One of the more common and potentially frustrating reasons that our clients bring their cats to see us at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital is trouble in the litter box.
While not all urinary problems are created equal, they all do result in significant stress for both feline and caretaker. Urinary issues in cats may not be anyone’s favorite, but you can rest easy knowing that our expert staff has your back should you ever encounter them.
The Dreaded Urinary Tract Infection
As soon as Fluffy starts urinating outside of the box, most people assume a UTI is the cause. While cats can and do suffer from urinary tract infections, it is far less common than one might think.
Urine is normally a sterile fluid, kept that way by the body’s excellent defense systems. Sometimes, though, rogue bacteria make their way into the picture and wreak havoc on the urinary tract.
UTIs can occur secondary to underlying problems including urinary stones, a growth in the bladder, systemic diseases such as diabetes mellitus or kidney disease, or an immune system issue.
Urinary tract infections are typically detected by urinalysis and culture and while they can cause many of the symptoms commonly described in our feline patients (straining to urinate, urinating outside of the litter box, painful urination), true urinary tract infections account for just a small percentage of urinary issues in cats.
The Real Issue
So if it’s not a UTI, what is it?
While issues such as bladder stones, tumors, and behavior problem can plaque our feline friends, the most common urinary problem that we diagnose in cats is cystitis.
Cystitis, which refers to inflammation of the bladder lining, is commonly a part of a disease complex called feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD). Cats who suffer from FLUTD often display several symptoms which may include:
- Frequent urination
- Straining to urinate
- Urinating outside of the litter box
- Visibly bloody or cloudy urine
- Vocalizing during urination
- Licking of urinary opening
We are not always sure what causes this problem in our feline friends, although there does appear to be a correlation in many cases with environmental stress.
Cats may experience waxing and waning flare ups of this problem. It can quickly turn into an emergency, however, if the urinary opening becomes blocked. This can happen due to the inflammatory products in the urinary bladder settling and forming a plug. It is far more common in male cats, who have a much more narrow urethral opening.
Urinary blockage is a very serious and potentially fatal situation. Quick action is required if a cat becomes unable to urinate. If you suspect that your cat may be blocked, please call us immediately so that we can help.
Navigating Urinary Issues in Cats
If you notice that your cat is having trouble in the litter box, don’t wait to ask for help. Many times there is a good reason behind urinary issues in cats. The first step is for us to complete a thorough physical examination and testing (usually urinalysis and basic blood work) to diagnose any underlying medical causes.
Sometimes there is a legitimate behavior component behind these problems. In the event that a pet is spraying or marking, we can help you to make some changes to help solve the problem. In some situations behavioral medications may even be in order.
Urinary issues in cats are not anyone’s idea of a good time, but together we can work to solve this common issue. Contact your Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital veterinarian for more information.