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Understanding Drinking Habits and Urinary Issues in Cats

As a veterinarian, I’ve often thought that cats put quite a lot of strain on their kidneys and urinary tract. Cats tend to eat a diet high in protein and often high in minerals. They are also very selective about their drinking water, which means that they may drink less than the ideal amount. These two facts result in a highly concentrated urine, making cats prone to urinary tract issues. 
It's important to monitor your cat’s drinking and urinary habits. We would expect a normal cat to drink around 20-40ml per kilogram of body weight per day. For an average 4kg cat, this means they should drink around 120ml per day, and to urinate 2-3 times a day. Big increases or decreases in the amount or frequency of urination, or abnormal urinary behaviour such as howling or urinating outside the litter tray are often signs of problems and should be checked.

There are two groups of issues affecting urination – kidney problems and bladder problems. In this article we’ll discuss bladder problems, and in our article next month, we’ll follow up with a discussion on the kidneys.

What are the most common bladder problems in cats?

Some of the most frequent bladder and urinary tract problems in cats include:

1. Urinary tract infections (UTIs): UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract and cause an infection. Symptoms may include frequent urination, straining to urinate, and blood in the urine.

2. Urinary crystals and stones: crystals and stones occur when minerals eaten in the diet crystalize out in the urine, forming hard deposits. These are often painful, and can predispose a cat to UTIs.

3. Urethral obstructions: urethral obstructions are one of the most severe consequences of stones or crystals and occur when the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body), becomes blocked. A urethral obstruction stops the cat from urinating, is a life-threatening emergency, as well as incredibly painful, and requires immediate veterinary help.

If you notice any signs of urinary problems in your cat, it's important to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. Your vet can diagnose the problem and recommend an appropriate treatment plan to help your cat feel better.

What are the symptoms of urinary issues in cats that I should look out for?

The most common signs of urinary issues in cats include:

1. Frequent urination, with the cat going (or trying to pass urine) many times a day, often outside the litter box.

2. Straining to urinate, where the cat is painful and may howl or struggle to urinate, or spend more time than normal in the litter tray.

3. Blood in the urine, which is often seen with both UTIs and crystals or stones. The urine may be red or blood coloured, but sometimes blood can be difficult to see in the litter box. This is where Royal Canin BluCare excels. BluCare is a special cat litter which changes to a blue colour if there is blood in the urine, allowing early detection and treatment.

Urinary tract issues can be serious and urgent, and are often uncomfortable. If you’re concerned your cat is showing any of the above symptoms, I’d recommend a check as soon as possible. If your cat cannot pass urine this is a life-threatening emergency and must be seen immediately.

How can we help prevent urinary tract issues in cats?

Good hydration and healthy, balanced nutrition are vital for urinary tract health in cats, and will prevent problems in most cats. For some cats who are especially prone, we also consider giving supplements to help maintain bladder health.

1. Healthy water intake 

  • Good hydration and healthy water intake are vital to maintain urinary health and prevent problems developing.
  • Cats prefer fresh, flowing water, so I often recommend a pet water fountain that both cleans and circulates.  
  • Make sure your cat always has access to water – and you have at least one water bowl for each cat in your house.

     2. Healthy diet

    • Cats should always be fed a healthy, balanced diet. Correct levels of minerals and nutrients will help prevent urinary crystals and stones 
    • If your cat has an ongoing urinary issue, your veterinarian may recommend a specially formulated prescription diet such as Royal Canin Urinary or Hills C/D. These diets are designed to promote urinary tract health and may be lower in certain minerals that can contribute to urinary problems but it is important to get the right diet for your cat’s urinary issues. 

    3. Urinary supplements

    • Supplements such as VetExpert UrinoVet can help prevent urinary issues in cats by reducing the formation of crystals and dilution of the urine, and contain natural ingredients such as cranberry extract shown to promote bladder health.  
    • Omega-3 supplements such as Natural Animal Solutions can help reduce inflammation in the urinary tract and may be beneficial for cats with chronic urinary problems 

     4. Careful monitoring 

    • Do keep a watch on how often your cat is visiting the litter tray, and how much they are drinking. Any sudden changes may indicate an issue, and should be checked. 
    • If you’d concerned about your cat having urinary issues, I’d highly recommend using Royal Canin BluCare litter for rapid, simple and stress-free early detection of urinary issues. 

    It's important to remember that not all cats will benefit from the same diet and supplements. Work with your veterinarian to create a treatment plan that is tailored to your cat's specific needs and health concerns. 
    If you do see any of those signs, including frequent urination, straining to urinate, blood in urine or pain while urinating, I’d recommend you see a vet as soon as possible… urinary issues are very uncomfortable, and if there is a blockage it is potentially life threatening.  

    However, with a little care and planning, nearly all cats – even those who are prone to urinary tract issues, can be comfortable and live a stress-free life. The steps to maintaining good urinary tract health will also help prevent any kidney issues, which we’ll be discussing in our next post.  

     Dr David Gething and the Vetopia Team.

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