How to treat a cat with urinary issues
It's common for cats to have urinary issues, but luckily these can be treated very effectively through a combination of lifestyle changes and diet. If you've noticed your cat's behavior around urinating has changed recently, the first step is to visit your vet.
Your vet and your cat's urinary problems
When you attend your appointment with your vet, they'll do a thorough examination and ask you about the symptoms your cat is exhibiting. This might including straining to urinate, urinating in smaller volumes than normal or failing to urinate at all, exhibiting discomfort when urinating and urine which has a pinkish color (indicating the presence of blood).
If your vet identifies that your cat has an infection, they will treat this with antibacterial agents. Urinary problems due to infection, such as cystitis, are uncommon in cats but your vet will be able to rule this out.
Your vet may find that your cat is suffering from a "stone." This is the build up of specific minerals in your cat's urine, which normally it would be able to process and flush out through urination. These minerals crystallize to form a stone, much like kidney stones in humans. These can irritate and inflame your cat's urinary organs, causing pain. Depending on the diagnosis and clinical situation, your vet will surgically remove the stone, and chemically analyze it. By doing this, they can find out its exact composition; this is essential, as different types of stone require different treatments. Your vet may also recommend a specially designed diet to effectively dissolve urinary stones.
Treating urinary problems in your cat, particularly if they are idiopathic—that is, without an identifiable cause—is a long-term commitment which your vet will be able to support you with.
Treating your cat's urinary issues at home
After the initial consultation, your vet may advise you to change some aspects of your cat's lifestyle to help maintain its urinary health. Cats who are overweight are more at risk of stones as they drink and urinate less frequently, so your vet may suggest you help them lose weight and increase the activity they do.
Cats can also suffer from urinary problems due to stress at home. This includes stress which may transfer from owner to cat, stress from living in a multi-cat household or stress from having experienced a significant lifestyle change. Your vet may suggest the following to reduce this stress:
- Making sure your cat has permanent, easy and safe access to the litter tray
- Limiting the interaction between cats in your home who don't get along
- Modifying your cat's environment to be more stimulating or safe
- Anti-anxiety medication, pheromone diffusers or therapeutic food
Treating your cat's urinary issues through diet
Your cat's diet can play an effective role in supporting their urinary health through re-balancing the pH of their urine and limiting the amount of minerals which have the potential to crystallize and cause stones. Their food should also contain high quality protein sources, as these reduce the workload on their kidneys and avoid unnecessary strain.
Wet foods can be useful as they contain a high percentage of water, therefore encouraging your cat to urinate more frequently and flush out their system. However, if your cat prefers dry food you can encourage them to drink more water through using running water sources (like fountains), filling the water bowl to the brim so it's easy to access, and avoiding placing the bowl next to busy locations, litter trays or food areas. You can even offer "flavored" waters, such as spring water drained from a can of tuna, or water drained from defrosted, cooked shrimp.
It's crucial to consult your vet before beginning at-home maintenance of your cat's urinary system, just in case there is a more pressing issue which needs medical attention. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best course of action, and support you at each step.