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As pet parents, it’s our duty to know when something is wrong with our cats. My cat keeps trying to pee but only a little comes out. And I’m not talking about a cat shaking its tail but not spraying. I’m talking about my cat going to the litter box frequently and not being able to get much pee out.
Is this something to worry about? As it turns out, a cat that is struggling to pee almost definitely has some kind of urinary problem. The most common include urinary tract infections, feline cystitis, and bladder stones. You’ll find more information on each of these conditions on this page.
Having several cats myself, I have helped each of them deal with urinary problems at some point in their lives. So I also share with you some tips I use to help encourage your cat to pee. Regular and healthy toilet habits are a must if you want your cat to live its best life!
Why is My Cat Struggling to Urinate?
Whenever my cat keeps trying to pee but only a little comes out, I know something is wrong. This is a sure sign that she is struggling to urinate as she usually would. Other signs that indicate your cat is experiencing urinary issues include:
- Missing the Litter Box: Is your cat peeing over the edge of the litter box? Cats with urinary issues tend to try and pee frequently. As such, it is common for them to not make it to the litter box quite on time and pee over the edge instead.
- Yowling When Urinating: Whenever a cat struggles to pee, it is usually because urination has become painful. Therefore, you might see your cat drinking a lot of water and meowing every time they try and pee. This increase in vocalization is due to the pain they’re feeling.
- Overgrooming of Genitals: Cats over-groom when they are stressed and in pain. Being unable to pee without it hurting can cause cats a lot of distress. As a result, they’ll over-groom their genitals obsessively.
But, why do these symptoms arise in the first place? For an accurate diagnosis, you will need to speak to your vet; cats can suffer from a whole host of different urinary issues that can cause difficulty peeing. With that being said, the most likely are UTIs, interstitial cystitis, or bladder stones.
1. Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur when bacteria travel into the urinary system and cause an infection. Most UTIs will infect the urethra, but infections that are left unchecked can work their way up the urethra and into the bladder. When it reaches the bladder, the symptoms of infection worsen.
One of the major signs of urinary infections in cats is them taking frequent trips to the litter box. However, they only pass a small amount of urine with each visit. Look closely and you may also see blood in the urine and your cat will likely strain as they try hard to pee. Your cat will need a course of antibiotics to help fight off the infection.
A female cat is much more likely to contract a bad urinary infection than a male cat. This is because of their anatomy – females have a much shorter urethra than males. As such, it takes less time for the bacteria to travel up the entire length of the urethra and infect the bladder. Moreover, most cats that do develop UTIs are suffering from another underlying medical condition.
Hyperthyroidism and diabetes are common culprits, both of which have a high prevalence in older felines. Is your older cat not eating but drinking? A reduced appetite yet an increase in thirst is common in both of these conditions. Speak to your vet about these conditions when seeking advice on treatment of the UTI.
2. Feline Interstitial Cystitis
Feline interstitial cystitis (FIC) – also known as feline idiopathic cystitis – is where the lining of the bladder becomes inflamed. This has the same symptoms as a UTI. Your cat will struggle to pee, cry out when passing urine, and potentially have blood in their urine as well.
The funny thing about feline interstitial cystitis though is no one knows what causes it. There is no clear infection or related condition, meaning it can be difficult to treat. However, many researchers believe there is a correlation between FIC and stress. The more stressed your cat is, the more likely they are to develop this condition and the worse their symptoms will become.
Cats can get stressed over the tiniest things! Switching to a litter for cats who pee outside the box or allowing a stranger into your home is enough to make your cat anxious. Yet for cats to develop FIC, they are likely facing chronic and continuous stress. For example, they might suffer from separation anxiety, have suffered previous trauma, or have an ongoing conflict with another pet.
As FIC is stress-related, your best option for treatment is to create a calming home environment. These changes are known as multi-modal environmental modifications (MEMO). The fewer stressors there are present, the better your cat’s cystitis will become.
3. Bladder Stones
Finally, your cat might be struggling to pee if they have bladder stones. Also known as “uroliths”, bladder stones are a collection of minerals that can form inside the bladder. There are many different types made up of different mineral deposits, but the two most common in cats are struvite and calcium oxalate stones. These bladder stones can come in all shapes and sizes.
The rocks always start small and they may remain less than 1mm in length. Although painful, these stones can be passed in the urine. However, bladder stones can grow up to several millimeters or longer. The larger the bladder stones get, the more problematic they become. Some might even block the urethra entirely and make it impossible for your cat to pee!
They usually form in response to inflammation of the bladder (such as FIC) or another underlying disease (such as a UTI). The presence of the mineral deposits inside the bladder further causes inflammation and pain. This can exacerbate the condition, causing more stones to form.
How Long Can a Cat Go Without Peeing?
It is worrying when I notice my cat is struggling to pee. It’s never nice to know she is in pain, and the first point of call should always be your vet. If your cat is eating and drinking but not peeing, your vet probably won’t find anything severely wrong. Your cat’s urinary health will need to be looked at, but there is no major cause for concern.
However, if your cat doesn’t pass urine for 48 to 72 hours the problem becomes a medical emergency. One of the most important functions of urinating is to remove toxins from the body. When your cat isn’t and cannot pee, these toxins accumulate. The build-up of toxins can cause permanent damage to the bladder and potentially even death.
A blocked bladder usually results from a urinary obstruction. This is where the urethra becomes blocked so your cat cannot physically get any pee down the tube. Males have longer and thinner urethras than females, thus blockages are more likely. Still, any cat of any age can suffer from urinary obstruction. FIC, bladder stones, and UTIs can all cause urinary obstruction.
This is why it is vital to get your cat to the vet as soon as you notice any urinary symptoms, no matter how mild. Examples include all those discussed already, such as blood in the urine, straining to pee, and crying out in pain when urinating. Get the conditions treated before it becomes a medical emergency, no exceptions!
How to Help a Cat With Urinary Problems?
As pet parents, we want to help our cats with any issues they might be facing. I have several cats and have dealt with a few urinary problems in my time. Here is my best advice on helping your cats through this painful time as they make a recovery.
1. Veterinary Checkup
Whenever your notice any urinary symptoms, your first point of call should always be the vet. Urinary issues are all linked. When left untreated, minor infections can worsen, inflammation of the bladder can trigger the formation of bladder stones, and urinary obstruction can occur.
Therefore, it is always best to visit your vet early. You might think you’re being overcautious or dramatic, but it is much better for everyone to get any conditions treated as soon as possible. They’re easier to treat this way and fewer complications will arise.
2. Wet Food & Encouraging Drinking
I also suggest feeding your cat wet food rather than dry kibble. Wet cat food has a much higher water content – while most dry food contains around 10% water, the average wet cat food is 78% water! This huge increase will mean there are more fluids in your cat’s body, which can help trigger urination.
Increasing their water intake through drinking can also help. Yet cats are notorious for not drinking much and they will need a little extra encouragement. This is especially the case as cats age, so keep an eye on their fluid intake to make sure they’re getting enough water to keep them healthy.
Some of the ways you can encourage cats to drink more are to:
- Use a cat water fountain instead of a water bowl as many cats prefer running water
- Choose a wide and shallow water dish to prevent whisker fatigue
- Put a little juice from a can of tuna or chicken broth in their water
- Change the water in the bowl multiple times per day to keep it fresh
3. Calm Environment
Lastly, you want to ensure your cat has a calm environment. This is important for two reasons:
- Your cat will recover more quickly when given the time and space to do so. A calm home environment can ensure their full focus is on getting better, not on anything else nearby that could be bothering them; or
- Stress is closely linked with feline interstitial cystitis. By removing stressors from your cat#s home environment, you might discover that their urinary issue ceases entirely.
There are many ways that you can transform your home into a stress-free cat haven. Your first job is to remove any unnecessary stressors. For example, try and make your home quieter, don’t allow unfamiliar pets and people in your house constantly, and stick to a consistent feeding schedule.
Once you have done this, you can add items that make your cat’s environment more enriching. Provide them with scratching posts to scatch and cat trees to climb. They’ll also benefit from having specific hiding places they can retreat to when everything becomes too much. Puzzle balls and plenty of toys are a great way of providing mental stimulation, another sure-fire way to keep your cat happy.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Our cats’ bathroom habits can tell us a lot about what is happening inside the body. If you notice your cat keeps going to the litter box but only pees a little, take your cat to the vet. They are probably suffering from some kind of urinary condition that makes it painful and difficult for them to pee.
Other symptoms that indicate this is the case include seeing blood in the urine, crying when passing urine, or peeing outside the litter box. If you spot any of these signs, it is always best to get a professional opinion as soon as possible.
Besides, urinary conditions can quickly worsen. Infections and inflammation of the bladder and urethra can result in urinary obstruction. This makes it impossible for your cat to pee. The blockage needs to be removed immediately or the situation can become life-threatening. So never leave it this late! When it comes to caring for our furry companions, it is always better to be safe than sorry.