Inappropriate Urination in Cats

Inappropriate urination is a very common problem in felines. Sadly, it’s one of the top reasons hundreds of household pets get put to sleep every year. What torks me is that this is usually such a simple problem to fix but most pet owners are either grossly uninformed by their veterinarian or the pet owner thinks the cat is doing it ‘on purpose’ just to make them mad.

Most cats would MUCH rather use a litter box than just about anything else…except maybe dirt. They don’t WANT to pee on your clothes, bed linens, carpets, or furniture. They are doing it because it HURTS and they are trying to tell you it hurts. Cats are smart and they want to make you, as their owner and caretaker, aware that there is a problem. Since they are unable to speak, they must find another way to communicate.

Urinary Tract Infection, or UTI, is very common in cats and 90% of the time is the cause of inappropriate urination.
A simple urinalysis can detect the presence of glucose (sugar), ketones, and even blood. Further, a glance under the microscope can determine if crystals are present. Microscopic crystals can form in the bladder, usually due to poor diet (feeding crappy, cheap, store-bought food), which in turn scratch the lining of the bladder. These scratches can then become infected.

UTI’s can also be present without crystals. This form of UTI is much easier to cure than when crystals are present, but both forms require antibiotics and a food change. Usually Hill’s Science Diet or Iams is recommended as we see the least number of UTI’s on these products.

In cases where crystals are present, besides the antibiotics, a pH modified food is generally recommended to dissolve and disperse the crystals. Extreme cases require a surgical proceedure to open the bladder and physically remove the stones if they are too large to be disolved or passed.

There are two major types of crystals…Calcium Oxylate and Struvite. To be sure of which type of crystal is present a sample is sent to a lab where it can be properly identified. Of the two crystal types mentioned above, Struvite is the more common so most veterinarians skip the cost of having it identified and simply treat using antibiotics and food change.

Sometimes the crystals will stick together and form large stones (I’ve seen them about 1/4″ wide) which have to be surgically removed. This doesn’t happen very often, but if antibiotics and a diet change don’t help, the cat should be x-rayed to see if stones are visible.

Crystals in male cats are especially bad and can cause blockage of the urethra where the cat is unable to urinate. If this happens, it is an emergency situation and can cause death within 24 to 48 hours if left untreated. The urine builds up in the system and becomes toxic to the cat basically poisoning the pet.

If your cat is urinating inappropriately, going back and forth to the litter box frequently, only urinating small amounts, dripping urine, or crying when they urinate, I urge you to call your veterinarian. Sometimes it’s as simple as placing the litter box inside of an unscented trash bag, tying the end closed, and then collecting the resulting sample to take to your vet.

PLEASE NOTE: If you use this form of urine collection it is best to place the litter box and the cat displaying symptoms in a small room without carpet or rugs. Also, make sure the container in which you place the sample hasn’t been cleaned with bleach, vinegar, or other products other than dish detergent. These things will void the sample and it will be useless. Also, urine collected must be placed immediately in the refrigerator unless you are taking it directly to the vet. Ideally it should be received at the vet clinic within 30 minutes.

I’ve had people call me at the clinic at their wits end. They want the cat put to sleep because they can’t get it to stop urinating all over their house and it’s been doing this for months! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE…at the first sign of undesirable behavior, don’t just assume the cat is doing it to make you mad! There is usually a medical reason for such behavior and hitting your cat, rubbing their nose in it, dumping them, or euthanizing them is NOT the solution.

Save yourself and your pet a lot of time, stress, and pain…have your cat checked by a vet! Even if your cat does not show signs of a UTI, I suggest you change their food to a higher quality diet to help prevent this irritating problem. As stated earlier, Iams or Hill’s Science Diet come highly recommended. Don’t be fooled by those cheap store-bought foods that claim they are for “urinary health”. They are full of fillers and preservatives. Believe me, spending a tad more on food now can save you hundreds of dollars and a lot of heartache later.

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