How Long Can Cats Really Hold Their Pee? The Surprising Answer


Cats are known for being extraordinarily clean animals and are careful to eliminate waste in proper locations. However, sometimes circumstances arise where cats may need to or choose to hold in their urine for extended periods of time. This article will provide an overview of normal feline urination patterns, factors that affect urination frequency, how long cats can safely go without urinating, signs of trouble, health consequences of holding urine, when to seek veterinary assistance, and tips for helping your cat maintain proper elimination habits.

Normal Urination Frequency

Healthy cats typically urinate between 2 and 4 times per day on average. According to Pet Health Network, most indoor adult cats will pee about twice a day as long as they are healthy [1]. The frequency can vary based on water intake, diet, activity level, age, and other factors.

Kittens tend to pee more frequently, while senior cats often pee less. Pregnant and lactating cats also urinate more often. Cats that eat canned food or drink more water will pee more as well. Environmental factors like heat and humidity can also increase urination frequency [2].

Overall, most healthy cats pee about 2-4 times per day on average. Changes in urination frequency can indicate potential health issues.

Factors Affecting Urination

There are several key factors that can affect a cat’s urination frequency and habits:


Kittens typically need to urinate more frequently than adult cats. Senior cats may urinate more due to conditions like kidney disease or diabetes (Source 1).

Health Status

Cats with urinary tract infections, bladder stones, kidney disease, diabetes, or hyperthyroidism may urinate more often. Some medications can also increase urination (Source 3).


Feeding wet food, which has high moisture content, typically leads to more frequent urination. Dry food produces more concentrated urine. Diets high in salts or minerals may also cause increased urination.

Litter Box Setup

Inadequate numbers of boxes, improper cleaning, undesirable location, or unpleasant litter may deter a cat from using the box normally.

Short-Term Urge Holding

When a cat feels the urge to urinate, how long can they wait before relieving themselves? According to Quora, cats can typically hold their urine for about 8-10 hours after feeling the need to go. However, the length of time a cat can wait depends on several factors.

Kittens and senior cats generally have a harder time holding their urine than adult cats. Kittens have smaller bladders that fill up more quickly, while senior cats may have medical issues impacting their urinary tract. A cat that is sick, stressed, or dehydrated may also find it more difficult to wait. Additionally, if a litter box is not readily available, cats cannot hold it for as long.

While the average is 8-10 hours, some sources state that healthy adult cats can hold their urine for up to 24 hours when necessary. However, this should only occur in rare situations, not on a regular basis. Holding urine for too long can lead to medical issues for cats over time. Overall, cats should have access to a litter box and the opportunity to relieve themselves every 8-12 hours at maximum.

Long-Term Holding

While cats can usually only hold their urine for 12-24 hours comfortably, in some cases they are able to go longer without urinating at all. However, this should not be considered normal or healthy behavior.

In a veterinary study, cats that had their urethras obstructed were able to go up to 3-4 days without being able to urinate before developing life-threatening complications. However, the study notes that this duration caused severe illness and should never occur outside a veterinary setting with proper monitoring [1].

Another source indicates that some cats may be able to go 24-48 hours without urinating at all, but this will likely lead to discomfort, strain on the urinary tract, and potential medical issues requiring veterinary attention. Prolonged holding should not occur regularly [2].

In general, any duration beyond 12-24 hours without urination is considered abnormal and dangerous. Seeking prompt veterinary care is recommended if a cat goes over 24 hours without peeing at all.

Signs of Trouble

If your cat is struggling to urinate or unable to urinate, they may exhibit some telltale signs that indicate an underlying issue. These signs include:

Struggling or straining: Your cat may frequently enter the litter box but only pass small amounts of urine while straining and crying out in pain. They may stay in the box for long periods of time with little result. Frequent trips back and forth to the box with little urine passed can be indicative of urinary difficulty (1).

Vocalizing: Cats that experience pain, discomfort or frustration when attempting to urinate may meow, yowl or make other vocalizations. These vocal cues suggest that urination is not happening normally for your cat (2).

Accidents around the house: Lack of bladder control can lead to puddles of urine in unexpected places around your home. Your cat may leak urine when resting or be unable to make it to the litter box in time (3). This lack of control indicates an underlying issue.

If your cat displays any of these symptoms, it’s important to get them checked by a vet right away, as urinary issues can quickly become serious if left untreated.

Health Consequences

When cats hold their urine for too long, it can lead to severe health issues. The most common problems that can arise are urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bladder stones or crystals.

UTIs occur when bacteria builds up in the urinary tract from urine that hasn’t been emptied regularly. According to one source, cats with UTIs may strain to urinate, urinate frequently, or cry out while urinating due to the pain and inflammation [1]. If left untreated, UTIs can spread to the kidneys and become life-threatening.

Bladder stones and crystals are mineral deposits that form in concentrated urine that hasn’t been flushed out. These stones and crystals irritate the bladder lining and can cause symptoms like straining to urinate, blood in the urine, and frequent urination [2]. In severe cases, they may lead to a blocked urethra, which is a medical emergency.

To avoid these painful and dangerous complications, it’s important not to let cats go too long without urinating. Contact your vet if your cat is showing signs of a UTI or bladder stones so prompt treatment can be started.

When to See the Vet

Consult a veterinarian quickly in cases where your cat strains or tries to urinate without passing any urine for more than 24-48 hours. As little as 12 hours of urinary retention can be life-threatening. The bladder might rupture if allowed to overextend from urine buildup.

Also get veterinary help right away if your cat cries or meows while trying to urinate, stops eating, vomits, seems lethargic or depressed, licks its genitals excessively, or shows other signs of discomfort, pain, or trouble urinating. Any change in urination habits could indicate a medical problem needing attention.

Some other warning signs that warrant an urgent vet visit include bloody urine, urinating outside the litter box, unproductive straining to urinate, frequent trips to the litter box, excessive licking of genitals, and straining in the squatting position without passing urine.

Cats can develop life-threatening urinary tract infections, bladder stones, or urethral obstructions if left untreated, so promptly contact your vet if your cat exhibits difficulty, discomfort, or inability to urinate normally. The earlier treatment begins, the better the outcome.


Tips for Helping Your Cat

There are some simple things cat owners can do at home to help their cats urinate normally and avoid holding their urine too long:

Provide more litter boxes – Having multiple litter boxes around the home gives cats more opportunities to relieve themselves. The general recommendation is one litter box per cat, plus an extra box. Keep litter boxes in quiet, low-traffic areas for timid cats.

Increase water intake – Feeding canned/wet cat food or adding water to dry food can help cats get more moisture. Also make sure fresh, clean water is always available in bowls throughout the home. Consider getting a cat water fountain.

Check with the vet – Any signs of straining, frequent trips to the litter box, vocalizing pain, or other urinary issues warrant a veterinary exam to rule out infections, bladder stones, tumors, etc. Early treatment is key.

Consider cat calming aids – For anxious cats that avoid the litter box, calming pheromones or anti-anxiety medication prescribed by a vet may help reduce stress and encourage proper urination.


Cats can generally hold their urine for several hours at a time when healthy. How long they can wait depends on factors like age, hydration, urinary tract health, and access to a litter box. While healthy cats may only need to urinate a few times per day, if your cat is frequently straining to go without producing urine or crying at the litter box, that is a sign of a potential medical issue requiring veterinary attention. Providing easy litter box access, maintaining proper hydration, and monitoring for signs of discomfort are key to supporting good urinary health in cats.

In summary, a healthy adult cat should have no problem holding their urine for 6-10 hours between bathroom breaks. Kittens and senior cats may need more frequent access. Any inability to urinate or signs of pain should be discussed with your veterinarian right away. Make sure your cat has fresh, clean litter boxes available in quiet locations, and encourage water intake with wet food and fountain waterers. With diligent observation and proactive care, you can help ensure your cat maintains good urinary health.

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