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Urinary Problems in Cats

In addition to formula that you feed, the quantity is important as well. Don’t allow your cat to become obese. Incorporate exercise into his daily life through increased interactive playtime. And of course, keep stress to a minimum.

Helping to Prevent Urinary Problems

Food and water

Keep your cat on a high-quality diet. If prescribed a particular diet by your veterinarian, keep your cat on it exclusively. If your cat isn’t given a prescription diet, talk to your veterinarian about which brand and type of food would be best. To keep water intake at optimal levels, your veterinarian may advise you to keep your cat on wet food and limit or eliminate dry kibble in the diet. Canned food is about 70% moisture and dry food has only about 10%. The cat on a diet of dry food exclusively will have to drink more water.

Make sure there is a fresh supply of water always available for your cat. If he doesn’t tend to drink much, consider adding a pet water fountain. The fountain circulates the water which helps keep it oxygenated so it tastes fresher. Additionally, the cat may enjoy playing with the water and then end up drinking more. Have water stations in multiple locations in the home. Don’t place water right next to food because many cats prefer there to be a distance between them.

cat eating

Photo: Fotolia

Litter Boxes

Make sure you have enough litter boxes for the number of cats in the household and that they are easily accessible. Since stress contributes to urinary problems, don’t ask a cat to have to pass through an opponent cat’s area in order to get to the litter box. Make sure they’re located in areas where each kitty tends to hang out. There should be the same number of litter boxes as cats, plus at least one extra for good measure. There should be a box located in each cat’s preferred area. When a cat is using the litter box, it isn’t a time he should have to worry about being ambushed or attacked.

Keep the litter boxes scooped regularly and thoroughly scrub out the boxes and replaced with fresh litter often. Scooping should be done at least twice daily. Boxes should be thoroughly washed on a regular basis, depending on the type of litter used. If using scoopable litter, the box should be washed every 3-4 weeks. If using tradition clay litter, the box needs to be washed every 3-4 days.

litter box with litter scoop

Photo: Fotolia

Provide litter boxes that are the right size and shape for your cat. Don’t stress a cat out by insisting he go into a cramped covered box or try to squeeze into a box that’s really a better fit for a kitten. The box should be 1 1/2 times the length of the cat from tip of the nose to base of the tail.

Monitor your cat’s litter box habits. Become familiar with the normal size of his urine clumps each time you scoop. Changes in the size of the urine clumps may indicate a medical problem. If your cat begins eliminating outside of the box, that can be an indication of an underlying medical problem. Don’t assume it’s behavioral. Have your cat checked by the veterinarian whenever there’s a change in his normal habits.

Manage Stress

Stress is a known factor in contributing to the risk of urinary problems. Interstitial cystitis is commonly the result of stress in the cat’s life, as shown by the research conducted at the Ohio State University. What we view as not very stressful may be over-the-top on the stress-o-meter from a cat’s perspective. If there’s tension in your multicat home, a cat may be afraid to go to the litter box. As a result, he might start retaining urine as long as possible. If your cats aren’t getting along, begin behavior work to help them find a reason to like each other again. Reduction of cat conflict is crucial to minimizing stress. In some cases you may have to separate them and do a total reintroduction. In other cases, it may just involve giving them more activities and increasing environmental enrichment so they don’t just focus in on each other.

Look around your house and make sure all resources for the cats provide security. For example, make sure the mealtime environment doesn’t create intimidation and competition. It may mean you have to create more feeding stations in other rooms. In addition, look at where the cats like spending time to make sure everyone has safe and comfortable options for napping, scratching, climbing, and playing. It may mean you need to increase vertical territory, as well as providing more hiding places. And, as previously mentioned, ensure the litter box set-up is appealing.

three books by author Pam Johnson-Bennett and a quote from Beth Stern


Pay attention to other potential stress triggers in your environment that may be bothering your cat as well. Changes in the family, moving to a new home, renovation, schedule changes, and so on. Cats don’t like change so be aware of how something different or stressful in your household could impact the cat as well.

black cat with sheltie

Photo: Pam Johnson-Bennett

Increase the Fun Factor

When we think of exercise, we think of treadmills, gyms, working out, running or lifting weights. For the cat, exercise comes in the fun form of playtime. When your cat goes in play-mode, it’s a great way for the good brain chemicals to get released. It helps him develop positive associations with people, other animals and environments, and it keeps that athletic body of his in tip-top shape. Engage in daily interactive play sessions with your cat by using a fishing pole-type toy. Provide solo activities as well through the use of puzzle feeders and other interesting toys. Don’t just toss a fuzzy mouse in the center of room; hide it inside a paper bag or place it on the edge of the cat tree perch for kitty to find. Create a more interesting indoor environment.

cat playing with a toy

Photo: Pexels

Don’t Skip Veterinary Visits

In addition to being sure to take your cat to the veterinarian at the first sign of a problem, don’t overlook your cat’s routine veterinary care. This is the time when your veterinarian may detect something you weren’t aware of or you’ll be alerted to an increase or decrease in weight, change in blood test results, blood pressure, etc. Visit your veterinarian for routine vaccinations and exams on a yearly basis – more often if your cat is a senior kitty.

photo: shutterstock

Need More Information?

If you have questions regarding your cat’s health, consult your veterinarian. For more specific information on how to create a more appealing litter box set-up, reduce stress in your cat’s environment or deal with litter box issues, refer to any of Pam’s books.

Note: This article is not intended as a medical diagnosis. If your cat is displaying a change in litter box habits, contact your veterinarian.

three books by pam johnson-bennett on a bookshelf



You can find more information on cat behavior and training in the articles on our website as well as in Pam’s best-selling books. If you have a question regarding your cat’s behavior or health, please contact your veterinarian. This article is not intended as a replacement for your cat’s veterinary care. This article is for information purposes only and not offering medical advice or providing a medical diagnosis.





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