What the Pee?!
A look into feline urinary issues
When it comes to cats, they can certainly be creatures of mystery, particularly when it comes to behaviour changes in regards to litterbox use. In this article we’ll go over proper litterbox etiquette for owners as well as some of the causes, treatments and prevention methods for feline urinary issues.
Although initial litterbox “training” is quite easy with even the youngest of kittens, there are a variety of problems with feline urinary behaviour that can arise. Despite an owner’s best intentions these issues almost always have a stress component to them. Despite their rather aloof persona, cats are actually very sensitive creatures that are highly prone to stress when there are changes in their environment. This can be as obvious as a change of litter type or litterbox location, family members moving in or out of the home, or in-home renos; or as seemingly benign as a new neighbour moving in or a new piece of furniture in the home. Unfortunately, due to the wide variety of stressors and each cat’s individual personality it is almost impossible to account for all of them however, simple recommendations can go a long way.
The most commonly reported issues include urinating out of the box/in other areas of the house, straining/crying while urinating, missing the box and spraying. The first step in deciding on the cause(s) of the above issue would be to have your veterinarian perform a physical exam and a urinalysis. This will help determine whether the issue is medical (UTI, crystals, diabetes etc) vs behavioural, or both. From there treatment and management options can be discussed.
What if my cat is just bad?
While it’s easy to think your cat may be peeing outside of the litterbox simply to annoy you or get back at you for something this is truly not the case. By nature cats prefer to urinate and pass feces in sandy areas which is why litterbox training kittens is so easy. Therefore, if your cat begins urinating in corners of rooms, on piles of fabric etc this is a clue that there’s something wrong and shouldn’t be ignored or disciplined.
How can these issues be treated or corrected?
Luckily, depending on the issues found through urinalysis there are generally several treatment options available. Below we’ll outline some of the most commonly recommended treatments and management techniques.
- Number counts! The general rule of thumb when it comes to number of litterboxes in
the home is to provide at least one per cat and if possible an extra. For example, in a
household with 3 cats we recommend 3-4 litterboxes. While they will often still
share/alternate which box they use this prevents anxiety and possessiveness when it
comes to litterbox usage
- Keep it consistent! Just like humans cats are creatures of habit. They prefer for litter
type to stay the same (eg scented vs non-scented, clumping vs not etc) and for the boxes to be cleaned at relatively predictable intervals. Placing litterboxes in low traffic areas of the home and not directly adjacent to food or water sources is another way to increase the appeal and decrease the stress around their bathroom habits
- Medications. Depending on the abnormalities noted on the urinalysis certain medications will be warranted in some cases. For example, antibiotics for a UTI, insulin
for diabetes or anti-spasmodics. Anti-stress products can also be incredibly beneficial in
these cases. Some examples include pheromone diffusers (which give off feline calming
pheromones), anti-anxiety medications and even calming diets!
- Input Matters! As mentioned above, diet can be a very useful tool in managing urinary
issues in cats. Not only can low quality cat food brands actually cause crystals in the
urine, these crystals will also make it easier to bacteria to live in the urinary tract and
cause UTI’s. There are several different types of veterinary urinary diets available
depending on the need. There are those that cause crystals to dissolve by altering urine
ph, those that are specific for kidney health and those that contain milk proteins to
When it comes to urinary issues in our feline friends there is almost always a medical cause and/or stress component. The earlier these problems are noted and addressed the quicker things can be corrected. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian with any and all urinary questions!