Urination Problems: The Most Common Reason for Feline Euthanasia

The most common reason for feline euthanasia is urinary problems. These urinary tract problems account for 50 to 70% of all cases, while bladder stones and urinary mucus/crystal plugs account for 40% and bladder infections for 2 to 3%. Sometimes a cat owner will resort to euthanizing their cat if he cannot help his cat and doesn't want the cat to continue being in pain. Some urinary problems can be treated as a behavior modification or environmental changes; others have a medical cause and can only be "fixed" through surgery or medications.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The most common urinary symptom is straining to urinate and blood in the urine. A thorough physical examination, x-rays or ultrasound, urine culture and urinalysis will determine whether this is due to bladder stones or a bladder infection or is the result of blockage. These conditions require antibiotics or surgery.

Studies have shown that an increase in water intake in cats with urinary problems decreased the symptoms of urinary problems. Urinary signs appeared less often and/or were less severe in cats that ate canned food exclusively. Ash appeared less important than previously thought. The feeding of a "pH neutral" diet that mimics natural prey also seems to improve the cat's health. By increasing the water intake, the possibility of developing crystals in the urine decreases.

Non-Medical Reasons for Elimination

Sometimes a cat will urinate outside of the litter box because he is not happy with the location of the litter box or its shape, another cat using it, the texture (substrate) of the litter or the litter's aroma, or if the cat is stressed or anxious about something. He may also urinate outside of the litter box because he is marking his territory. This may include marking his owner's clothes or bed. These possibilities must be considered whenever a cat urinates outside of his litter box before any medical examination.

Medical Reasons for Inappropriate Urination

A number of medical conditions can contribute to inappropriate urination. such as hermaturia, dysuria, polyuria/polydipsia or pollakiuria. Aging cats sometime have urinary problems due to senility or arthritis, which may prevent them from entering the litter box. Cats suffering from hyperthyroidism, feline immunodeficiency virus or feline leukemia may also have urinary problems. Any inflammatory, metabolic/endocrine, infectious or neurogenic condition can trigger a urinary problem. Sometimes an elderly cat dying will develop symptoms of urinary problems just before his death.

Unfortunately, urinary problems that become severe, painful and debilitating are the leading cause of euthanasia in cats. This is more probable in cases where there is no improvement in the cat's condition after treatment has started. A veterinarian may have to prescribe pain and anti-inflammatory medications to rectify the problem.