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Urinary Tract Diseases in Cats

Most urinary tract diseases are associated with a disturbance in the normal pattern of voiding. That is why it is so important to get a veterinary checkup for any cat who has been using the litter box faithfully and suddenly stops doing so. Signs include the following:

  • Excessive urination (polyuria). Frequent voiding of normal amounts of urine suggests kidney disease. A cat compensates for a high urine output by drinking large amounts of water (polydipsia). You may notice the increased drinking first. Diabetes mellitus and hyperthyroidism are among the other causes of excessive thirst and urination.
  • No urine (anuria). This refers to a cat who is not producing any urine. If a cat cannot urinate, deadly toxins will build up in her system. This could be the result of a urinary blockage or severe kidney failure.
  • Painful urination (dysuria). This is characterized by distress during urination with prolonged squatting and straining; failure to pass urine after many tries; and passage of mucus, blood clots, or bloody urine. The cat may spend an unusual amount of time licking at the urogenital area. Pain and swelling within the lower abdomen suggest an overdistended bladder. Cats will sometimes urinate in unusual locations, rejecting the litter box. Bathtubs and sinks are common alternative sites.
  • Blood in the urine (hematuria). When accompanied by painful urination, blood in the first urine flow indicates a problem in the urethra or bladder. A uniformly bloody urine without pain suggests kidney disease.
  • Urinary incontinence. This is characterized by the loss of voluntary control over voiding or by inappropriate urination-often the result of neurological disease. The cat may void frequently, and/or dribble and urinate in unusual places. Because of overlapping symptoms and the possibly of more than one problem at the same time, it is difficult to make an exact diagnosis based on the symptoms alone. Physical urinary incontinence needs to be distinguished from behavioral urination elimination problems. This can only be done by a veterinarian, possibly working with a behaviorist.

How to Collect and Test Urine

In the diagnosis of urinary tract disease, laboratory analysis is of considerable help. Routine tests are urinalysis, blood chemistries, and a complete blood count (see appendix C). Your veterinarian may request a sample of your cat’s urine. The procedure for collecting a urine sample at home is as follows:

  • Thoroughly clean and dry the litter box, then replace the normal kitty litter with an inert substance, such as Styrofoam packing, aquarium gravel (which does not absorb urine and can be washed between samples), or a special litter called No-Sorb, available from your veterinarian.
  • After the cat has voided, pour the urine from the litter box into a small, clean, sealable plastic or glass container. This container should be thoroughly cleaned and dried before the sample is poured into it.
  • To store the sample, if necessary, place it in the refrigerator in the sealed container. The sample should be taken to the veterinarian within two hours. After this time, evaluation of the urine for crystals may be inaccurate.

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