One of the most common and frustrating reasons cat parents visit us is litter box trouble. While not all urinary problems in cats are created equal, they all cause significant stress for pet owners and cats alike.
Some urinary problems in cats are caused by medical issues, while others have a legitimate behavioral component. Either way, it’s important to bring your cat to your primary veterinarian as soon as possible. Once in a while, a urinary problem is a true life-threatening emergency, and in these cases, your cat must be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Signs of Urinary Problems in Cats
First, it’s important to know the signs of a urinary problem. While some of these may be obvious, some symptoms that your cat is in trouble may be harder to recognize. Common signs of urinary trouble in cats include:
- Urinating outside the litter box and/or accidents in the house
- Drinking more water and/or more frequent urination
- Straining to urinate
- Strong smelling urine
- Bloody or cloudy urine
- Painful urination (cats may cry out when trying to go)
If you notice any of these signs, a call to your primary veterinarian or the emergency service at The COVE is in order, right away. We can help you to determine if an appointment is best, or if you should bring your cat in immediately. Of course, you know your cat best, so if you are worried for any reason, please bring your cat to The COVE any time.
Urinary Tract Infections in Cats
When a cat has trouble urinating, most people assume it’s a urinary tract infection (UTI) causing the problem. But while cats can and do suffer from urinary tract infections, it is far less common than one might think.
UTIs can occur secondarily to other conditions, such as urinary stones, a tumor (or growth) in the bladder, systemic diseases such as diabetes mellitus or kidney disease, or an immune system condition. But while a urinary tract infection can cause many of the problematic urinary signs commonly described by pet parents, true UTIs account for just a small percentage of urinary problems in cats.
Common Urinary Conditions in Cats
So, if the problem is not a UTI, what is it?
Cystitis and Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease – Cystitis is the most commonly diagnosed feline urinary problem and is a painful condition that refers to inflammation of the bladder lining. Cystitis is commonly part of a disease process called Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). Cats who suffer from FLUTD often suffer from the above symptoms, as well as excessive licking of the urinary opening, lethargy, and vomiting.
Cats with FLUTD may display waxing and waning flare-ups of the condition. It can quickly turn into an emergency if the urethra becomes blocked. This can happen if the inflammatory products that cause FLUTD settle in the bladder and form a plug, disrupting the normal flow of urine. Male cats are more susceptible since they have a narrower urethral opening.
Urinary blockage is a very serious and potentially life-threatening situation. If you notice symptoms, especially if you have a male cat, it’s best to always assume a blockage and seek emergency service right away, as it can lead to kidney failure and death within 24-48 hours if left untreated.
Bladder Stones – Several types of minerals can form stones under certain conditions in the cat’s urinary tract. The two most common are struvite and calcium oxalate crystals that can clump together and form grit or stones in the bladder, urethra, or kidneys. In some cases, these stones may be flushed out of the body or dissolved with medical treatment, or they may need to be surgically removed.
Treatment of Urinary Problems in Cats
We are not always certain what causes urinary issues with our feline friends. But if your cat is having trouble in the litter box, the rule of thumb is to rule out medical causes first. A complete physical exam can help, as well as basic diagnostics such as a urinalysis and culture, and blood work.
If your veterinarian can’t find a medical reason, the urinary issue could be behavioral. Often, environmental stressors such as litter box placement, type of litter used, the number of pets in the house, and changes to the environment (such as a move, a new baby, or a new pet) can contribute to the development of urinary problems. We can help troubleshoot, and sometimes, behavioral medication can be of help.
The COVE Can Help
Again, if you notice your cat straining in the litter box or if your cat seems to be in pain, don’t hesitate to call the emergency service at The COVE or your veterinarian right away. If you have any questions or concerns about feline urinary problems, please give us a call.
The COVE’s veterinarians and staff wholeheartedly embrace the core values of community, collaboration, commitment, compassion, and integrity. This focus ensures that pets, the people who love them, and their primary care veterinarians have as positive and affirming a healthcare experience as possible, regardless of the circumstances that bring us all together.