Cats are beautiful animals and can be wonderful pets. They can be cuddly and soft, or entertaining and playful, and all around pleasant to have.
We are learning more and more about the complicated mental health of cats. You might think: “What? Cats can be stressed? What is there to be stressed about?”
In our mind the cat has everything it needs and possibly wants: Humans as companions, maybe some more feline house mates, or dogs; food, water, places to hang out, lots of toys and playtime, and not a worry in the world.
But the cats think differently. There are a lot of things which can contribute to stress for a cat, and then this stress can turn into urinary issues. Cats can develop idiopathic cystitis (inflammation of the bladder for an unknown cause), also called FLUTD (or other names for that matter). What we see is a cat which urinates in inappropriate places, strains to urinate, frequently visits the litter box without producing a normal amount of urine and is vocalizing in pain. Some male cats even develop a urinary blockage, which is an emergency and needs to be addressed right away. In these cases, the blockage is due to narrowing of the urethra, with or without crystals or any material involved.
This issue is often related to several things the cat is unhappy about, and it is not always us humans causing this. Of course, we should make sure that the litter box is clean (which means daily scooping), and easily accessible. We recommend using one litter box per cat in the house plus an extra one, and to have a box available on each level of the house, especially if our furry friends are ageing and mobility is becoming a difficult task. Also, a canned diet might help with water intake, which helps to keep the urinary tract going.
However, some things we do not have an influence on. Often, we see these issues arise in colder weather. The temperature can influence how much water cats consume, regardless of whether they are indoors or out. It can also influence urinating patterns.
Other things which can become stressors for cats are changes within the household, like a person or pet moving in or out, renovations or house improvements, or animals outside the home, like stray cats or wildlife. It does not have to be visible or notable to us, but our cats will know.
Whatever is causing these issues for our cats, sometimes it remains a mystery. However, we do know that urinary issues like that can be quite painful, and therefore this needs to be addressed. We can assess those issues and together with you can find a solution for your cat, be it medical treatment or a change in food or supplements or a combination thereof. Please ask us if you need help!
Have a happy and stress-free February everyone!
– By Dr. Susanne Krägeloh