You may think your cat is being undisciplined if it does not use its litter box – but what if its actually ill instead?
Is your cat trying to urinate on different surfaces one after another? Is it squatting and not producing any pee – or producing just a few spots? It may be uninterested in food and acting strangely. These are the symptoms of a blocked bladder – which is a medical emergency!! If your cat is trying to pee on different things in quick succession – get them to a vet immediately!! It is also possible that your cat could have a bladder infection (UTI, Cystitis). This is less serious, but still will need quick veterinarian care. If there is any blood in the litterbox, take a photo to show your vet.
Blocked bladders are caused by some type of material clogging the urethra (most commonly bladder crystals). If the urethra is blocked or even partially blocked then urine has a very hard time leaving the bladder. Think of a water balloon attached to a tap. If your cat cannot expel urine, its bladder will fill and stretch to breaking point. There is a possibility your cats bladder could explode. A terrible, horrible way to die. If you can get your cat to a vet in time, there is a possibility that they can unblock the bladder. This is very expensive (anything for our babies) and there is a chance the bladder could re-block if there are still debris in the bladder. Male cats are much more at risk of having a blocked bladder – their urethras are narrower than females. So they block much more easily.
But why wont they use the litter box?
Because the cat is in pain when it tries to toilet, it associates that pain with the litter box. They don’t realise that they are in pain because of illness, they think the litter box is causing the pain. This is why a cat with a blocked bladder (or even cystitis) causes a cat to try urinating on different surfaces.
The first and most important factor here is the quality of the food your cat is given. In my experience working in a shelter, crappy food can give an otherwise healthy, young cat crystals in their bladder faster than anything. I have personally seen young healthy cats with no history of bladder crystals develop them in a matter of months after being fed foods such as Friskies dry food. I’m not here to smear a particular company – I am speaking from experience, and the experience of my vets. The “cheap and nasty” dry cat foods contain more colourings, flavourings and fillers than their “Vet Quality” dry food counterparts. Think of the cheap stuff like cat McDonalds – fine as a treat, but very bad if you were to eat it for every meal!
If your cat has a history of crystals your vet may recommend they go on a special diet, designed to dissolve the crystals in their bladder. Royal Canin and Hills have excellent preventative foods designed for long term use. In my experience they appear to be tasty to the cats I’ve seen fed them!
Any kind of stress can make bladder blockages more frequent. Loud sounds, other animals, roadworks etc can all make your cat unhappy and worsen their condition.
Fluids!! Cats typically are not big drinkers. Their ancestors spent a lot of time in the desert, so todays cats do not have a very high “thirst drive”. By the time a cat feels thirsty, they are already a little dehydrated. I have heard of some vets telling people to only feed their cat dry food and that wet food makes a cat fat. I am not a vet, but scientific evidence does not support these opinions. If you think of a lion or cheetah – they do not wait until the gazelle they have killed dries out so that they can eat it. No they dig right in to that wet bloody mess. Most of the moisture a cat needs every day, is from food sources. I feel feeding wet food everyday is very important for these reasons. The more fluid your cat has, the better its urinary health is. Toxins are flushed out and bladder contents are not as concentrated. You can’t feed your cat only wet food however. Wet foods like raw meat, Fancy Feast, Dine – do not have all the required nutrients your cat needs, such as calcium. So you still have to include dry food in your cats diet. Think of the wet food more like a glass of water, than a meal!
Vet care! Basically your vet is the expert and will know your cat’s needs. You can ask them what they recommend to help prevent blocked bladders. You may want to schedule more frequent check ups for your cat if it has or has had a blocked bladder issue. Your vet will be able to monitor your cats health much better if you book check-ups regularly
Wet food! Nom Nom Nom