Unlike most dogs, cats urinate in the house in litter boxes so pet owners are often more aware of the urinary habits of their feline friends. If these habits suddenly change, then it could mean that your cat may have a urinary problem that needs to be addressed. Ignoring these signs can result in serious conditions including death so it's important to know what to look for and what can be done about it.
Types of Urinary Problems in Cats
There are several urinary problems that cats can develop. Some are a result of stress while others occur due to unsanitary conditions but all can result in similar symptoms.
- Cystitis - This condition is a result of excessive inflammation as well as other abnormalities in the bladder and/or urethra. Due to this inflammation and changes in the bladder, the lining of the bladder and urethra is irritated and inflamed which makes it uncomfortable and difficult to urinate. Cystitis in cats most commonly occurs due to stress and anxiety.
- Infection - While more common in dogs, urinary tract infections (UTI's) do occasionally occur in cats when bacteria enters the bladder. This bacteria can cause inflammation and make it uncomfortable and hard for a cat to urinate normally. Bacteria can enter the bladder if the kidneys are infected, if a cat has a dirty urinary tract opening from unkempt fur or because it is overweight and unable to clean itself, or if a cat uses a dirty litter box.
- Blockage - Due to excessive inflammation and/or stones in the bladder and/or urethra, a blockage may occur. This makes it impossible for a cat to urinate and is life threatening.
- Stones - Bacteria, inflammatin, and changes in the pH of the urine can cause crystals to form in the bladder. These crystals can then form stones in the bladder.
- Parasites - While rare, it is possible for cats to get parasites in their bladder. This usually occurs from eating earthworms.
- Kidney issues - Cats may have urinary problems as a result of kidney issues. Renal failure, infection, inflammation, and stones can all also cause urinary issues.
- Behavioral - Some cats will have urinary problems simply because they are unhappy about something.
Signs of Urinary Problems in Cats
While cats will occasionally hide an illness, urinary problems are usually quite obvious due to some common signs.
- Urinating outside the litter box - A cat may pee next to its box or on other items and surfaces as an indication that it has a urinary problem. This can also occur because of something that is upsetting your cat like a change in the type of litter, a new cat in the house, or other types of stressors.
- Crying when urinating - If your cat is having a difficult time urinating or it is painful while urinating then it may cry while it is in the litter box.
- Urinating blood - Red tinted litter is an obvious sign that your cat has a urinary problem.
- Straining and unable to urinate - Straining and being unable to urinate are life threatening symptoms.
- Licking at urinary tract opening - Another sign of discomfort due to a urinary problem is if your cat is excessively licking at its urinary tract opening.
Treatments for Urinary Problems in Cats
Depending on the specific type of urinary problem your cat has and the reason for it, the treatment can vary and involve multiple components.
- Supplements - If a cat is stressed or anxious and has cystitis, various supplements including glucosamine, milk whey protein, colostrum, L-theanine, and other ingredients may help decrease the urinary problems.
- Diet - Specific types of diets for cats with urinary problems can alter the pH of the urine and may also contain supplemental ingredients to address stress.
- Litter - Switching to unscented and non-clumping litter may be necessary for cats that have issues with scented and clumping litter.
- Litter box location - If litter boxes are not in quiet areas or too close together, especially if you have multiple cats, you may need to move them if your cat doesn't want to use it.
- Litter box cleanliness - You may need to clean your cat's litter box more often if your cat has a UTI or is avoiding using it.
- Pheromones - If your cat is stressed or anxious, pheromone diffusers and sprays can help decrease urinary problems.
- Medications - Antibiotics, anxiolytics, anti-inflammatories, and other medications may be needed short or long-term to treat or manage your cat's urinary problem.
- Weight loss - If your cat is getting UTI's because it is unable to keep itself clean, it may need to lose some weight so that it can maintain a higher level of hygiene.
- Catheterization - If your cat is blocked or has cystitis and cannot urinate, it may need to have a urinary catheter placed to allow the urine to exit the body.
- Surgery - In extreme situations, surgery may be necessary if a urinary problem reoccurs and prevents your cat from being able to urinate.