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Why do cats howl after they poop?

brown and white cat howling under a table advice

For most cats a quick song following a poop is relatively normal.

© Shutterstock

When a cat goes to the loo and then howls, it can be a pretty strange noise and experience. But why exactly do they do it? And will they always do it?

By Dr Holly Graham BVMedSci BVMBVS MRCVS

Updated on the 10/08/2020, 16:45

Most cat owners have experienced the 'litter box zoomies' – the crazy behaviour that happens after a bowel movement, usually complete with orchestral howling and running round the house. What is it that makes a cat howl? While this behaviour can be completely normal (although slightly strange), it could also be indicative of an underlying health problem.

No one is entirely sure why cats have their crazy poop zoomies. The familiar bolt out of the litter box is a strange phenomena, and something most cat owners have to live with at least once a day. There are lots of theories about why our feline friends do this, ranging from hating the smell, to a sudden burst of energy once they've released their business into the tray, all the way to survival instincts from before they were domesticated. Some people think that the sudden dash from the tray is so that any predators in the wild wouldn't be able to find them while they were at their most vulnerable: on the toilet.

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There may be a logical reason too, sometimes there's a bit extra stuck to their butt fluff – a quick run could help to dislodge this unwelcome stinker.

While these reasons are all fun and games, there could also be medical reasons why your cat is making so much noise in the tray. If it's painful to poop or pee, your cat may vocalise this when they're in their toilet.

What should you do if a cat meows when pooping?

For most cats a quick song following or during a poop is relatively normal behaviour. It might not be something humans do, but for cats it's not usually something to worry about. If you're concerned this poop-meow isn't normal for them, it's time to check the tray (and, if you can, your cat's bottom).

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Have a look at the tray. You might need to do some digging, but looking at the product of this noise can give us some clues as to what's going on. Is their poop hard, too soft, is there any blood? If there are any abnormalities in their stool, it's time to get them checked out at the vet. Next, have a look at your cat's bottom. Lots of cats happily hold their tail up and already give us too much information about their nether regions, but have a closer look. Does their anus look normal? Is there any redness, swelling or does anything look odd?

If you notice anything wrong with the poop or with the cat give a vet a call. But if everything is normal, keep an eye on the situation.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Is it normal for cats to meow when they poop?

It might not seem normal, but actually it is. Ask your cat loving friends. Most cat owners have experienced the noise of a particularly good poop from our felines, and often it's nothing to worry about. If your cat isn't a noisy pooper but has recently started to announce their movements, it could be a sign that something is changing in their health.

Why does my cat meow loudly after using the litter box?

Cats aren't as quiet as one would think. From loud meows to tiny chirps, their vocabulary is extensive. The poop-yowl is a common sound for lots of owners and while it can be annoying, it's something lots of owners have to learn to live with. If your cat has always been noisy in the bathroom, this is probably something normal for them. Vets aren't sure why cats need to let us know they've done their business, but plenty of cats definitely make us aware.

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If you think this is something unusual for your cat or if you think there's a problem, it's important to work out what's going on. There may be problems with the tray, the environment around the tray or with your cat. Unfortunately if your cat is just a little bit too chatty, there's not much you can do apart from wear ear plugs.

What other reasons are there why a cat howls?

Some cats may never make a mew, other cats make lots of noise. An owner will know their pets’ calls best. Lots of cats like to alert you to an empty food bowl, they may say 'hello human' or ask for attention. These noises may be loud meows if they're really hungry, a cute little chirp or a purr to show you that they're happy, or you might hear hisses, growls or screeches if they aren't pleased with you or perhaps another animal. Yowling can be normal for some cats, but this may also be heard if they are frustrated or unhappy with a situation. Getting to know your cat and their sounds is helpful in working out when somethings going wrong.

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It’s also useful to know that some breeds are much chattier than others. Oriental breeds such as the Siamese or Bengals are known as being much louder than a standard moggy. These cats have a ‘normal’ howl, and can be found chatting to their owners regularly.

Stress and boredom

Howling is often a sign of frustration or stress. It can be a distressing noise to hear, and isn't one of the quieter noises your cat makes. It may be that your cat is bored and just wants to play, or requires stimulation. The loud howl may be just to get your attention, and ask for some play time. It may be a signal that something has changed in the house and this is worrying them. Cats often howl in the car (especially on the way to the vets) or perhaps if you've moved home – you'll hear this noise in protest or in fear. Try to work out why your cat is howling. Is it just that they want to play and need to spend some more quality time with their human? Or is it that something in their environment is worrying them. Increasing the amount of time you spend with your pet, using teaser toys or even just rolled up paper, may reduce this behaviour. If something is making your cat unhappy, try to get to the bottom of this.

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Is my cat just seeking attention by howling?

Meows can mean anything from 'I'm hungry' to 'give me attention'. Cats only meow to communicate with people, not with other cats. This is an instinct that they've developed to help humans notice that they need something. If you've got a noisy kitty following you and meowing, they've definitely want something. If ignored, you may notice that the meow changes to a howl or gets louder. Owners often report issues with their cats at night. As nocturnal animals, this is the time when they are most awake – and are often seeking our affection. Providing your cat with extra toys or even just changing their mealtime to bed time may help you to get a good night's rest.

Do cats make howling noises when it’s mating time?

Spring and summer are peak mating times for cats. If you’ve got an unneutered female you might notice that she’s particularly vocal. Females during this time call and howl when they’re in heat. This yelling can happen frequently and can drives owners crazy. Fortunately this is easily fixed with neutering. Cats can be neutered from a very young age, and this can be done well before they start to come into heat, so you might never have to experience this. Remember, any unneutered female that’s let outside before being spayed is at massive risk of pregnancy.

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Male cats as loud as female cats

Unneutered male cats make similar noises when around a female in heat, and these noises can be loud and even aggressive sounding during the actual mating. Vets always recommend getting both male and female cats neutered as soon as you can. There are lots of unwanted kittens in the world and neutering your furry friends stops unwanted pregnancies.

Is a cat howling suffering from an injury or illness?

Cats howl in protest. This might be if they’re being picked up and want to be put down, it might be that they’re stuck somewhere and need help getting out. Persistent howling, crying or whining may be signs that something isn’t right. If your cat is more vocal than normal, and these cries don’t sound like their usual requests for attention, it could be that there is a problem with their health. If your cat isn’t making their usual noises,or is making them more often than normal (especially if there’s anything changing with their appetite/demeanour/weight), consult a vet.

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Why do senior cats howl?

Older cats frequently become more vocal, these howls and cries may happen more often or suddenly occur. As cats age there are multiple conditions that may increase their vocalisation. Hyperthyroidism (or an overactive thyroid gland) commonly makes our elderly pets seem more hyperactive, restless and noisier than normal. Other signs like weight loss, an increased appetite and sometimes diarrhoea happen in combination. Medical issues like osteoarthritis can make your cat uncomfortable, so it’s always worth a check over with a vet if you’re concerned your pet just isn’t quite right.

Like in humans, cognitive brain function reduces with age, and you may notice signs of your cat ‘going senile’. They may appear more anxious or confused, may worry more and seek attention or reassurance. Lots of elderly cats with feline dementia cry at night or wander around the house howling. Usually cats suffering from this are in their teens. Although there are no cures for dementia, nutritional supplements can be used to try to alleviate their symptoms, and there are many ways you can improve their environment to help them feel more settled.

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Urinary tract infections and obstructions in cats

Urinary tract infections, cystitis and obstructions are health problems our pets face frequently. Indoor cats, and cats who are overweight are more prone to suffering with these problems, so recognising the symptoms of a urinary problem helps get on top of the issue quickly.

Indoor cats and cats who are easily stressed may show signs of feline interstitial cystitis. Just as in humans, this is a painful and irritating condition. You might notice your cat heading in and out of the tray, straining and passing small amounts of urine frequently. There might even be small amounts of blood present in the urine! This cystitis can be sterile, with no bacterial infection present, or can happen in combination with a urinary tract infection.

Cats who have experienced changes in their environment or living situation often get this problem. So if you’ve recently moved house, brought a new pet or family member into the home or even just moved some furniture, you might see your cat struggling to pee. Luckily this condition is easily treated, but needs a vet check to rule out any other urinary issues. Managing your cat's stress levels with pheromone diffusers, providing them with lots of hiding places and maintaining a routine is helpful in preventing this developing.

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Urinary tract infections may be seen with or without cystitis. Similar signs occur with cats as with humans. Your cat may need the toilet more frequently, may be uncomfortable when passing urine and you may see blood or mucus in your cat’s pee. It’s likely a vet will want to take a urine sample from your pet. The vet might need to send this off to the lab to check what type of bacteria are present, but hopefully with the correct treatment your friend will be back to using the tray happily in no time.

Serious cat-peeing problems

Urinary tract obstructions, or urolithiasis, is a serious and life-threatening condition usually affecting male cats. Many cats struggle with crystals, or uroliths, present in their bladder. These tiny crystals form sludge and group together to make bladder stones that can get lodged in your cat's urethra, ureters or even kidneys – making passing urine impossible. You might notice your cat struggling with peeing prior to blocking, but once they aren’t able to pass any pee you’ll see them in and out of the tray unproductively. If you’ve seen your cat in and out of their tray and there are no wet patches in the litter, call a vet immediately. If left untreated this condition can be fatal. Most cats require a stay in the hospital, blood and urine tests, and diet changes to cure them.

All of these urinary problems can make your cat more vocal in the tray. If it’s painful, they might let you know. Know what’s normal for your cat, and check out their business if something isn’t right.

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Swollen anal glands in cats

Anal glands are as gross as they sound. These little stink glands are found on either side of your cat’s anus, and make grim-smelling liquid when they poop, scent mark or if they’re frightened. Most cats don’t have any problems expressing them, but sometimes the liquid in the gland becomes too thick to come out of the small hole on its own. If left in there it can become impacted or infected. This can make the glands on their bum look swollen, red or even burst out as abscesses.

If these glands aren’t able to empty, they can be painful, and you might notice your cat looking or sounding painful as they attempt to defecate. Sometimes our furry friends need a little help from the vet in expressing the contents, and if they’re infected they might need antibiotics.

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When should I talk to a vet?

If you’ve noticed any changes in your cats vocalisations, toilet habits or general health, speak to a vet. It might be nothing, but there are many things that can make your cat sore in the litter tray.