My Cat Keeps Going to the Litter Box But Nothing Happens: Solve this Like a Ninja

By Davis Wilkins •  Updated: 11/23/22 •  9 min read
Kitten in bowl

Hello, I have a problem with my cat Madeline. The other day I was going to fill my cat’s litter box and I noticed something odd. She was already in the box, but she wasn’t pooping!

I found this odd because it just didn’t add up. She went into the box, did nothing, and then jumped out. This told me that maybe something was wrong, so I went to check on her.

It’s been four hours since it happened and when I observed her, she is still fine.

Sometimes she’ll dig around as if to cover it up, but nothing ever comes out. Sometimes when she does this, I’ll find her squatting in another room or under my bed staring at the wall.

I’ve tried everything — new litter boxes, completely cleaning out the old one, and putting fresh litter in…she just won’t go. It’s very frustrating for both of us.

I am worried about her.

Have you ever wondered why your cat keeps going to the litter box but then nothing happens?

This is the plight that faced my buddy and they reached out to me to help them out.

Why your cat keeps going to the litter box but nothing happens

1.    Constipation:

Cats suffer from constipation too. Normal bowel movements should occur once in 1 to 1.5 days. Simply said, your cat should poop at least once a day.

The poop should be well-formed and moist. If your cat is constipating, you will notice that the stool will be less in quantity in 36 hours or there will be small quantities of dry poop.

Did you know that your cat experiences constipation more frequently but you probably never noticed?

When your cat has diarrhea, she may mess up and poop outside the litter box leaving evidence for you to see. This makes it way easy to tell when she is having bouts of diarrhea, unlike when she is constipated.

With constipation, she will usually sit in the litter box and leave without doing anything and you can easily miss the fact that there’s a problem.

Constipation happens when your cat feeds and the stool is retained in the colon. As a result, it becomes dry, hard, and difficult to excrete.

Causes of constipation:

Symptoms of constipation in your cat:

• Difficulty in pooping with little to no poop excreted

• Small volume stools with mucous presence

• Lowered appetite

• Bloodstained stool

• Depression

• Hard stools

Management of cat constipation:

Serious cat constipation can result in fecal impaction. This is where a large lump of dry, hard stool stays stuck in the rectum.

This requires veterinary attention, to administer an oral laxative and an enema to relieve your kitty.

PS: Never use commercially available enemas as they are extremely harmful to cats. Never give an enema to your cat by yourself. Always call a vet for this task.

The specific treatment for constipation will depend on the underlying cause and the severity of the situation.

Your vet will treat a mild case with laxatives and higher fiber diets e.g bran added to canned foods. This is a bulk-producing agent that ensures your cat’s stool remains soft and can be easily excreted.

PS: Bran requires sufficient water to work properly hence it should only be added to canned foods.

With the guidance of your veterinarian, add a quarter to half a teaspoon of canned pumpkin to your cat’s diet. This is rich in fiber and helps with chronic constipation.

Always ensure that your cat has access to clean fresh, water to drink.

PS: If your cat suffers from chronic constipation, your vet will put them on high fiber diets indefinitely.

For severe fecal impaction, your vet may need to put your cat under the knife to manually remove the lodged hard poop.

Ensure your cat has regular exercise to keep her active and her weight down as this helps prevent constipation.

Set up regular interactive playtime with your cats in addition to feeding her a good quality diet and good hydration.

2.    Urethral obstruction:

This occurs when sand or small stones form in the pee and plug the urethra. This creates a blockage that prevents your cat from emptying her bladder.

Male cats have a more narrow urethra and hence are more prone to urethral blockage.

Your male cat will be developing the urge to pee but will continue sitting on the litter box doing nothing.

Since your cat is unable to pass urine but has the urge, it will keep going to the litter box and scratching as a way of expressing its pain.

Ideally, your cat will get uncomfortable, as it will start to strain the moment it reaches the litter box to honor the call.

An obstructed urethra caused by mucus, bladder stones, or crystals can cause feline lower urinary tract infection e.g. feline interstitial cystitis.

The situation could be worse if your cat keeps going to the litter box and licking his private parts as the urinary illness is at its chronic stages. You need a vet with immediate action.

You need to be extra cautious when handling your cat in this condition since urethral obstruction could progress to a more life-threatening state and eventual death.

After treatment, your vet may recommend some prescription meal to help the big boy prevent crystal formation. You may also be required to increase the water portions you give to your cat.

A cat that has partial or total urethral obstruction is:

If medical intervention doesn’t happen, it can lead to kidney and heart dysfunction, bladder damage, and even death.

Management of urethral obstruction:

Cat food

If your cat keeps going to the litter box but not peeing, call your vet.

Your vet will administer intravenous fluids if your cat is dehydrated. He will use a catheter to enable the urine to flow again.

For severe cases of obstruction, your vet will surgically remove the plug, and put your cat on a proper treatment plan for recovery.

This will involve a special diet and regular checkups plus medication.

For partial obstruction, your vet will administer a special diet that frequently dissolves the struvite stones over time. This can take up to four months for the stones to completely dissolve.

PS: Calcium oxalate uroliths don’t dissolve via the special diet and they have to be surgically removed.

The danger exists for stones to recur, and your vet should prescribe a special diet in which you should feed your cat.

In general, wet moist food is better to avoid dehydration. You can come up with a creative way to encourage your kitty to take more water by setting up a water fountain.

3.    Gotta new litter box?

Cats are curious creatures! If you brought in a new litter box, be sure she will want to check it out and try it out. This means that you might catch her going to her litter box and entering it, but doing nothing.

If your cat keeps going to the litter box but nothing comes out, it might be just the fascination of a new litter tray.

Ensure you clean the litter box regularly to avoid any litter box problems.

She’ll come around if that’s the case, so nothing to worry about.

4.    Is your cat pregnant?

If your female cat keeps going to the litter box but nothing happens, she may be pregnant.

Whether you planned for it or not, you might end up with a pregnant cat.

Gestation in female cats lasts about sixty-five days, and a week to delivery, your cat will become restless. She will groom more often and may scratch in clothing or dig around in closets.

This means that she is preparing a nest for her babies.

Adult cats love a warm, quiet, and warm space, and unfortunately, while not ideal, the litter tray may fit these conditions.

What to do when your female cat is going to the litter box every few minutes:

Line a sturdy cardboard box with clean towels and cut out an opening on one side of it. Leave the top cover intact to offer even more privacy to your cats. It should be large enough to accommodate her and allow her to maneuver freely and recline during lactation.

Have the food and water bowls within range and keep your indoor cat indoors, to avoid her delivering in your neighbor’s garage.

If you have a separate room where she can deliver and help you keep a good eye on her, even better!

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why is my cat squatting but not pooping?

Your cat may be squatting but not pooping because of some medical issues such as constipation, or a urethral blockage.

Causes of constipation can range from diseases, hairballs, poor water consumption, dietary factors, or even fear of ambush.

Urethral blockage on the other hand may be caused by mucus, urinary tract infection, or crystals.

Is my cat struggling to pee or poop?

Your cat should poop at least once a day. If she is struggling to pee or poop, it could be either due to constipation or a urethral blockage.

Both of these causes should prompt you to call your vet for a quick effective remedy.

Why is my cat sitting in the litter box all day?

Your cat is sitting in the litter box all day because she may be sick. You should have her examined by a vet to determine if it is chronic constipation or feline lower urinary tract disease.


Healthy cats are the best creatures that currently exist on planet earth. If you disagree, then thank you for being wrong about it.

I love them and I want them to be healthy, happy, and well-adjusted with clean litter boxes.

If your cat has been sitting in the litter box doing nothing, then it is time you took action.

If your cat has been making frequent unproductive trips to the litter box, find out what the problem is and involve your vet.

The best way to understand why your cat ends up going to the litter boxes but not relieving himself is to understand feline behavior itself and clean the litter box frequently.

I shared this information with my buddy who came to me for help.

Do you think after implementing this information, he was able to diagnose the problem with his cat Madeline?

Davis Wilkins

Davis Wilkins is a dedicated cat lover, with three cats under his care. He grew up in a cat-loving family, nurturing these feline friends. As a result, he purposed to share his cat knowledge with the universe. Wilkins has been writing professionally for over four years, specializing in feline care with a keen interest in litter box care and handling. He hopes to help other feline lovers achieve their pet care goals.

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