harry 2Difficulty urinating, frequent urination, excessive trips to the litter box, blood in the urine, and urinating outside of the litter box are all signs of bladder problems in a cat. Does this mean that your cat has a urinary tract infection? The answer might surprise you.

In young cats, urinary tract infections are not actually the most common cause of lower urinary tract problems. The most common cause of lower urinary tract symptoms in a young cat (less than 7 or 8 years old) is bladder inflammation. This inflammation can be caused by stress, or it can be a symptom of issues elsewhere in the body.   Older cats may actually have infections, stones, or other issues so it is critical to have an examination by a veterinarian.

An initial examination by your Veterinarian is important to rule out disease or behavioral urine marking and to plan a solution.  As a Cat Friendly Clinic, The staff at The Androscoggin Animal Hospital is trained in cat specific issues including low stress examinations. Once other problems are ruled out, pain control and anti-anxiety medications may be considered. The long term solution, however, is to identify sources of stress, and address potential litter box and other management problems.

Environmental Enrichment:smores

Since stress is a cause of lower urinary tract disease, it is essential to focus on environmental enrichment and stress reduction. This involves recognizing the essential needs of cats, and realizing how living indoors can create stress. You probably don’t understand how your cat can be stressed, and you may be inadvertently contributing to the stress (don’t feel bad).

Cats are social creatures, but they are not pack animals like dogs. Living with other cats, dogs, and humans can be stressful. Lack of hunting opportunities, stressful smells, a lack of predictable human interaction, and inadequate environmental resources can be problems.  Providing a safe and enriched environment can be done and your Veterinarian can help guide you.

In addition to contacting us for help, The Indoor Pet Initiative at The Ohio State University and the American Association of Feline Practitioners are excellent resources.

Litter box:

Remember, the litter box is your cat’s toilet! Having an attractive litter box is critical. The litter box needs to be clean and free of odors. Your cat needs to like the location of the box and the type of litter that is in the box. You may need to experiment with different styles of boxes, different types of litter, and different locations of the boxes. Although having the litter box in the basement next to the furnace might be attractive for us, that dark and noisy spot might not be the most relaxing restroom for your cat.

  • In general, you should have one more litter box than you have cats. (ex: If you have 2 cats you should have 3 boxes)
  • We do not recommend covered liter boxes since they trap odors, and they can lead to problems if there are other animals in the house; your cat can feel trapped.
  • Although cats can see better than we can in low light, it is still a good idea to have some light near the litter box.
  • The litter box should be approximately 1.5 times the length of your cat. This might mean that you have to be creative; you might need to use a plastic storage container.
  • Clumping litter tends to be easier to keep clean, but any type of litter will work as long as your cat likes it, and you are cleaning it often. Pine, paper, clay, peat moss; it all works as long as you can clean it, and your cat likes it.
  • If your cat has been urinating outside the box you need to make sure that you are cleaning the area with a product like an enzymatic cleaner that will eliminate all odors. They like to visit and urinate in locations where they (or other cats) have urinated.

Water:A curious cat

Adequate water consumption is very important. This can be achieved by using wet foods, water fountains, and water dishes. Canned food has more water in it than dry food, so this may be useful as well. Please discuss any diet change with your Veterinarian.

Eliminate Stress:

Keeping your cat indoors is safer for them, but it can create some unintended consequences. Recognizing and eliminating causes of stress is important and it can be done.