5 Subtle Signs Your Kitten Needs To Pee Or Poop

comments-icon Fact checked by  Jackie Brown
Share Email Pinterest Linkedin Twitter Facebook

Bringing a new kitten home is always an exciting experience. It’s not just fun and cuddles though as you’ll also have to deal with the smellier side of things. During the first few weeks of a kitten’s life, their mother will lick them to stimulate them to pee and poop and then clean them afterward. As they get older, they learn to use a litter box by watching and copying their mother’s behavior. 

Quick Overview

01

Knowing the subtle signs that your kitten needs to pee or poop is important for successful toilet training.

02

Signs that kittens might show when they need to pee and poop include vocalization, scratching, and restlessness.

03

Providing an appropriate setup is vital to successful litter box training.

Luckily, most kittens pick up appropriate toileting habits quickly and are well toilet-trained by the time they join their new families. Having said this, young kittens might still need some guidance during the early days in a new environment.

Signs Your Kitten Needs To Pee Or Poop 

When your kitten needs to go, some signs are obvious but others are more subtle.

Learning the subtle signs that show when your kitten needs to pee or poop can help avoid toileting accidents. Follow these expert tips for toilet training, and pay attention to the times your kitten needs to go. 

1. After Waking Up And Eating A Meal

kitten waking up

Young kittens often need to pee and poop after eating and upon waking up.

Kittens often need to pee or poop after they’ve just woken up or eaten a meal. If you are trying to reinforce good toileting habits and get them used to using their litter box, it’s a good idea to direct them there after they wake up from a nap or eat some food.

Also Read: How Do Cats Know To Use A Litter Box?

2. Urgently Meowing At You

white kitten meows in the arms of a girl

If you hear an insistent cry from your young kitten pick them up and quickly bring them to the litter box.

If your kitten needs to go to the toilet, they might start meowing and crying out. Meowing is a form of communication that is directed at people. If your kitten starts vocalizing in this way, they are trying to catch your attention and tell you something.

Kittens already have the instinct to keep themselves clean and they prefer to do their business in private so will try to find a suitable place. If they can’t find a litter box or they are prevented access to it, they will cry out for some help from you.

Also Read: The 7 Best Litter Boxes For Kittens

3. Scratching Or Pawing At The Floor

kittens on the wooden floor

Cats instinctually scratch the ground to make a hole so they can cover up their pee and poop after going.

Cats instinctively bury their pee and poop. In the wild, covering waste products hides their scent and is a form of protection against predators. It also signals to more dominant cats that they are not a threat or competition. Even though cats have been domesticated for years and are safe in our homes, they still carry this innate behavior within them.

Cats might start scratching and digging before peeing or pooping to create a small hole, which makes it easier to cover their waste after. If you see your kitten scratching or pawing at the floor around them, that is a likely sign that they need the toilet.

Also Read: Why Does My Cat Scratch The Sides Of The Litter Box

4. Appearing Restless

cute playful ginger tabby

Pacing or stopping what they are doing can be signs a kitten needs to go.

When your kitten has the urge to pass urine or stool, they might feel some discomfort. This can lead to them becoming more active and restless. If your kitten starts having a mad dash, try to stop them from running behind your bed or sofa because they might use that as their bathroom.

Also Read: How To Tell If A Cat Is Straining To Poop Or Pee

5. Squatting To Go

blue-and-white kitten peeing on the grass

Gently pick up a squatting kitten and bring them to the litter box, even if you think they have already finished.

Squatting is a sign that your kitten is about to pee or poop but not one that we would consider “subtle,” unlike the other signs listed above. If you notice your kitten getting into this position, then it’s best to act fast. Try and get them to a nearby litter box as quickly as possible.

Also Read: 6 Common Reasons Why Cats Pee Outside The Litter Box

How To Set Up Your Cat’s Litter Box

Proper setup is key to ensuring your kitten uses the litter box consistently.

By now, you will be familiar with the signs that your kitten needs to pee and poo. This is just one part of setting up for successful toilet training. Also make sure you provide your kitten with an appropriate litter box setup.

1. Number Of Litter Boxes

Many cats don’t like to use the same litter box as another cat, so have multiple boxes in the house.

Have at least one litter box for each cat in the household plus one extra. This allows for more options and reduces competition with other cats. Some cats also prefer to urinate in one and defecate in the other.

Also Read: How Many Litter Boxes Should You Have Per Cat?

2. Choosing The Right Location

Little orange cat sitting peeing cat on cat litter box

Don’t hide the litter box too far away from your kitten’s living space or they might not make it in time.

Make sure the litter box is in an easily accessible location so your kitten doesn’t have difficulty finding it. Cats like privacy, so choose a quiet area. Remember, cats don’t like toileting close to where they eat and drink, so keep the box away from their water dish and food bowl.

Also Read: What Is The Best Place To Put A Litter Box?

3. Size Of The Litter Box

The kitten sits in the litter box

Kittens need a low-sided litter box so they can enter easily.

The litter tray should be appropriately sized so your kitten can turn around comfortably without touching the sides. It should also be easy for your kitten to get in and out of, with low sides or a ramp for access.

Also Read: How To Set Up Your Cat’s Litter Box For Success

4. Choosing The Best Litter Material

Although there are many types of cat litter, most cats like a soft, clumping unscented litter.

With lots of different types of litter material available, it can take some trial and error to find out which your kitten prefers. Be careful with scented cat litter, as these can be overwhelming for sensitive feline noses. Don’t overdo it with the litter—a small amount is usually sufficient. Try filling the litter box with 1 to 2 inches of litter to start.

Also Read: Top 11 Best Cat Litters For Kittens

5. Address Toileting Accidents Properly

cat learning to use litter box

If you catch your kitten while they are going potty, gently scoop them up and place them into the box to help form an association.

Unfortunately, accidents can happen. As frustrating as this can be, it’s important that you don’t respond by punishing your kitten. This will not help them learn as they won’t understand that their behavior has led to punishment.

It will only damage the relationship you have with them. Instead, praise and reward your kitten when they have used their litter box appropriately. Patience and perseverance are key.

Clean soiled areas thoroughly with an enzymatic pet cleaner to remove pee and poop stains and odors. If not cleaned effectively, the lingering smell might entice your kitten to repeat doing their business in that spot.

Also Read: 8 Reasons You Should Never Punish Your Cat

Signs That Something Is Wrong

gray cat sitting near wet or piss

Most kittens instinctively want to use a litter box, so having lots of accidents can be a sign of a health issue.

It’s normal for young kittens to have accidents here and there, but if your kitten is not using the litter box regularly or is showing signs of illness, something might be amiss.

If you notice any symptoms like diarrhea (liquid poop), constipation, frequent urination or straining in the litter box, changes in appetite, excessive thirst, or lethargy, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

With male cats especially, straining without urinating is a serious problem, as this could indicate a urinary blockage, something that is a medical emergency. 

Your vet will check your kitten thoroughly looking for any signs of infection (such as a urinary tract infection), intestinal parasites (also called worms), or any other medical problem. If necessary, your veterinarian can prescribe medication such as antibiotics or deworming medication, or recommend further treatment for your kitten.

Also Read: 10 Subtle Signs Your Cat May Be Sick

Final Thoughts

Toilet training kittens largely consists of providing an appropriate litter box setup and showing them where it is.

Managing your kitten’s toileting routine is simple once you have a plan and learn to recognize the signs that your kitten needs to go. Get them used to going to their litter box after they’ve woken up and eaten a meal so they know that is where they should pee and poop.

During the day, look out for signs that your kitty might show if they need to go to the toilet, including vocalization, scratching or pawing the ground, restlessness, and of course, squatting. Recognizing these signs, as well as having an appropriate litter box setup will give you the tools you need to successfully toilet train your kitten.

Also Read: How To Litter Train A Kitten In 3 Simple Steps?

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you tell if a kitten needs to go to the bathroom?

If your kitten needs to go to the toilet, they might cry out and start scratching the area around them. You might notice them becoming quite active and restless. If they begin to squat, then that’s a sure sign they are about to pee or have a bowel movement in that exact spot unless you intervene.

How often do kittens pee and poop?

Kittens tend to empty their bladder and bowels after they have had a meal. Kittens are usually fed three to four times a day, so you can expect them to pee and poop three to four times as well. This reduces in frequency as they get older.

At what age do kittens start peeing and pooping?

From birth, a kitten requires stimulation from their mother to urinate and defecate. Their mother does this by licking around their rear end. This lasts until they are 3 to 4 weeks of age, when they are then able to pass pee and poop on their own without any help.

Caregivers who are bottle feeding orphaned kittens must also stimulate them to pee and poop after each feeding, using a soft towel or tissues.

View Sources
Cats.com uses high-quality, credible sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the claims in our articles. This content is regularly reviewed and updated for accuracy. Visit our About Us page to learn about our standards and meet our veterinary review board.
  1. Atkinson, T. (2018). Practical Feline Behaviour. Oxfordshire, UK: CAB International

Help us do better! Was this article helpful and relevant?
Yes
No
What can you say about this article?
I am completely satisfied, I found useful information and tips in this article
Article was somewhat helpful, but could be improved
Want to share more?
Thank You for the feedback! We work to make the world a better place for cats, and we're getting better for you.
Avatar photo

About Dr. Beverley Ho BSc(VetSci)(Hons) BVM&S MRCVS

Beverley graduated from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh in 2020. She also has an intercalated honours degree in Literature and Medicine; she achieved this in 2018 and was the first veterinary student to do so. An expert in behavior and nutrition, Beverley currently works as a small animal vet.