More Serious Than an Attitude Problem
by Mary Sper
Just like that, kitty stops urinating in the litter box. Figuring out why can be difficult and upsetting. But before automatically assuming your cat has a spiteful behavioral problem, it is imperative to rule out underlying causes associated with feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (LUTD). Aversion to the litter box in the case of LUTD stems from association with painful urination or urgency to urinate. Left untreated, a relatively simple and initially treatable infection can develop into a serious and irreversible case of acquired kidney disease. Two cases from our experience highlight this danger.
Casper had not been urinating in the box for quite sometime before his owners decided to dump him outside rather than bother taking him to a vet. ICRA had Casper for three weeks and helped him battle an ultimately deadly kidney infection that had migrated up his urinary tract. Casper died the day after Christmas at the age of three.
Everything seemed to be going well for 10 year-old Veronica in her new home until she began urinating around the house. Veronica was not taken to the vet either and eventually was returned to ICRA. The delay in seeking medical care was enough to allow infection to spread to her kidneys. Despite in-home fluid and drug therapy, Veronica eventually lost her battle with kidney disease.
LUTD is not one but a number of diseases (in male and female cats) with similar symptoms affecting the urethra, bladder, and ureters through urinary stone formation, urethral obstruction by stones or plugs (especially in males), anatomic abnormalities, and even cancer. Symptoms besides inappropriate urination include: straining to urinate, passing of bloody urine, frequent urination, vomiting, loss of appetite, and uremic odor to the breath. If you notice your cat has one or more of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately. Males exhibiting signs of urethral blockage, i.e., straining to urinate, are in grave danger and need IMMEDIATE veterinary care in order to restore the kidneys’ ability to remove toxins from the blood and maintain the proper balance of fluids and electrolytes.
The causes of LUTDs vary and can be difficult to pinpoint. The key is recognizing the symptoms and seeking prompt veterinary care. Also, be sensitive to activities and conditions that could be stressful for your cat and become unlikely precursors to inappropriate urination. Recent veterinary studies on similarities between human and feline LUTDs note that a psychologically stressful event often precedes the onset of lower urinary tract disorders. In one case, a move to a new environment – not so uncommon to rescue cats – was a factor related to the onset of signs related to LUTD.
Just remember that rugs, floors, and furniture can wait for your attention, but your cat’s life depends on it.