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Healthy Cats

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Urine Spraying in Cats

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ASPCA logoHouse soiling, or inappropriate urination or defecation, is a common problem in cats. While in many cases the cause is a behavioral problem, sometimes medical issues are to blame.

If your cat eliminates outside the litter box, she should be checked by a veterinarian for an underlying medical condition before it’s determined that the inappropriate elimination is due to a behavior problem. In addition to a complete physical examination, your cat should have a complete blood count, blood chemistry panel and urinalysis. Other tests, such as radiographs that use special dyes to outline the urinary tract, may be necessary as well. If an underlying condition is determined to be the cause of your cat’s house soiling, the medical problem should be treated, and her response to treatment should be closely monitored.

Once any medical problems are treated, you may still need to retrain your cat to reestablish normal litter box elimination patterns. Please see our article, Litter Box Problems, for additional help.

Inappropriate Urination

There are several disorders that can be responsible for a cat not using her litter box. Some of the most common medical causes follow.

Bacterial Bladder Infection

Bacterial bladder infection, or bacterial cystitis, is common in cats. (In rare instances, the infection may be due to a fungus rather than bacteria.) Because the infection causes inflammation of the bladder, a cat with this medical problem feels a constant need to urinate. The urge to urinate may become so strong that she urinates small amounts frequently, often before she can reach the litter box. Certain conditions, like bladder stones, bladder tumors, defects in the shape of the bladder and diabetes, may make bladder infections more likely to occur. Female cats are more likely to be affected than males.

Cats suffering from bacterial cystitis may squat frequently to urinate but produce only a small amount of urine. They often continue to strain, even after they’re done urinating, and they may cry out while straining. Their urine may appear red in color due to blood. Cats suffering from bladder infections may also show signs such as not eating, lethargy or hiding.

The diagnosis is made by testing your cat’s urine for the presence of red blood cells, white blood cells and bacteria. In some cases, your cat’s veterinarian may have her urine tested in a lab to determine the specific bacteria involved, which will better guide therapy. Once a diagnosis is made, your cat will be started on a course of antibiotics that may last several weeks. If the condition recurs, your cat’s veterinarian may recommend special tests, such as radiographs and dye studies, to look for another cause for your cat’s cystitis.

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