Cat Urinary Problems – Behavior or Medical?

Inappropriate urinary behavior in cats is normally associated with medical disorders like feline urinary infection. However, it is also true that many times it is a behavioral problem rather than a medical one. It is only after ruling out medical causes after complete blood and urine tests that one can unequivocally state the real cause of inappropriate urinary behavior.

What we consider as abnormal may actually be appropriate when seen from the cat’s perspective. Owners train and expect their cat to always urinate in the litter box but cats, especially feral cats, are prone to mark their territory by spraying. This could be as frequent as 6 to 10 times a day. When a cat is urinating to mark territory, it does so in a standing position with its tail in an erect position so that the urine hits a vertical surface. Some cats will do the same on carpets or beds as well but the difference is that this type of urination makes a spray (linear) pattern and does not form a pool.

Spraying is a behavioral urinary problem. It is also important to note that sometimes cats will urinate in a normal pool forming manner on high spots or a doorway to mark territory. This typical inconsistency makes it difficult to understand whether it is driven by natural cat behavior or a medical problem.

If there is a medical condition that is causing the problem, a cat is likely to spend more time in the litter pan without showing any substantial evidence of having actually passed any urine. Actually the cat may be straining to urinate but is probably unable to pass urine. This leads to a situation where the cat starts urinating small amounts at odd places. The straining effort is sometimes mistaken for the posture it uses for spraying to mark territory.

In most cases, feline urinary incontinence is caused due to stones that irritate the bladder lining. Unless any one of the above behaviors is clearly evident and noticed by owners, it is very hard to figure out the exact reason behind cat urinary problems. Blood in the urine is however a clear indicator of urinary tract infection in cats.

Prevalence of a medical condition can be confirmed with a urinalysis, complete blood count and chemistry panel. If obtaining a clean sample of urine is difficult, it is withdrawn directly from the bladder with the aid of a syringe. If the laboratory tests do not throw a clear picture, it is advisable to go for a recheck before sorting out the various behavioral causes behind cat urinary problems.

Courtesy of Tess Thompson,