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My cat is urinating outside the litter box, I’ve heard this means she has a bladder infection and she needs antibiotics, is this true?

This is probably one of the most common problems that kitty owners experience, and although there was a time when is was thought that a urinary tract infection, or UTI, might be the primary cause for urinating outside the litter box, there is current research to show that this is true only in a very small percentage of cats.  Before opting for unnecessary and expensive antibiotic therapy, your cat should be evaluated for other, more common causes of this problem.  How far away from the litter box your kitty urinates may also provide helpful clues as to why he or she is not using the litter box.

The following are just a few reasons why your cat may urinate outside the litter box:

  • Stress (for example – the addition of a new cat to the home, moving to a new home, new litter, new baby, house guests, not enough litter boxes in a multi-cat home, litter boxes that are too small for a large cat)

  • Feline Urinary Tract Disorder or FLUTD, also known as Feline Idiopathic Cystitis or FIC (see the AVMA pdf handout for further info)

  • Obesity

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Bladder stones or stones elsewhere in the urinary tract

  • UTI or other systemic illness such as diabetes

**First and foremost, it is important to note that a physical exam that includes a urinalysis and urine culture is very important to determine if a UTI is in fact present, in which case, antibiotics may be the appropriate course of action.  Also, determining if your cat is in fact able to urinate properly is very important as the inability to urinate is a life-threatening condition.**

If no treatable medical cause can be found, there are a number of behavioral and environmental changes that can be recommended and that work very well.   It is also important to note that sometimes a combination of medical and behavioral problems exist.

An excellent resource for all kitty owners is available through The Ohio State University.  The Indoor Pet Initiative has a wealth of information about basic cat needs, litter box problems, and keeping your cat healthy.

Schedule an appointment for your kitty with us, so that we can assist you in determining if he or she has a medical disorder, or just needs a little stress relief.

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