Frequent urination is a common condition with several possible causes. It may either be characterised by the frequent passage of small amounts of urine or pass larger amounts of urine as well as an increase in thirst.
- Most cats urinate between two to four times a day.
- Frequent urination is associated with urinary tract infections and kidney disorders.
- The cat may urinate small amounts often (typically due to urinary tract infections) or large amounts (kidney disorders).
- Frequent urination can lead to dehydration due to a loss of fluids; the cat tries to compensate by drinking more water, which is known as polyuria/polydipsia.
- It is important to see a veterinarian if a cat is frequently urinating.
Urinary tract disorders:
The urinary tract consists of the kidneys which filter wastes out of the blood and produce urine, two ureters which urine passes through and into the bladder where it is stored, and the urethra, which passes urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. This entire system can develop inflammation, infection, tumours, stones, and crystals. The urethra and ureter are thin like tubes, where stones or crystals can become lodged, leading to a urinary blockage. Common disorders of the urinary tract include:
- Urinary tract infection – Infection can develop anywhere along the urinary tract which includes the kidneys, urethras, bladder and urethra.
- Urinary tract urolithiasis – Stones or crystals in the urinary tract.
- Cystitis – Inflammation or infection of the bladder.
- Bladder stones.
- Kidney stones.
The cat may have trouble passing urine, or may only pass a small amount of urine, due to stones, crystals or inflammation. Infection or inflammation can give the cat a sense of urgency to urinate, even though the bladder is not full.
Male cats are vulnerable to urinary blockages due to their long and thin urethra. Female cats are more prone to cystitis.
Kidney disorders can result in the cat’s kidneys losing their ability to concentrate urine. This leads to an increased amount of urine production. Common kidney disorders include:
- Diabetes – Is a disease in which the cells of the body build up a resistance to insulin. Insulin is a hormone required to allow glucose (from food) to enter the cells, which provides them with energy. In the diabetic cat, as glucose is unable to enter the cells, high levels build up in the blood, the kidneys try to get rid of this excess glucose by producing more urine to flush it out of the body.
- Inappropriate urination can occur in cats who have urinary tract disorders. This may be due to a sudden urge to urinate before they can make it to the litter tray, or often because these conditions are typically painful and they begin to associate their litter tray with pain.
- Blood in the urine (hematuria).
- Anorexia (loss of appetite) is common with kidney disease which happens when toxins build up which causes nausea.
- Genital licking can occur in cats who have urinary tract disorders.
- Straining to urinate is a common symptom of a urinary blockage due to stones or crystals. A complete blockage may occur, particularly in male cats. This is a medical emergency.
- Increased thirst due to excess fluid loss.
Generally, a cat who is frequently passing small amounts of urine and not drinking more is likely to have a urinary tract disorder, a cat who is urinating more (volume and frequency) and drinking more water will have a kidney related issue.
Your veterinarian will perform a complete examination of your cat and obtain a medical history from you. This will include the following:
- Other symptoms you may have noticed
- How long your cat has been displaying symptoms?
- Does the cat have any medical conditions?
- Is the cat on any medications, prescribed or non-prescribed?
- Complete blood count – To evaluate for signs of infection such as raised white blood cell count, anemia (which can occur with kidney disease).
- Urinalysis – A test of the cat’s urine which can reveal the presence of bacteria, red and white blood cells, urinary stones or crystals, as well as determine how concentrated the urine is.
- Biochemical profile – This may reveal elevated BUN and creatinine levels for kidney related disorders.
- If a urinary tract infection is diagnosed, your veterinarian may choose to perform a culture and sensitivity to determine the best course of antibiotics to treat the infection.
- X-ray or ultrasound to check for kidney or bladder stones or evaluate the kidney size and shape.
- Urine specific gravity to check the concentration of the cat’s urine. Cats with kidney disease often have very diluted urine.
- Kidney biopsy.
Treatment depends on the underlying cause.
- Low protein diet, and where necessary, insulin injections.
- Acute kidney disease: Find and treat the underlying cause such as poisoning, treating urinary blockages and supportive care.
- Chronic kidney disease: Low protein and phosphorous diet, phosphorous binders and medications to manage nausea and blood pressure.
Urinary tract disorders:
- Urinary tract infections: Antibiotics.
- Stones or crystals: Prescription diet to alter the pH of the urine or dissolve stones. Surgical removal of stones may be necessary in some cases.
- Blockage: Manually expressing the bladder to remove urine or catheterisation. Severe cases may require flushing out the obstruction by inserting a thin tube into the penis.
- Male cats who block frequently may require a perineal urethrostomy. This procedure involves amputation of the penis and the creation of a new opening in the perineum which allows urine to pass out of the body.
- Administer prescription medication as directed.
- Increase water consumption to dilute the urine of cats with urinary tract infection or stones. Add multiple water stations, buy a water fountain and consider switching to canned food which has a higher water content.