Cat Urinary Issues (General)

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Cat sitting outside litterbox
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Urinary issues can be caused by a number of problems in the urinary tract, which includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. This could mean an infection, an injury, stones, or some kind of blockage. Common signs of a urinary problem in cats include frequent urination, an inability to urinate, urinating outside the litterbox, crying when urinating, and blood in the urine. Depending on the specific problem, treatment ranges from a special diet to medication to surgery.

Overview

Here’s how a cat’s urinary system works: The kidneys filter waste and toxins from the blood. These waste products then become part of the urine in the kidneys. Urine leaves the kidneys through narrow tubes called ureters. These empty their contents into the bladder. Then, when a cat urinates, the bladder is emptied through a tube called the urethra.

Feline urinary problems are usually grouped into conditions of the lower urinary tract (which comprises the bladder and urethra) and the upper urinary tract (including the kidneys and ureters).

Urinary problems can make it difficult for a cat to store or pass (eliminate) urine. Storage problems result in inappropriate leakage of urine. The causes of these storage problems include bladder muscle problems, nervous system problems, and injury to the urinary system.

Elimination problems involve a decreased ability (or an inability) to urinate; causes include blockage by stones, crystals, mucus plugs, or growths; muscle problems; and nervous system problems. Cats with elimination problems usually try to urinate often but release only a small amount of urine or no urine at all. This latter condition — complete urethral obstruction — is a dire medical emergency.

Symptoms and Identification

A thorough physical examination and history-taking of a cat can help a veterinarian determine whether a feline has a urinary problem. Ultrasonography, radiography (X-rays), and testing of both blood and urine can help a veterinarian arrive at a diagnosis.

Here are some signs of a urinary problem:

  • Frequent trips to the litterbox, with or without productive urination
  • Urinating outside the litterbox or in unusual places
  • Blood in the urine
  • Crying or straining when urinating
  • Inability to urinate
  • Urinating in small amounts
  • Disinterest in food or water
  • Hiding
  • Disinterest in being handled
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

Affected Breeds

No breed predilection for general urinary issues has been established in the cat.

Treatment

There are several effective treatments for feline urinary problems. Treatment may include surgery, a special diet, and/or medication, depending on the cause of the problem. Cats undergoing treatment need to be monitored and tested regularly.

Prevention

To help ensure that a cat’s urinary system is healthy, an owner must become familiar with his or her cat’s eating, drinking, and litterbox habits. A change in any of the cat’s habits may be a clue that something is wrong.

The following can help maintain a cat’s urinary system:

  • Supply plenty of fresh water and keep the bowl clean.
  • Provide an adequate number of clean litterboxes (at least 1.5 per cat in multicat households).
  • Encourage your cat to play and exercise, keeping him or her at a healthy weight.

Take a cat to a veterinarian at least annually for well-cat visits and at the first sign of trouble.

This article has been reviewed by a Veterinarian.

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