Whenever I hear of changes in a kitty’s litter habits, the first advice I give our customers is to see your vet for urinalysis, blood work, and a physical exam to rule out health problems. There are many health reasons for a cat’s litter habits to change, such as obesity, impacted anal glands, diabetes, urinary tract infection, or crystals, thyroid disease, and high blood pressure.
If your vet finds no physical problem, consider litter box basics: boxes should be large, immaculately clean, far from noisy appliances, and safe from toddlers or litter box bullies. Be sure your big cat has a really big litter box, too! Older cats need low sided, easy to find litter boxes located in areas without physical barriers such as steps or tall pet doors because old joints may become stiff and painful and old bladders may not have much control. Look for my in depth tips in “Litter Box Woes.”
In some cats, anxiety can lead to Feline Idiopathic Cystitis, FIC, and even obstructions, FLUTD. Why? If another pet or child or even changes in routine frighten your kitty, kitty may respond by hiding with decreased drinking and/or holding urine which in turn may lead to discomfort urinating, crystals, or infection. We request antibiotics when no cause is found because sometimes the cat’s infection escapes detection. If antibiotics improve symptoms, there was infection, so be sure to prevent recurrence.
If your cat is straining and crying in the litter box, this is an emergency. Hours count. See your vet ASAP. Cats that are unable to pass urine for as short a time as 36 hours are in serious trouble. These cats may need surgery and will need substantial vet care to recover.
Urinary Tract Infections, UTI, cause pain and difficulty urinating. Your cat may have blood in the urine, visit the box frequently, and/or urinate in places other than the litter box including on furniture and beds. Age matters. Infections in younger cats are often resolved with antibiotics and/or change in diet and environment, while UTI in cats over 10 years with no prior history of UTI is frequently secondary to another medical condition.
Some cats will have kidney or bladder stones or crystals without a detectable infection. Your vet will analyze the sediment and prescribe suitable diet to prevent the specific crystals your cat forms. Kittentanz recommends selecting suitable canned food and then adding more water because diluting the urine also helps to dissolve crystals and prevent future problems.
Once your cat has been diagnosed with a UTI or crystals, we strongly recommend changes in your care. Switch to a canned food diet with added water to help your kitty recover and to decrease the chance of another infection. Use Pretty Litter which turns red if there is blood in the urine and blue if there is UTI https://prettylittercats.com/
Consider your cat’s physical fitness. Fat, out of shape, cats can have trouble fully emptying their bladder, which predisposes to crystals and infections. Canned food diet in controlled portions and increased playtime will help these cats flush out their bladders and reach a more healthy weight.
Starting at 7 or 8, senior cats need to be screened every year for Chronic Kidney Disease, CKD. Many vets screen geriatric cats twice a year starting at about 12. One in 3 cats over 15 has CKD. If your cat hates going to the vet, then find a vet in your area who makes house calls. A simple way to monitor your cat’s elderly cat’s kidney output at home is to use Dr Elsey’s Health monitor everyday litter.
CKD in older cats is not cured, but good vet care and proper diet may extend the length and will improve the quality of your senior cat’s life. Once again, we recommend canned food diet because maintaining higher water intake will help your older cat feel better.
Your vet can recommend suitable foods. If your cat does not like one food, ask for others. There are many, many options, and you can even order a wide variety of prescription canned and dry foods online. Here are links to several flavors of a non-prescription canned food for young cats with recurring UTI:
turkey & giblets https://www.chewy.com/purina-pro-plan-focus-adult-classic/dp/121429
However, some cats and owners prefer dry diets, so here are a couple options.