Has your cat ever urinated outside the litter box, or frequented the box often without emptying his
bladder? He may be trying to tell you something. He may even be trying to alert you to a life threatening
Some cats with urinary tract disease may develop crystals in their urine. These crystals can irritate the
lining of the bladder causing what is called cystitis, or they may accumulate into plugs and stones that can
block the passage of urine through the narrow urethra. Cats suffering from these conditions will show
signs of discomfort ranging from meowing during urination to straining to urinate with frequent grooming
of the genital area. Cat owners often mistake these signs for constipation and miss an opportunity to seek
medical treatment for their pet.
If you notice that your cat has increased frequency in urination, straining, or has blood in the urine, please
seek medical attention as he may be developing a urinary tract obstruction. Unsuccessful attempts to
urinate, lethargy and vomiting, are indications that a urinary blockage has developed. It is a life
threatening emergency for your pet, and requires the attention of your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Your pet’s doctor will determine whether the urethra is obstructed by palpating the bladder. If this is the
case, the patient will be sedated and an indwelling urinary catheter will be placed to relieve bladder
distention and allow urine to pass into a collection container for 24 to 48 hours. An IV catheter will be
placed and your cat will be given intravenous fluids to rehydrate and correct electrolyte imbalances. The
length of hospitalization will depend on how well he responds to treatment. Blood-work will be monitored
to assess his kidney function. Once the urinary catheter is removed, it is imperative that the cat can pass
urine on his own. Rarely, damage to the urethra is irreversible and a surgical procedure is necessary to
dilate the opening.
Male cats are more frequently represented with urinary obstructions due to the narrow urethral opening.
The urethra is the tube which urine passes through from the bladder to the outside. Other factors that
may contribute to this disease include genetic factors, urinary tract infections, changes in the weather, dry
food diets that are high in mineral content, lack of fresh drinking water, stress, and poor litter box
While we cannot do much about our cat’s genetic background or the weather, cat owners can make
positive changes in their pet’s environment to help reduce the potential for developing a serious,
potentially life threatening condition.
Always provide your pet with a clean litter box. If you have several cats, they may prefer to have separate
boxes. Try different types of litter to find the type your pet prefers. Place the litter box in a private, quiet
You control your pet’s diet. Offer a canned meat diet that is low in magnesium and other crystal forming
minerals. Offer fresh water either in a bowl, waterfall or even a dripping faucet to encourage your cat to
drink more often which helps to dilute the urine and keep the crystals dissolved.
Contact your veterinarian for more information on your pet’s urinary tract health.
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