More cats are euthanized or made outdoor pets by owners for inappropriate urination than any other disease or condition affecting cats. Urinary issues in cats can have many causes. Medical reasons can range from a simple bladder infection, idiopathic cystitis, or a complicated hormonal condition. Behavior issues and stress within their environment can cause your feline friend to eliminate outside of their litter pans. This may be your cat's way of communicating that there is something wrong with them!
When your cat first starts eliminating inappropriately, it is essential you schedule a visit with your veterinarian to determine if a medical condition exists. Disease could be causing this behavior. Such things as a mild bacterial urinary tract infection, crystals in the urine, diabetes, kidney disease or other underlying condition could be the reason. Idiopathic cystitis is the number one cause of medical problems affecting cats and urination. If no medical condition is determined, then a behavioral problem may be the root of the problem.
Cats should urinate at least once per day, sometimes 2-4 times is normal. Cats were originally desert animals, so they are not great water drinkers. They generally prefer cool fresh water. That is why cats sometimes drink out of the toilet or shower. Some enterprising felines can turn the facets on to get a drink. Cats do not like their water bowl close to their feed bowl. So you may need to put a water dish in a completely separate area. One way to encourage water consumption is to feed a wet food. I personally like for my feline patients to eat a mostly canned food diet. Reasons being cats are true carnivores and can food most resembles a mouse. Higher protein and water are consumed.
Cats are very particular in where they go to the bathroom. In the wild, they had acres and acres to decide where to go to the bathroom. When we move them inside we expect them to eliminate in a small box not more than one foot square. There are some basic litter box rules:
1. Provide one litter box per cat in the household.
2. Make sure it is located in a quiet area with decreased traffic.
3.Use an unscented, non-dusty cat litter. The scent in litter is for humans, not cats. Just imagine having to dig in a dusty, scent-laden small box in a confined area.
4. Once you find a litter your cat likes, DO NOT change it and buy what is on sale.
5. Keep the litter box clean! If using a scoopable litter, clean at least once daily. I personally scoop mine 2-3 times a day. Remember cats are very clean animals and like their potty clean. A dirty pan is the number one reason cats stop using their box.
These are some basic guidelines to help you with litter box health. I generally recommend that to help decide the type of pan whether open or with a lid, let the cat decide. Sometimes cats may not like the texture or feel of the litter you are using so give them a litter buffet also. Place several types of litter pans out and give the cat the option to pick their favorite litter and box type. If you have an older cat that may have some arthritis they may find it difficult to get in a tall box. A box with low sides or a low opening may be just what they need. Sometimes an older cat may have trouble squatting and therefore shoot their urine out of the pan. Occasionally a cat may associate pain with the litter box. If they are having painful urination they only know that every time I get in here it hurts.
We tend to see more urinary tract problems in indoor cats due to inactivity. You should play with your cat several times daily to promote exercise. Having interactive toys around for them to play with when you are gone helps with boredom and inactivity. A window with a bird feeder outside keeps them alert and active. To simulate hunting and activity place small bowls of food through out the house and make them hunt for their food.
There is a wonderful website devoted to the indoor cat and creating a great environment for them sponsored by The Ohio State University www.indoorpet.osu.edu/cats You can get info here to help enrich your cats life and help to prevent inappropriate elimination.
If you have questions about cats and elimination please contact dr. Norette L. Underwood of Best Friends Vet Mobile Service and Trumann Animal Clinic at firstname.lastname@example.org or 870-483-6275. This is one of Dr. Underwoods areas of expertise.