Straining to Urinate (Stranguria) in Cats

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Last updated on
2 min read

Key takeaways

Straining to urinate (stranguria) in cats is a serious symptom indicating some degree of disruption of urine flow. Cats may enter the litter box frequently, posturing to urinate, with visible pushing, and may cry out. 

  • Straining may be productive or unproductive, and may be consistent or intermittent
  • Urine character may be normal or bloody
  • Potential causes are many; common ones in cats are urolithiasis (stones in the urinary tract) and FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease)
  • Diagnosis includes physical exam, urinalysis/urine culture and diagnostic imaging
  • Treatment varies depending on the underlying cause and may range from antibiotics to surgery
  • Prognosis is widely variable according to underlying cause and promptness of treatment
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A closer look: Straining to Urinate (Stranguria) in Cats

There is variation in stranguria in terms of frequency and whether it is consistent or intermittent, productive or unproductive. Variation does not necessarily correlate to the severity of disease. The exception to this is unproductive urination, which is an emergency.

Possible causes

Stranguira may be caused by a number of conditions related to the urinary tract.

Risk factors

Stranguria in cats is a common, but also very serious symptom and merits immediate veterinary treatment. If straining to urinate does not produce any urine at all, this is a life-threatening emergency.

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnostic tools to investigate stranguria include:

  • Physical exam
  • Blood work
  • Urinalysis/urine culture
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Biopsy

Treatment is dependent on cause, and can include medication, surgery, or both. Further supportive care may be recommended as well, such as reducing stress, implementing a weight management plan, and increasing water intake.

Similar symptoms

It is important to differentiate between straining to urinate and straining to defecate. They can look very similar, but straining in the litter box is more likely to be a urinary, rather than fecal, problem in cats.

Associated symptoms


Kristy Dowers, DVM, MS, DACVIM - Writing for dvm360®
No Author - Writing for Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
No Author - Writing for American Veterinary Medical Association
Wendy Brooks, DVM, DABVP - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Wendy Brooks, DVM, DABVP - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Katherine James, DVM, PhD, DACVIM; Susan Klein, DVM, DACVIM - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Wendy Brooks, DVM, DABVP - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Autumn P. Davidson, DVM, MS, DACVIM - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual

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