Common Urinary Problems in Cats

How To Keep Your Cat in the Litterbox

Obedient Devon Rex Cat Sitting in Litter Box in Living Room - stock photo
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Many cats suffer from urinary problems at some point, it’s important to know that although the behavior is frustrating, when your cat is having urinary issues which includes the common symptom of missing the litterbox, it is due to your suffering from a medical and/ or a behavior issue.

  • 01 of 05

    Fluid Lower Urinary Tract Disease/Pandora Syndrome/ Feline Idiopathic or Interstitial Cystitis

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    Bacterial UTI’s occur much less frequently in cats than in dogs. More commonly what cats have is Pandora Syndrome which does not in most cases have a bacterial component and treatment consists of more than just an antibiotic. 

    Disease of the lower urinary tract is one of the most common problem in cats. It involves inflammation and discomfort in the bladder and the urethra which is the tube leading from the bladder out of the body. This has gone by various names, FLUTD (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease) or FIC (Feline Idiopathic Cystitis, Idiopathic means the cause is unknown) and most recently, Pandora Syndrome. 

    Pandora syndrome, like the name implies, has no single cause. The underlying causes are likely due to multiple factors: among these include bladder and hormone abnormalities, neurological disorders, environmental stressors or trauma, infections, urinary stones, and/or rock-hard collections of minerals formed in the urinary tract of cats which obstructs the normal flow.

    Cats with Pandora syndrome most often show signs of bladder inflammation, difficulty and pain when urinating, increased frequency of urination, urinating outside of the box and blood in the urine. Often cats who have Pandora Syndrome will have chronic urinary issues that wax and wane. 

  • 02 of 05

    Urethral Obstruction

    Dirty cat litterbox

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    This condition, is most common in male cats, but can be seen in female cats as well. This is because the urethra of a male cat is much longer and much narrower than that of a female cat, and so is more susceptible to becoming blocked.

    A urethral obstruction occurs when there is an obstruction in the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. The obstruction can be due to several causes, including, obstructions such as urethral plugs, urinary stones, strictures, or tumors and can occur secondary to urethral spasm or swelling secondary to inflammation in the lower urinary tract. When this happens, it is difficult or impossible for a cat to empty the bladder, making it a life-threatening emergency. If you cat is having trouble urinating, they should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. Left untreated, the urethral obstruction can lead to kidney failure and death within 24 to 48 hours.

  • 03 of 05

    Bladder Stones

    Fat Cat

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    There are several types of minerals that form stones under different conditions in a cat’s urinary tract. The two most common are struvite and calcium oxalate stones. Crystals can be a normal finding in your cat’s urine at a low level but become problematic when the crystals combine to form grit or stones of varying shapes and sizes. These stones can be found in the urinary bladder, the urethra, or in the kidneys. In some cases, the stones can be flushed out of the body or dissolved. In other cases, they must be surgically removed. They occur in both male and female cats. 

  • 04 of 05

    Urinary Tract Infections

    Cat peeing on couch


    Urinary tract infections (UTI) occur when bacteria enters the bladder, grows, and reproduces. This results in an infection since urine is normally sterile inside the bladder. Cats do not get urinary tract infections as often as they do some other urinary problems, but that doesn't mean they never happen.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Housesoiling (urinating outside of the litterbox)

    Appropriate Sized Low Litterboxes

    Chirrups and Chatter/ Tabitha Kucera

    Cats going to the bathroom outside of their litter boxes is a common complaint among owners. Contrary to popular opinion, cats do not do this to punish or spite their housemates. Instead, house-soiling is often due to a medical problem or fear, anxiety, and stress. Medical issues include constipation, pain, kidney disease, and more.

    In many cases, a cat's litter box is not set up properly, which can lead to them not using it. One litter box does not fit all as there are preferences for cats.  Here are a few tips on how to ensure you have the best litter box setup for your cat's needs.

    Choosing a Litter Box

    Size does matter when it comes to litter boxes-bigger is always better. Even the so-called "large" litter boxes sold in pet supply stores are too small for most cats. When choosing a box, your cat should be able to comfortably turn around in the box and, ideally, the box should be at least 1.5 times the length of the cat from nose to the base of the tail. Under the bed storage containers, 30-gallon storage containers, and cement mixing tubs are a few appropriately sized alternatives to their small commercial counterparts. When choosing boxes for small kittens, declawed, or senior cats, it's recommended to use low-sided boxes, or purchasing a storage container and cutting a low entry so that the cat can easily walk in and avoid lifting their legs high or jumping in, which can be painful.

    The majority of cats are not fond of covered boxes for a variety of reasons. These boxes are often too small, and they trap odors and dust inside, which is very unpleasant for the cats. Cats are both prey and predator animals. Due to them being prey animals, asking them to go in a covered box where, from a cats perspective they cannot see possible predators and are made to feel exposed to threats is not ideal. A clear litter box can be helpful to make cats feel safer.

    Where to Place the Litter Box (and How Many to Purchase)

    The golden rule for the number of litter boxes in a house is one box per cat plus one. Remember, three boxes right next to each other are considered one box from a cat's perspective. Location of litter boxes is key in preventing litterbox aversions or accidents . Do not place litter boxes in the same area as your cat's food and water. You would not want to eat where you use the restroom and neither does your cat. Cats prefer to use their boxes in quiet and private places. When placing litter boxes, avoid high traffic areas and locations where a cat could be cornered or unable to flee (for example, if the box is in a closet where another cat or dog can block the exit). It's recommended that you avoid placing the boxes in busy areas or where a cat could be trapped by another cat or dog or a person. 

If your cat begins to not use the box, reach out to your veterinarian to address medical issues and certified behavior professionals  for help.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.
Article Sources
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  1. Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. Feline Health Center, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

  2. Feline Idiopathic Cystitis. VCA Animal Hospitals.

  3. Urinary Obstruction in Male Cats. American College of Veterinary Surgeons.

  4. Cat Behavior Problems - House Soiling. VCA Animal Hospitals.