If you find yourself having difficulties with your cat using the litter box or you recently discovered your cat has a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), this post is for you. Unfortunately, our cat family has had encounters with both a UTI and a urinary obstruction/blockage. Our first experience was traumatic, while our second has been enlightening. Overall, I wanted to write this to help if you are only recently experiencing any of these situations.
Urinary Problems in Cats
As an overview, certain urinary issues can arise with cats. Thus, it is always wise to consult with your veterinarian. For instance, Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD), bladder stones, or even potentially urinating outside the litter box due to anxiety or behavioral issues can happen. In this post, I will simply cover what we've experienced: UTI and urinary blockage.
Litter Box Issues - Help!
Urinating outside of a litter box is very uncommon with cats and if this is happening, I suggest you get your cat to your veterinarian immediately.
You may be asking, "How can I track who is urinating where with a multi-cat household?"
We suggest using cameras surrounding your litter boxes. We have six litter boxes for our four indoor cats. Thus, we have cameras on them at all times and can tell if someone is urinating outside of a litter box.
Our Experience with Litter Box Issues
We first noticed that Cooper was urinating outside of his litter box occasionally, sometimes even on his litter mat. He urinated directly in front of a full Feliway we had plugged in to assist with anxiety, which made us fairly confidently rule out urination outside the litter box due to stress.
We called our veterinarian and explained that he was eating, drinking, and not struggling to urinate in his litter box, but that he was just sometimes not using his litter box. Based on this information, our vet agreed that it was not an emergency. However, she did want to check his urine sample to ensure he was ok. We were nervous about leaving him at the veterinarian until they gained his urine sample. So at first, we picked up beads to replace his litter. The goal was for him to urinate using the beads. After spending a night with him in our master bathroom, we quickly learned this wasn't going to happen. Thus, our next trip was to the vet.
Urinary Tract Infection/UTI
Despite being hesitant to leave Cooper at the veterinarian to gain his urine sample, we ended up deciding it was for the best. We did everything we could to prepare him for his vet visit to make him comfortable. We sprayed his crate with Feliway beforehand so it would be more relaxing. Also, he had a blanket, his favorite toys, and we provided him with canned and dry food.
With the vet, Cooper was on his best behavior and he used the bathroom almost immediately. This was fairly entertaining, considering he refused to for us.
When the veterinarian called us with the results of his urine sample, we were somewhat surprised. It showed that he did have a UTI, with crystals in his urine. His only symptom was urinating outside of his litter box on a few occasions. He didn't show any other symptoms such as straining to urinate (when he did use the litter box), urinating in small amounts, crying, etc.
Given his diagnosis, he received an antibiotic injection intended to last for two weeks. Then, we'd need to revisit one week later, to ensure his UTI was gone. If the UTI didn't disappear, we'd have to consider changing his food.
Having suffered from UTIs personally, I was traumatized. Cats usually hide pain and discomfort, but I still felt terrible not recognizing his distress.
In addition to his antibiotic, we asked our vet if we could give him a Feline UTI+ Cat Supplement. For our specific situation, we were told it wouldn't hurt and to go ahead and provide him with the drops, only until his UTI was gone. You can see what we used via the following link, as something to bring up during conversations with your vet if applicable:
We were glad to see Cooper improve during his 2-week antibiotic.
After a few weeks and with an occasional urinating issue, it was time to see the vet again. During his check-up visit, we got the great news that his urine had no signs of infection, bacteria, or any crystals and that he was in perfect health!
Due to Cooper urinating a couple of times on our sofa, we ended up throwing our downstairs sofa away.
We also replaced all our litter mats. Although only two had been urinated on, we noticed he liked urinating on the mat style that was intended to trap litter. (In reality, it was likely trapping his urine as well.)
Generally speaking, if a cat has urinated on something, it's somewhat unlikely that you'll get it fully cleaned, especially with a piece of furniture. If possible, you may want to remove the items. If not, see below for more tips.
Overall Recommendations with Urination Issues:
As stated above, use cameras to ensure you know who's urinating outside of the litter box, if you have a multi-cat household.
Get your cat to the vet.
You should have one more litter box than cats. So, if you have four cats, you should have at least five litter boxes. If you don't, buy more. (Our cats prefer Senior Litter Boxes, so they can see if anyone is approaching them.)
Consider using Feliway plug-ins if it's possibly caused by anxiety. (We use a mixture of multicat and classic.)
If a cat is continuously urinating in a specific spot, buy puppy pads to place over the areas.
Use an enzymatic cleaner for where any urination outside of the litter box occurs. (We used this: https://www.chewy.com/rocco-roxie-supply-co-professional/dp/116993)
Buy a urine detector flashlight (UV LED) to ensure you're determining where urine issues are for proper cleaning.
Buy carpet shampoo for deep cleaning in soiled areas. (We used this: https://www.chewy.com/natures-miracle-deep-cleaning-carpet/dp/42132)
Side tip: If your cat goes on an antibiotic for a UTI, consider getting a probiotic from your vet to use after the antibiotic ends.
If the UTI does not heal, you'll likely need to switch your cat food. We use Royal Canin as our canned and dry food brand and were looking into this, if necessary.
Since Cooper's UTI was healed after the first diagnosis, we were not advised to switch his food.
However, we would've likely transitioned to this: https://www.chewy.com/royal-canin-veterinary-diet-urinary/dp/35158 & https://www.chewy.com/royal-canin-veterinary-diet-urinary/dp/35160
My Cat's UTI is Gone, But... There Are Still Litter Box Issues! Help!
Follow-up with your vet immediately!
If this is the case, keep using puppy pads.
Make sure your cat is drinking enough water, or give them more canned food. (In the event the urine is concentrated, possibly leading to more crystals, etc.)
Consider changing your litter to something like this, which includes a cat attract feature: https://www.chewy.com/dr-elseys-precious-cat-attract/dp/32365
Note that your veterinarian may recommend Prozac if the issues continue.
Urinary Tract Obstruction/Blockage
Outside of UTIs, urinary blockages are an emergency and require immediate help. With Cooper's UTI, we attempted to gain a urine sample ourselves, delaying the diagnosis process. With a urinary blockage, you'd need to get your cat to any vet immediately, even if it's the middle of the night. Do. Not. Wait. From waiting a single day, we lost our beloved cat, Jasper.
What to Look Out For with Blockage:
Straining or not producing any urine. (This is also largely why we recommend using cameras to give your cats their privacy, while still monitoring their bathroom habits occasionally.)
Crying or Howling is a serious sign. (This happened two hours before we got Jasper into the vet.)
Vomiting (Jasper only vomited once before we lost him.)
Not Eating/Drinking (This only became a problem the day before we lost him.)
We used to see a different vet who would always advise us to wait a day or two before bringing our cats in. For some reason, this was his motto. Our current vet takes all of our calls and helps with all our concerns, questions, etc. If your vet doesn't do this like our current vet, please find a new one. I'm sure our current vet would've heard about the symptoms (appetite, vomiting once, etc.) and requested to see him immediately.
We lost Jasper Lee on 8.8.19, the same day as our wedding anniversary. We lost him during surgery for a urinary blockage. He had only been showing symptoms for twenty-four hours. At that time, we had no idea what was wrong. He was drinking less water, eating less, and at one point lying in his litter box. We were oblivious to what a urinary blockage entailed. In fact, as a kitten, Jasper regularly laid in his litter box. At that time, we thought nothing of it.
We lost Jasper at three years old. We had always spoken about how he’d live to be in his twenties or thirties because we needed him. It was as if our attachment would somehow keep him alive. Losing our first cat-son-shine, tore us apart.
Seeing Jasper for our final time, I immediately entered my bargaining stage. I begged him to come back to me. We spent so much time in the room saying goodbye that we were checked on a couple of times.
Losing Jasper changed everything and also changed me as a person. It’s why this website exists. It’s why we started social media. Our cat-kids mean everything to us and we want to honor them. Until we meet again, I’ll keep loving him and sharing our memories. Please take it from us: don't take any urinary issues lightly.
I hope this post helps you to understand the seriousness of anything urinary-related with cats. Wishing your cats all the best of well-being and that they're able to maintain their vibrant health.