Hey, it’s your cat. I know things look bad, but let me explain.

I didn’t choose to urinate on your clean laundry—although I know it looks like I did. Actually, I can’t “go” in my litter box for several specific reasons, and when you gotta go, you gotta go—you know? Please don’t get mad, because that makes me stress out—and then things really spiral out of control.

I don’t know why this is happening, but I promise it’s not on purpose. Will you take me to Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Waller so we can figure it out together?

Accidents happen—why cats have urinary health problems

Urinary health issues are one of the most common reasons owners bring their cats to the veterinarian—and, unfortunately, a common reason why they are surrendered, abandoned, or rehomed. But cats don’t urinate outside the box to be manipulative or spiteful—rather they are feeling pain, discomfort, and emotional distress. Causes include:

  • Inadequate water intake — Your cat’s ancestors were desert animals who satisfied their fluid requirements by consuming small animals. In a similar fashion, domestic cats do not drink much water—but because they eat a dry diet, many are not appropriately hydrated.
  • Diet — Dry food diets and unbalanced cat food formulas can alter urine pH and contribute to urinary health issues. 
  • Urinary tract structure — The cat’s urethra, which is a flexible tube that extends from the urinary bladder to the outside world, is narrow and, in male cats, includes a sharp bend.
  • Stress — Cats are exceptionally sensitive to internal and environmental stress, which can cause a cascade of inflammatory conditions. Cats can be stressed by small and large changes in their routine, including a new food or litter, inter-cat conflict, relocation, or tension between human household members.
  • Unclean or inaccessible litter boxes — Dirty litter boxes are stressful for cats, and they likely will seek alternative options. Boxes that are too tall, too far away, guarded by “bully” cats, or require stair-climbing may make access difficult for senior, submissive, or handicapped cats.

The culprit—feline lower urinary tract disease

In addition to run-of-the-mill urinary tract infections (UTIs), cats can experience more complex and dangerous urinary problems that impact their urinary and overall health. These conditions are collectively referred to as feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) and may include:

  • Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) — FIC is a general term for urinary issues with an unknown cause (i.e., idiopathic), and is a painful inflammatory condition most likely caused or exacerbated by stress. As such, FIC can resolve on its own, but spontaneously return after treatment.
  • Urolithiasis — Urinary stones are mineralized formations that develop in the cat’s urine, irritate the bladder lining, and may become a life-threatening urethral obstruction. 
  • Urinary blockage — Urinary stones or plugs (i.e., obstructions made from mucus, cells, and debris) can create a potentially life-threatening blockage that prevents normal urine outflow. Urinary blockage is an emergency situation requiring veterinary care for catheterization and surgery. 

Common urinary disorder signs in cats

Early diagnosis can prevent unnecessary pain and discomfort, as well as disease progression. Monitor your cat’s litter box habits and schedule an appointment at NVC of Waller for any signs of a urinary health issue, including:

  • Increased trips to the litter box
  • Straining to urinate
  • Little or no urine output
  • Urinating outside the litter box
  • Bloody urine
  • Crying or vocalizing while urinating
  • Repeatedly licking the urogenital region

If your cat is repeatedly straining to urinate or cannot produce urine, they may have a urinary obstruction. Immediately contact Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Waller or the nearest veterinary emergency facility.

Your cat’s urinary health exam

Diagnosing non-emergent feline urinary health issues is relatively straightforward. During your cat’s appointment, you’ll be asked to describe their recent behavior and litter box habits while the veterinarian performs a complete physical examination to assess your cat’s hydration, pain level, and bladder size. Next, the veterinarian will collect a urine sample for urinalysis, which is a test that includes microscopic and chemical analysis to look for bacteria, abnormal cells, inflammation, crystals, and changes in pH. If necessary, your veterinarian may recommend X-ray or ultrasound imaging to visualize the entire urinary tract, including the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra.

Treating urinary health issues in cats

Treatment for feline urinary health issues depends on your cat’s diagnosis, but generally includes controlling pain and inflammation, restoring urine flow, treating infection, and identifying and reducing stress. Common treatments include:

  • Emergency surgery — Obstructed cats must be catheterized and the blockage surgically removed. Corrective surgery known as a perineal urethrostomy may be advised for male cats to prevent future blockage. 
  • Hospitalization — Intensive care may be necessary to monitor urine output and correct fluid and electrolyte imbalances. Hospitalization is standard for post-operative cats.
  • Medical management — Cats with urinary tract infections and feline inflammatory cystitis need antibiotics, pain medication, and anti-inflammatories. 
  • Lifestyle modifications — These include frequent litter box cleaning, maintaining a predictable routine, and reducing conflict and stress in multi-cat homes. 

Promoting feline urinary health

Because many factors influence inappropriate urination, prevention isn’t entirely possible. However, you can reduce your cat’s chronic urinary condition risks with a few lifestyle modifications, such as:

  • Ensuring fresh water is always available
  • Keeping litter boxes clean
  • Providing one litter box per cat, plus one, stationed in easily accessible locations
  • Avoiding abrupt changes in your cat’s routine
  • Promoting calmness with pheromone diffusers and sprays
  • Working with a veterinary behaviorist to reduce inter-cat conflict
  • Engaging your cat with regular mental and physical exercise

If your cat’s litter box habits change, they aren’t being spiteful—they’re calling out for help. Don’t wait—schedule an appointment at Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Waller.