A recent survey by Hill’s Pet Nutrition found that 60% of cat owners had experienced their cats weeing outside the litter tray.
There are many reasons to explain why cats might spray or urinate around the home; a lot of the time stress is the major trigger but sometimes the problems go deeper.
Spraying or urinating?
There is a difference between spraying – which is using urine to mark territory – and urinating in the home. Contrary to popular opinion, female cats sometimes spray and neutered male cats might too. Tom cats will almost always spray strong smelling urine and that’s one of the main reasons for neutering.
Both spraying and urinating can be caused by disease but in many cases stress plays a major role in the development of the problem.
What can go wrong with a cat’s bladder?
It is important that urinary problems are properly investigated by a vet. Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is an umbrella term that is often used and it can include a number of conditions that can cause cats to urinate around the home, strain to pass urine, or pass blood in their urine.
One of the most serious of the causes of FLUTD is urinary stones or calculi. These can cause blockages in the urinary tract so that cats cannot pass urine. If you suspect this condition, immediate veterinary assistance is required.
Another reason for blockages is the development of a ‘plug’ which is made up of cells, crystals and for want of a better word, sludge. Again plugs in the urethra (the tube to the bladder) can cause blockages.
Some cats can develop infections but actually bacterial infections are quite uncommon as a cause of FLUTD, although they can occur more frequently if there is an underlying condition like kidney disease or diabetes.
By far the most common cause of FLUTD is a condition called ‘idiopathic cystitis’, which is a cystitis-like condition in cats that is closely associated with stress.
“My cat Betty has a urinary problem a few times a year and honestly I swear it's when I am stressed or unwell. It's like she has a sixth sense.”
By testing a urine sample your vet will already have some idea of what the cause might be, although further tests, such as blood samples of X-rays may be needed to make the ultimate diagnosis.
Stress management is key to tackling urinary problems in cats:
- Change can be stressful so keep to regular routines and habits
- Make your home feel secure by locking the cat flap
If your cat is scared of something outside (for instance another cat) a cat-flap represents a threat as it makes the indoors continuous with the outdoors. Locking the cat-flap might not be enough for some cats to accept that the risk has passed and a new door without a cat-flap might be the only solution.
3. Peace, love and pheromone diffusers create a happy home
A plug-in, or spray pheromone diffuser that releases chemical messages can persuade a cat that all is right with the world.
“I used a Feliway® plug in and spray and rubbed her favourite blanket against door frames in the new house to help her settle in and the problem resolved in a few days.”
4. Create a secret escape with a custom hideaway
Many cats like their safe haven to be up high on top of a piece of furniture, while others simply want a corner of a quiet room. A tent, a cat igloo, or an upturned cardboard box with an entry hole, could be the perfect retreat your cat needs to keep calm.
5. Re-train without the stress by providing a quiet room with a litter tray
In this room your cat can learn to use the litter tray again without any distractions or fearful events. Give your cat attention and company during the re-training period. Once things have settled down, allow access to the rest of the house a room at a time.
Tips for urinary health:
Cats that have conditions like diabetes, kidney disease or urinary stones may have to be fed a Prescription Diet recommended by your vet. If your cat is prone to stress and repeated urinary problems relating to stress, then it might be helpful to follow these tips for urinary health, as well as reducing stress.
- Always provide access to plenty of fresh drinking water in multiple locations around the home
- Encourage activity and don’t let your cat put on too much weight – both are major risk factors in the development of urinary problems
- Make the right choices when it comes to food
It’s all about the science, including the levels of minerals, how the food affects the acidity of the urine, digestibility and the levels of antioxidants. New Science Plan Urinary Health has all the right credentials from optimal levels of magnesium, to high levels of antioxidants. It’s available in a Hairball Control or a Sterilised Cat formula. Always make the change to a new food slowly to avoid causing stress.
Remember that stress is just one factor in the development of urinary problems in cats so, if in doubt, always check with your veterinary surgeon and seek urgent attention if your cat is having difficulty urinating.
Written by Hannah Dyball