Stress and Feline Urinary Problems: How to Deal With It
Although it may seem like cats have easy lives, the truth is, cats can get stressed very easily. Feline urinary problems can be one of the first signs your cat is experiencing some type of stress. It is important for cat parents to know what the symptoms look like and how to help their feline friends.
When cats are happy and healthy, they use the litter box for both urinating and defecating. However, if your cat starts exhibiting any of the following behaviours, they may be experiencing feline urinary stress or feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD):
- straining when urinating
- incontinence/loss of bladder control
- urinating outside of the litter box
- crying out in pain while urinating or attempting to urinate
- licking genital area
- reduced appetite
Most cats will show the above signs when they have reached their stress limit or are having a medical issue, so some earlier signs of stress might be that your cat is hiding more, is less affectionate, has changed eating behaviour, or is only urinating or defecating in the litter box (not both). However, some cats may show signs of urinary stress without any warning. As soon as a cat shows signs of urinary stress, it is important to call your veterinarian to determine if a visit is needed or if you should try some interventions at home first.
If your cat is showing unusual behaviour during urination or is constantly urinating outside of the litter box, it is important to identify any stressors your cat may be experiencing. When you call your vet to discuss your cat's symptoms, they may ask some questions to help you figure out what's stressing your cat, including:
- When did the unusual urinary behaviours begin?
- Have you made any recent changes in food or litter?
- What other unusual behaviours are accompanying the urinary problems?
- Have there been any big changes within your household, such as a renovation, new pet, baby, or a death in the family?
Another thing to consider is that cats are often tuned into their pet parent's feelings, so you may want to check in with yourself, too. Have you been stressed lately? Has stress started to interrupt your daily routine? Chances are if your daily routine has been interrupted, so has your cat's. Excessive sleeping or lack of sleep are common symptoms in humans who are stressed. When a cat notices these changes in they may start to become stressed and the symptoms could be exhibited in their urinary behaviours.
Big changes in a cat's life, like a move or an addition of a new pet in the house, could cause temporary stress. While most cats adjust within a reasonable amount of time, some cats remain stressed which can lead to urinary problems. If the stressor is identified quickly and the cat gets the special attention needed, the urinary issues may quickly subside.
The more challenging stress sources are long-term situations that may not have quick fixes and can cause more serious urinary problems. According to Live Science, researchers found the most common long-term stressor for cats was unfriendly relationships with other cats in the house. Although the introduction of a new pet requires some time for adjustment and temporary stress is expected, when two or more cats have a tense relationship, this may lead to urinary stress symptoms that can lead to an unhealthy environment for everyone.
If your cat is experiencing urinary stress, a visit to the vet is likely needed. Depending on the stressors, your vet may prescribe medication and/or adjust the diet with therapeutic cat food, which can help relieve some urinary issues and get them back on the path to feeling well again. In addition to prescription medication and food, your vet can also offer suggestions on how to improve your home environment to calm all the cats in your household. If you have cats that do not get along, feed them separately and give them each their own litter box, bed, and hiding space to retreat to if things get stressful.
Sometimes all you need to do is spend a little more time with your cat and give positive attention. Also, try keeping the litter box and house very clean and make sure they are well hydrated, which can relieve stress and reduce or eliminate the feline urinary problems. Unfortunately, for many cats, dealing with feline urinary stress may take weeks or months to alleviate.
Once you identify what is causing feline urinary stress, and find ways to reduce your cat's stress level, it is important to help manage the stress appropriately moving forward. Don't forget to manage your stress better too! One creative way to reduce stress for you and your cat is to do yoga together! There are plenty of great pet yoga videos on the internet for the both of you to enjoy at home.
Another huge factor to managing your cat's stress is to provide consistency. If you know your routine will change soon or a big life change is on the horizon (a move, a new person or animal in your house, etc.), try to prepare your cat by finding items and toys they enjoy. A little extra pampering will help them feel more secure and may even distract from the changes to come. Additionally, keep the litter box very clean and find a quiet place for your cat to relax.
By preparing for stressful situations and keeping an eye out for the initial signs that your cat is becoming overwhelmed, you can help your cat avoid feline urinary problems and lead a healthier and happier life.
Chrissie Klinger, a mother of two, and a pet parent to three dogs and a cat, enjoys writing pet related articles that help families bond and enjoy life with pets. When she is not teaching or writing, Chrissie enjoys spending time with her family and traveling.