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Thinking Inside The Box: Solving Litterbox Problems

Posted on May 3, 2012 at 6:35 AM

Has your kitty been making unwanted deposits outside the litter box? Are you at your wit’s end trying to make sense out of your cat’s house-soiling behaviors? If so, you are not alone.The most important point is to not assume that your cat is being “bad” if he urinates or defecates outside the litter box, instead realize he is trying to communicate something to you.

There are three main causes of house-soiling in cats:

1. Underlying medical problems - such as  feline lower urinary tract disease, or feline urologic syndrome (FLUTD/FUS). 

2. Urine marking

3. Toileting issues.

Toileting problems can stem from a variety of causes, including factors unrelated to the litter box. So it is always critical to carefully consider the cat, its home, and any recent changes in order to correctly identify the motivation for the problematic behavior. Over the next several posts we will address each of the above issues to help you – and Kitty – get back to thinking  Inside the Box.

Today's post will focus on Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

Urinary issues top the list of why cats visit vets. Urinating outside the litter box can sometimes be a sign of feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), also known as feline urologic syndrome (FUS) -- a collection of conditions that can affect the bladder and urethra of cats. In addition to urinating in in appropriate places, affected cats exhibit other recognizable signs, such as:

  • Frequent and/or prolonged attempts to urinate
  • Straining to urinate
  • Crying out while urinating
  • Excessive licking of the genital area, and
  • Blood in the urine

**Cats with a urethral obstruction will also show the above signs, but will pass little to no urine, and will become increasingly distressed. Urethral obstruction is an absolute emergency, requiring immediate veterinary treatment.

FLUTD can be seen in cats of any age, but it is most often seen in middle-aged, overweight cats that get little exercise, have restricted access to the outside, and eat a dry diet.  Environmental factors, such as your cat's relationship with you and with other household cats, and changes in routine may increase your cat’s risk forFLUTD/FUS.

A few cats with FLUTD will experience frequent recurrences of bladder symptoms, but most cats have only occasional or rare episodes. Although treatment depends on the exact cause, there are some steps you can take to help reduce the frequency, severity and duration of attacks:

  1. Feed small, frequent meals
  2. Increase moisture in your cat’s diet by weaning him/her onto wet food
  3. Provide clean, fresh water at all times, consider offering fresh water in a ceramic or metal fountain (clean daily).
  4. Provide an adequate number of litter boxes in quiet, safe areas of the house
  5. Keep litter boxes extra clean
  6. Minimize major changes in routine
  7. For cats with struvite stones, a special acidic stone-dissolving diet may be prescribed to eliminate the stones

Learn more about Feline Urinary Tract Disease from Cornell UNiversity's Vet School

Categories: Litter box, Problem Solving, Health & Disease