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A major reason that cats are abandoned or re-homed is inappropriate urination. This is unfortunate, because often, a medical issue is the problem. If you have a cat who is suddenly urinating outside of the litter box, it’s important to rule out medical causes before assuming that it’s just a behavioral problem. One of the most common medical problems behind this issue is feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).

FLUTD describes a group of disorders affecting a cat’s lower urinary tract, the bladder or urethra. Before diagnosing a cat with FLUTD, a vet will first rule out causes like urinary tract infection (UTI) or kidney stones. Crystals or stones in the bladder, bladder infections, urethral obstruction, inflammation in the urinary bladder, also known as cystitis, and other abnormalities in the urinary tract, all fall under the FLUTD diagnosis. Feline lower urinary tract disease is one of the most common reasons cats are brought to the vet.

How do you know if your cat has a urinary tract infection? Here are some telltale signs:

  • The cat strains to urinate. This is a symptom of idiopathic cystitis and can lead to the formation of bladder stones or a urethral plug. A urethral plug, more common in male cats, is a life-threatening condition that prevents the cat from being able to urinate.
  • Despite frequent attempts, urination is difficult. The cat will only pass a small amount each time.
  • Urination is painful. Your cat may cry out, and there may be blood in the urine.
  • Your cat is licking the genital or abdominal area. Your cat does this to soothe the pain. You might also notice irritability.
  • Urination is occurring outside the litter box. The cat may prefer cool surfaces like tile or the bathtub.

What can you do about FLUTD? Get your cat to the vet as soon as possible. The vet will perform a physical exam and collect urine samples. Your cat may also need blood work, x-rays, and an abdominal ultrasound. Sometimes FLUTD resolves without treatment, but many times it requires antibiotics or even surgery. It’s not typically life-threatening, but it is uncomfortable, so the best course of action is to try to prevent FLUTD from occurring in the first place. Keeping your cat at a healthy weight, offering canned food and ample water can help, and sometimes spending more time with your cat, along with providing window access and additional toys, can help. You might also consider increasing the number of litter boxes. No matter how many litter boxes you have, keep them scrupulously clean.

At Reed Animal Hospital, we treat your pets as if they were our own. We have veterinarians, technicians, assistants, and receptionists, all prepared to help you and your pet. For more information or to make an appointment, call us in Campbell at 408-369-1788, or in Saratoga at 408-647-2906, or contact us through our website.