Clarendon Street Vets want owners to understand the severity of cat urination problems

May 21, 2023

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Did you know, urinary problems are one of the top indicators of disease and stress in cats? If left untreated, some problems can lead to more serious illness and unfortunately may even be fatal.

In this article, Patrick outlines common causes of urinary problems, what the symptoms are, possible treatments and prevention and when to call for veterinary help.

Call us in an emergency

Does this affect all cats?

According to our Vet, male cats are particularly susceptible. The male cat’s urethra (the tube through which urine leaves the bladder) is very narrow and easily obstructed. A urethral obstruction that prevents urine leaving the bladder can quickly become a life-threatening situation, as the bladder may then rupture.

Blockages in females are rarer as their anatomy is different, however they can still get painful and persistent urinary infections so it is always advisable to get to know what is normal for your cat, and be aware of signs that something may be wrong.

How will I know if my cat has a urinary problem?

Cats like routine and they prefer to keep clean. They will usually go to the toilet in the same place, which for an indoor cat will hopefully be the litter tray. If your cat has a urinary problem, you will probably notice some changes in his/her urinary patterns and behaviour.

Signs to look out for, include:

  • Urinating in inappropriate or unusual places, like outside the litter tray, on the bed, in the bath
  • Straining to pass urine
  • Frequently going in and out of the litter tray
  • Only producing very small amounts of urine at a time, or no urine at all
  • Visible blood in the urine
  • Crying when urinating or trying to urinate
  • Licking excessively around their genitals

How do I know if my cat has a blockage?

If you have not seen your cat pass urine for more than 24 hours then they are at high risk of being blocked. You will usually see at least one of the symptoms listed above prior to a blockage, however if your cat toilets outside you may not notice them. A blockage will result in a build-up of toxins in the body which can result in vomiting, weakness, and collapse. It is a very serious situation so it is vital you call our 28 Clarendon Street, Cambridge, CB1 1JX practice immediately on 01223 359021.

Even if your cat is passing some urine, this could escalate rapidly and will be painful and distressing, so we would always advise that you call us.

Contact us in an emergency

What causes urinary problems in cats?

Around two thirds of cats develop urinary problems without any known reason – this is called Feline Idiopathic Cystitis. However, it is widely recognised that stress is a contributing factor and can be triggered by changes to your cat’s environment. Building works in the house, the addition of a new pet or baby, or competition for resources between cats can all raise stress levels.

Medical reasons your cat may present with urinary issues include;

  • Crystals or stones in the urine
  • Bacterial infection
  • Urethral stricture
  • Urethral plugs
  • Bladder or urethral tumours

To investigate a urinary issue, one of our vets will run tests on a urine sample and possibly explore the abdominal area using x-ray or ultrasound. Studies have shown that some cats are at higher risk of urinary problems, the risk factors to be aware of are:

  • Male gender
  • Overweight
  • Middle aged
  • Low activity/exercise levels
  • Cats that mainly eat dry food

Treatment & prevention

Treatment varies depending on the severity of the case. A mild case of cystitis may need a course of anti-inflammatories, whereas a blocked bladder requires an emergency procedure to enable the urine to pass, and a few days in hospital with a catheter in place to allow urine release.

With all urinary cases, ensuring the home environment is as stress free as possible can really help improve the health and wellbeing of your cat. Cats also tend not to drink much water and encouraging your cat to increase his/her water intake is a good way to help support the function of their bladder and kidneys.

Here are some more tips on how you can help prevent urinary problems for your cat:

  1. Add wet food to your cat’s diet (remember to remove some dry food to balance the calories) so they consume more moisture.
  2. Ensure your cat has multiple fresh water sources to drink from around the house and outside if they venture out there. An electric water fountain is a good option as cats often prefer running water.
  3. Multi-cat households cause stress as cats will compete for resources such as beds, food bowls, toys and litter trays. Make sure that there are sufficient resources for all cats.
  4. Ensure your cat’s litter tray is cleaned regularly. If you have several cats, you will need one litter tray per cat plus one extra.
  5. Obesity and inactivity can be triggers, so book a vet check-up for an examination and to get further advice. In the meantime, encourage your cat to play and move more with toys and puzzle feeders.

Urinary problems in cats can be complex and frustrating, especially when the cause is unknown. In most cases, by aiming to reduce feline stress levels, owners may be helping to prevent their cat developing issues in the first place. If you have any concerns regarding your cat’s toileting habits please do contact us for help and further advice …

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