"My female cat is in and out of the litter box several times each hour. I know it is late but I"m concerned and want to know whether to bring her in as an emergency?" This was a call our 24-hour emergency service fielded recently.
After several questions and answers, it was decided that the cat would benefit from coming in, but an emergency doctor visit was not necessary.
This problem in both male and female cats is not uncommon.
The owner of an affected cat may observe the above behavior or they may see the cat voiding on clothing, carpets or in the sink. There is frequently blood in the urine, extreme urgency to void, and excessive licking of the penis or vulva.
To complicate things further, a male cat is susceptible to a urinary blockage which can show very similar signs but is a true emergency. So, in the above scenario, the need to see the cat would have been automatic, so the overnight tech could feel and examine for an enlarged bladder do to a urethra plug.
The genesis of both the conditions described is in most cats a stress related inflammation of the bladder and urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside. This inflammation is usually sterile, which means that antibiotics are not necessary and not indicated. Antibiotics are over-used in this condition and their use should be totally dependent on a sterile urinalysis and urine culture.
Most cases of what was at first called FUS, then became FLITD, and are now called Stress induced Interstitial Cystitis (IC). The body's reaction can be so severe to the stress the cat is feeling that the urinary bladder becomes thickened, spasms, gives urges to urinate even though it is empty, causes bleeding, and creates serious pain for the affected cat.
The diagnosis is based on obtaining a sterile urine sample, table or floor or caught are not acceptable. A full analysis including microscopic evaluation of the urine sediment is necessary to eliminate other causes of increased urinations and blood in the urine.
A typical IC cat will have highly concentrated urine, have blood and protein in the urine but not bacteria or excessive white cells on the microscopic evaluation. It is never a bad idea to X-ray the bladder to be sure there is no bladder stone, as it can cause similar signs to IC.
Once a bacterial infection is ruled out, the need to treat symptoms to give the cat relief is the first step.
Pain medications and urinary antispasmodics will provide the necessary relief. Reducing the concentration of the urine will help dilute the urine and reduce clinical signs.
The best way to dilute the urine is to increase water consumption and maybe substitute some canned food for some dry food. Our next article will talk about feeding cats.
Finally, it is important to address the stress that triggered the condition in the first place. Diet changes from one dry diet to another are rarely helpful.
Many, if not most, cats prefer a solitary life style. They are not comfortable living in a confined space with multiple other pets to share their territory.
At the very least, each cat in a household needs a little kitty sanctuary where that can get away and be by themselves. They also crave indirect interaction with other members of the household, and at times may play and cuddle with housemate cats.
This is a life style choice of their choosing. It is the owners responsibility to provide enrichment for your cats so they can enjoy being in your house.
If there are stray cats outside, it is best to try to get rid of them. These are a huge stressor for many indoor cats. Play with your cats with a laser pointer, stuffed animal on a string, feather on a stick and other games of your invention. A great source of enrichment information can be found at www.vet.osu.edu/vmc/indoorcatinitiative.com.
One way to create a less stressful life for your pet is to choose a vet that is a member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners. To take it a step farther you should chose a practice that has a silver or gold Cat Friendly Practice certification.
To learn this information you can go to the AAFP website and do a simple search. That web address is www.catvets.com.
Dr. Robert Esplin, a 1970 graduate of Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, runs SylvaniaVET hospital at 4801 N Holland-Sylvania Rd. He writes a periodic column for ourtownsylvania.com and accepts all pet-related questions for it through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.