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Finicky Felines and Urinary Habits

Finicky Felines and Urinary Habits

Many people have described their cat as spiteful or vindictive when they come back from holidays or a hard day at work and find that Felix has not been using the litter box for elimination, but have picked the laundry basket or someone’s bed as their “toilet” of choice.  Have you ever entered a room and been faced with this?

It can be hard to differentiate what may be going on; and sometimes we do not even notice things have been off in the first place until a few weeks go by.  Then you notice a funny odour or wet spot in your favourite shoes, your bed, outside the litter or anywhere unexpected.  Are you hearing odd sounds, or vocals that get under your skin, or scratching in litter and on odd surfaces at odd times, even the middle of the night?

Well, your cat may be suffering from urinary tract inflammation, infection or possibly an impending blockage/obstruction.

If you are noticing your cat straining, and very little or no urine is being produced this is quite serious and you should get an emergency exam with a veterinarian as soon as possible!

More commonly, urinating in inappropriate places is caused by inflammation in the bladder that is uncomfortable.  This can make them associate the litter box with an unpleasant experience, so they go looking for alternatives…like your laundry basket, or soft absorbent bed!  Not yet an emergency, this still needs veterinary care and can be painful for your kitty, besides unpleasant for you!  This syndrome is called Feline Urinary Syndrome (FUS).  Keeping a close eye on stool and urine production in the litter pan can help eliminate if constipation is the true issue.

Inflammation and irritation of the urethra can turn into an obstruction in a short amount of time; specific treatments for each case may differ and the prognosis of what the cause is will vary on the severity of the obstruction.

Common signs:

Straining to urinate, difficult or painful urination (dysuria)

Cloudy or discoloured urine when urine does appear, sometimes there is blood (hematuria)

Increased frequency of urination (pollakiuria)Of course, urination in inappropriate places

Over grooming and frequent licking of genital area, sometimes even resulting in a bald spot on the belly

Behavioural changes

Wouldn’t it be nice…….if they also learned how to flush?!

Your veterinarian will likely recommend diagnostic testing such as a urinalysis, radiographs (Xrays) of the bladder, and even blood work to rule out underlying causes such as bladder stones, a urinary tract infection, or kidney disease.  If none of these are the cause, then FUS is the most likely cause.  Anything that can cause stress in your cat, could be the culprit.  The following are the possible examples:

  1. Other cats: Introduction of another cat, or a change in behaviour of another cat.  For example, as a kitten matures, they may develop new behaviours such as one day deciding they would like to be the boss.  This can substantially increase the stress on other cats in the home especially in the less dominant cat (often the less dominant cat is the most likely to hiss, scream, or lash out during an interaction).
  2. Introduction of new furniture or rearrangement of existing furniture. Cats depend on spatial consistency when they navigate through their day.  Rearranging the furniture means a completely “new” space for them to explore.
  3. Illness or trauma- this can cause stress for obvious reasons
  4. A change in the work or home schedule of the people in the home:
  5. A change in litter pan style or litter substrate. They simply may not feel comfortable walking on, digging in, or “going” on the new stuff! Most cats also do not like their litter boxes with a cover on it, and will sometimes start using it again if the cover is simply removed.  Also making sure the litter is super clean all the time can convince many cats that it is not such a bad place to go instead of the heating vent or favorite matt.  We typically recommend having 1 extra litter box for the number of cats you have.  For example if you have 3 cats, have 4 litter boxes, on different levels or in different rooms of the house.

It may seem like your cat has very few reasons to be stressed out since all he/she really has to do all day is eat, sleep, groom, and play!  Some of the things you can do at home while you are waiting to see your veterinarian are:

  1. Feliway pheromone products.  There are 2 products on the market: one to help cats get along with each other (Feliway Friends), and one to help reduce stress in a particular space or setting (Feliway Classic).  Check out their website at: (insert link)
  2. Increase water consumption: increase the number of water bowls, that are regularly refreshed with clean water every day. Introduce a water fountain for cats, or let the tap drip while your cat is in the bathroom with you.  Offer a treat of low sodium or dilute chicken broth on a regular basis, or start feeding canned food, or add a little water to their canned food.
  3. Increase the number of litter boxes, offer multiple types of litter, remove the cover from a couple or all of the litter boxes.  Often the various litter boxes needed to be spaced out well.