Life is good for you and your cat! Wait, what’s that smell? Why do I smell cat urine in the living room?
We are going to take a minute to discuss urinary health in cats and the possible medical reasons for litter box aversion! There can be many reasons for a cat to stop using the litter box. and it can take some time to figure out the root cause.
If your cat is having urinary issues, you need to schedule an appointment. The appointment will include a thorough physical exam, urine collection and urinalysis and sometimes additional diagnostic testing.
Medical problems such as infections, cystitis, arthritis, kidney problems, or diabetes can explain why your cat is urinating outside of the box. These problems won’t just go away if you just ignore them.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) and Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC) – Have you experienced a UTI? They are painful! You wouldn’t wait to go to the doctor for treatment, so make sure you stay diligent if your cat is showing signs of: inappropriate urination such as: crying out, small amounts of urine produced, straining to go, frequent trips to the litter box and visible blood in the urine. These may be signs of a urinary tract infection or something more serious. Many cats suffer from Feline Idiopathic Cystitis an inflammatory condition of the urinary bladder. This inflammation can flare at different times throughout the cat’s life and may be aggravated by stress including changes in diet, environment, or change in the season.
Bladder and Kidney stones – High levels of certain minerals will bind together in the kidney or urinary bladder to form crystals, sand or stones. This debris can lead to secondary infection as well as painful urination. Surgical correction and stone dissolving diets are often necessary to relieve your cat from this discomfort.
Inflammation from FIC and stones can cause a urinary blockage. This is an emergency as your cat is NOT able to urinate! Urine will continue to be produced and the urinary bladder will continue to fill like a balloon. The bladder will only hold so much until it backs up into the kidneys causing renal failure or rupture of the urinary bladder. If your cat is urinating less than a teaspoon of urine at one time, is straining to urinate with no urine produced or has not produced any urine at all, call us immediately!
Bladder tumors – Bladder tumors are not common in cats but could be the reason a senior cat that is straining or having bloody urine.
Arthritis – Cats over the age of 7 years and/or obese cats suffer from arthritis which can make it painful to step in and out of the litter box. An arthritic cat may find it excruciating to walk up or down a flight of steps to get to the litter box. Providing a low sided box close to where they spend most of their time can be beneficial. Our veterinarians can formulate a successful weight loss plan or prescribe pain reliever and joint supplements to make your obese or arthritic cat more comfortable and back to using the litter box!
Several disease including diabetes, hyperthyroidism and kidney failure can make your cat thirsty! An increase in water, means increased trips to the litter box. Often times, a cat will go outside of the litter box to let you know that something is wrong! A blood panel will evaluate your cat’s organs and help the veterinarian decide what treatment plan will be best.
If your cat has been diagnosed with any of the above reasons for urinary indiscretion some things will need to change. The first 2 that come to mind are diet and water consumption! Our veterinarian may prescribe a specific diet. A prescription diet is formulated to control the level of nutrients your cat’s body needs to keep things as healthy as possible. A kidney diet makes it easier for the kidneys to do their job. A reduced calorie diet forces the body to use stored fats to succeed with weight loss. A urinary tract diet maintains the pH of the urine to keep crystals from forming. Not all diets taste the same! There may be a trial and error time to find the right brand, flavor and texture your cat desires. Diet changes could also include scheduled feeding times. Scheduled feedings allow for more definitive calorie control leading to successful weight loss. A meal fed diabetic cat is easier to regulate on insulin. Of course, ensuring that plenty of fresh water is available is very important!
Do you leave the faucet drip for the cat to drink when you are finished showering or washing your hands? Many cats prefer to drink moving water. Cats believe that flowing water is fresher than standing water. Think about the pond covered in scum versus the trickling brook. Which water would you want to drink?
Increasing water intake for a cat prone to UTI’s, FIC or crystals is beneficial in many ways. Water will dilute the urine and reduce the concentration of stone-forming minerals in the urine. Increasing water consumption will help flush the bladder more often to decrease the time for bacteria to multiply and reduce inflammation.
Just like litter boxes, cats may have a bowl or fountain type that they prefer. You may need to have several different types of bowls and fountains throughout the home. This will entice your cat to drink more and give them the variety they may crave. It may be obvious that canned food has more moisture than dry food. Feeding canned food is another way to increase the moisture in your cat’s daily regime. Flavored water may also be of interest to your cat. Use a small amount of tuna juice or low-sodium chicken broth. You can freeze cubes of these juices and then place a cube in a fresh bowl of water each day. Maybe you have a fancy cat that prefers distilled or bottled water?
Open communication with the veterinary team is important. The longer a cat is urinating outside of the box, the harder it will be to correct the problem. We are here to help if they don’t want to eat the food, drink the water or take the medications. Give us a call!