Abnormal urination is a common problem in felines. Symptoms center around urinating in inappropriate places; but problems can also include spraying, an increased frequency of urination, straining to urinate, the inability to urinate, and the presence of blood, bacteria, pus and/or crystals in the urine. Urinary problems can occur for a multitude of reasons; and if the underlying cause is not addressed, the patient can become very ill, and clients sometimes opt to euthanize.
The key to resolving this matter is to determine if this is a medical or behavioral issue. Both categories occur frequently; but the treatment differs drastically for each of these scenarios. In order to identify the underlying cause, an examination and discussion of the history will be needed. Your veterinarian will want to know when this problem started, what symptoms you are seeing, the frequency of symptoms, if there is an increase in water consumption, if energy is normal, if appetite is normal, if there is weight loss, how many cats are present in the household, how many litter boxes are available, the type of litter, if there has been a change in the litter, how frequently the boxes are changed or cleaned, if there are outside cats near the home, if there has been a diet change, and if changes have occurred in the household that could be stressful. Lab work will minimally include a blood panel and urinalysis. Other diagnostics may include a urine culture, x-ray, and/or ultrasound. Once the underlying issue is identified, therapeutic strategies can be implemented.
Medical causes for abnormal urination can include, but are not limited to diabetes, kidney disease, cystitis, a urinary tract infection, a kidney infection, urinal crystal formation, urinary stone formation, kidney stones, and cancer. Cystitis or feline lower urinary tract disease is a syndrome that is occurring more frequently in cats and episodes can occur repeatedly in both male and female cats. It causes inflammation along the urinary tract, and seems to be associated with being overweight, a sedentary lifestyle, a dry food diet, low water consumption, and being housed strictly indoors. Therapeutic strategies are specific to the underlying disease process, and may include insulin, antibiotics, diet changes, increased water consumption, pain medication, or others.
Behavioral causes are centered around the number of cats in the household, and how they interact with each other. Even if only one cat lives at the location, but other stray cats come up to the house, this can trigger abnormal urination. Any source of stress including other pets, children, construction, noise, etc can trigger abnormal urination. In addition, if abnormal urination goes on for a long time, and becomes a routine pattern, it is much harder to control. Once this problem begins, other cats in the household may also begin to counter spray.
There are many factors to consider with regards to litter box management. The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Behavior Service recommends having at least one litter box for each cat in the household, plus one. Waste should be removed from the litter box at least daily, with a thorough cleaning at least once a week. It is suggested to use a 1:32 dilution of bleach and water. Once dry, place at least 2-3 inches of litter in each box. Some patients prefer even more. Do not change brands of litter once you find one that your feline likes. Different brands will have different aromas as well as different levels of dust; and both of these factors can affect litter box usage. Try to get a product that produces less dust. Clumping versus non clumping is strictly an individual preference. Keep the litter box in a quiet area. Some felines prefer covered facilities.
Multiple therapies can be utilized. If a cat is antisocial, it may be best to provide an area where that feline can live without interacting with other cats. Having the carpeting deep cleaned is an important step, as the scent of residual urine can stimulate further urination in that location. Sprays and other products can be applied to surfaces to remove the smell of ammonia, a trigger for urination; these products are also designed to help discourage inappropriate urination. Phermones can also be used to help with behavioral issues. These chemicals are natural hormones, and they are soothing to cats. Instead of spraying, felines will often rub up against areas where the phermones are applied. They are available as plug in room defusers, sprays, or collars. Antidepressants are often prescribed, and they are a very effective treatment for most patients. Just like in people, these medications help felines in dealing with stress and anxiety. These products can be compounded into special flavors such as chicken, tuna, and beef to simplify administration. Having your cat live outdoors is another option; but I would do this as a last resort.
Abnormal urination may not be an easy problem to treat. Your veterinarian can guide you through this process.