Can Probably Get Your Cat To Stop Meowing In Their Litter Box
You can probably get your cat to stop meowing in their litter box if the situation requires a change of some kind.
If There’s A Problem With The Litter Box
If there’s a problem with the litter tray, you can usually fix this easily. Depending on the situation, you can:
- Change the type of litter you use
- Change the location of the litter tray
- Make sure the litter tray is clean and odor-free
- Make sure the type of litter tray is one your cat likes to use
- If your cat has had a bad experience in or near the litter tray, change its location (and make sure other cats aren’t bullying your cat)
If There’s A Problem With The Litter
As with the litter tray, finding the right cat litter is an easy fix to avoid complaints from your cat.
If There’s A Medical Problem
Of course, if there’s a medical problem causing your cat to meow in the litter box, this behavior will usually stop once the problem is addressed.
Note: Some medical problems will take longer to address, such as arthritis, so it could be a while before your cat stops meowing in the litter box. They may even continue to do so, but not as much as before (if they’re in less pain, for example, thanks to arthritis or other medication).
If Your Cat Is Stressed
If your cat is stressed, it will usually stop meowing in its litter tray once you address the cause of the stress and take adequate steps to rectify the situation (which is sometimes easier said than done).
In addition to taking care of your cat’s litter tray and litter, other things you can do to help a stressed cat include:
- Providing quality cat food several times a day (rather than one big meal daily)
- Making sure your cat gets enough water (cat drinking fountains are excellent for this, as cats prefer flowing water sources)
- Providing cat perches like cat trees, windowsills, and other areas for your cat to feel safe from high up
- Providing vertical and horizontal scratching spaces (posts, sections of carpeting, etc.)
- Having hiding places in your home (boxes, under furniture, cat carriers, etc.)
- Having daily playtime sessions with your cat (20 to 30 minutes a few times a day)
- Keeping changes to a minimum
- Providing daily cuddle time
- Having pheromone sprays available (ask your vet for suggestions)
Other Things To Know About A Cat Meowing In Their Litter Box
If your cat is meowing in their litter box, you can make changes gradually, create positive experiences around its litter box, and do what you can so that it can go to the toilet peacefully. And if you don’t mind them meowing in their litter tray, let them do it.
Make Changes Gradually
Cats don’t like sudden changes, so whether you have to change your cat’s litter, diet, or something else, do so as gradually as you can.
For example, if you have to change your cat’s diet, mix a small amount of the new food in with the usual food.
With each day, gradually increase the ratio of new to old food until your cat is only eating the new food.
Help Your Cat Like the Litter Box
You can create positive experiences with your cat near the litter box, such as playtime or cuddle time (avoid food in this area, as cats don’t like to go to eat or drink near their toilet area).
Make The Litter Box Area Peaceful
Do what you can to make the area around the litter box peaceful and quiet. Don’t have it in an area with other pets, running children, a noisy TV, or other distractions.
Note: Avoid self-cleaning litter trays, as the noise is unpleasant for many cats.
Let Your Cat Meow There If You Can
If possible, let your cat meow in the litter tray if you know your cat is happy and healthy.
Some cats enjoy chatting with their people while they’re on the toilet, so if this is your cat, let them talk!
If your cat has only just started meowing in the litter box, it’s only natural to be concerned.
How concerned you need to be, however, does depend on why they may be doing it.
The resolve could be quick and simple, a subtle change to the environment or perhaps even reverting a recent one.
Whether that’s the litter box, litter, or where it’s placed.
In other cases, it may require further investigation or even a trip to the vet.
Rest assured, though, so long as your cat is happy and healthy; there is nothing usually to worry about or even anything you necessarily need to do!
Other cat litter box guides you may be interested in reading:
- Why Does My Cat Not Poop In The Litter Box?
- Why Does My Cat Not Pee In The Litter Box?
- Cat Not Using Litter Box After Moving [Why & What To Do]
- Why Does My Kitten Eat Cat Litter? [And How To Stop Them!]
- Why Do Cats Watch You Clean The Litter Box?
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.