Urinary Problems in Cats
Cats are well-known for their "urinary issues" -- spraying, marking, urinary tract infections and urethral obstructions. These events may happen once or multiple times, a singular event or related. It is always most important to rule out a medical problem before assuming that your cat is just being "bad" or upset about something. Urinary obstructions are responsible for a wide variety of behavioral signs and can be fatal in 72 hours or less if untreated, so a veterinary exam is most important.
Urinary problems are commonly seen in dogs and cats. Symptoms can range from "obviously sick" to very few signs seen, depending on the length and severity of the infection. Being familiar with possible warning signs could help save your pet's life. Learn more in this FAQ entry.
In a healthy animal, the kidneys filter waste products that are produced by the body. In kidney failure, these waste products are not filtered properly and start to build up in the bloodstream. This is when clinical signs of kidney failure are often noticed. Learn about the sometimes subtle changes seen with kidney disease to know when a visit to the vet is warranted, how a diagnosis is made, what treatment options are available, and how to manage kidney patient pets.
Some of the most common questions and concerns about cats as pets relate to urinary problems. What might be seen as "spraying" and ignored, could be painful or uncomfortable urinary tract inflammation, bladder stones or infection.
A common question for veterinarians is what to do when a litter box-trained cat suddenly starts urinating and/or defecating outside of the litter box. Urinating outside of the box is the most common complaint. This is a question without a quick, easy answer.
Many factors have to be looked in order to accurately answer this question. First and foremost: is this a medical problem, or a behavioral one? An examination of your cat and a lab analysis of the urine by your vet will help determine the proper course of action.
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FLUTD has many names including FIC (Feline Idiopathic Cystitis) and FUS (Feline Urologic Syndrome). This condition is common in cats and may be seen as straining to urinate, urinating in odd (non-litterbox) places or bloody urine. This condition may be life-threatening, and it is always wise to see your veterinarian immediately before any urethral blockage occurs.
In simple terms, the medical term pyelonephritis means kidney infection. Urinary tract infections are classified as "upper" or "lower". An infection of the kidneys is an upper urinary tract infection, an infection of the bladder and urethra is a lower urinary tract infection.
Urinating in odd places (out of litter box) could be a medical problem (infection, crystal formation), a behavioral problem, or a combination of both. The goal of this FAQ is to help identify and differentiate feline urinary medical and behavioral issues.
Feliway® is the synthetic version of the naturally occurring facial pheromones of cats, known to have a calming effect. It has many touted uses, including, but not limited to, reducing or eliminating the following behaviors: urine marking, aggression, facial marking, and stress reduction.
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What is Feliway® and what is it used for? In this guest article by Farnam Pet Products, learn about the various feline behaviors that are calmed (or lessened) by using this pheromone-based product and why it works for so many cats.
I decided to give Feliway® diffuser and spray a try with my own cats. Feliway is a pheromone-based diffuser to aid in behavior modification. (For more information about this product, please see the Veterinary Q & A - Feliway® article.)
Cats, on the whole, are a sensitive bunch, and have very definite toilet habits. If you are using a litter that "works" (i.e. the cats are using it well), try to stick with it if at all possible. Subtle changes in texture (size of granules), scent, dustiness, or frequency of litter box changes may upset your cat's perception of proper litter box behavior, and this could lead to your cat finding litter box alternatives, such as the laundry room or bathroom rug!
Some cats will "forget" their years of proper litter box behavior with senior dementia confusion. If you suspect your pet has dementia or is inappropriately urinating, always take them to a vet first as more often it is a medical condition. Inappropriate urination or defecation can be symptoms of many diseases, and should always be checked out by a veterinarian first to rule out an infection or impaction (constipation).
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.