Cat Won’t Use Litter Box? How to Manage Feline Urinary Tract Disease

Updated: January 05, 2017
Published: August 20, 2015
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By Jennifer Coates, DVM

Has your cat stopped using the litter box? Is he or she peeing throughout your home? It could be feline lower urinary tract disease, which is commonly diagnosed in cats and has various underlying causes. This can be frustrating for both veterinarians and pet parents. Let’s take a look at how urinary tract disease is diagnosed and how it is best managed.

How is Urinary Tract Disease in Cats Diagnosed

Feline Idiopathic Cystitis a Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is a diagnosis of exclusion, which means your veterinarian must rule out other diseases (e.g., bladder stones, tumors, and infections) that cause similar symptoms. The first test to be run is a urinalysis on a fresh sample of urine that is taken directly from the cat’s bladder using a needle and syringe. Depending on the results, your veterinarian may also recommend:

  • a urine culture for bacterial infections
  • blood chemistry tests
  • a complete blood cell count
  • X-rays or an ultrasound of the bladder

How is Urinary Tract Disease in Cats Managed?

Modifications to the diet and home environment are the most important part of managing cats with lower urinary tract disease. Concentrated urine can irritate the bladder wall so one goal of treatment is to increase the amount of water a cat takes in. Often this is accomplished with by providing your cat plenty of cat fresh, clean water as well as a therapeutic canned diet specially formulated to assist in the relief of and/or prevention of urinary obstructions.  Should your cat be diagnosed with lower urinary tract disease, discuss with a veterinarian which diet would be best for your cat’s specific needs.

Some scientific studies also point to the important role that stress plays in the development of FLUTD. The most common stressors for indoor cats are:

  • Boredom – Cats need to exercise and play every day. Rotate the toys that are available and keep several scratching posts around the house. Provide opportunities for mental stimulation (e.g., a chair by a window that looks out over a bird feeder) for those times when you are not home.
  • Dirty litter boxes – Have one more litter box in your house than the number of cats that reside there and keep them all as clean as possible.
  • Conflicts with feline housemates – If one of your cats is routinely harassed by another, feed them separately and provide lots of hiding places, covered escape routes, and multiple litter boxes throughout your home.
  • Unexpected events – House guests, the absence of an owner, the addition of a new family member, and so much more can throw off a cat’s equilibrium. Try to keep the cat’s schedule and environment as stable as possible.

Possible Complications to Watch For

Male cats with iFLUTD are at high risk for becoming “blocked,” a potentially fatal condition that completely prevents him from passing urine. If your cat is showing signs of discomfort and you aren’t sure that he is urinating freely, call your veterinarian immediately.

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Image: Ysbrand Cosijn / via Shutterstock