Today’s guest is Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, aka Dr. V., aka vet blogger extraordinaire at Pawcurious.com.
Having litter box issues? Here, Dr. V. gives us a snapshot of the medical evaluation you can expect if you take your sweet kitty into the vet because he or she is “peeing outside the litter box.”
I can’t say this enough: if your cat starts peeing or pooping where he shouldn’t, always take him to the vet to rule out any medical issues.
And now….I give you Dr. V.!
Few words strike terror into my heart as much as, “My cat is peeing all over the place.” I admit when a client says this, my first response is a big sympathetic sigh. It’s one of the most frustrating issues we deal with in veterinary medicine, not necessarily because of the medical complexities, but because figuring out what the heck is going on is a process.
So why does your vet insist on doing an examination and testing before agreeing with you that your cat has a behavioral problem? I am the first to agree that yes, many times, this is a behavioral issue.
That being said, there is only one way to know for sure: by eliminating medical causes of inappropriate elimination first. We would have failed you as a doctor if we simply gave you ideas for litter box preference tests while ignoring the early signs of diabetes, for example.
When a client presents a cat to me for an inappropriate elimination workup, here is my own process that works for me:
1. Spend time talking to you to figure out clues to help us narrow down the cause. Is the cat using the box at all? Just for urinating? Just for defecating? How long has this been going on? How many litter boxes do you have? There are at least 20 questions I ask to help get a picture of the problem. This is not a 15 minute visit.
2. Perform a full physical examination. Are there clues pointing to a medical condition, such as dehydration, a painful belly, a heart murmur, or weight loss? Cats that don’t feel well, for almost any reason, can manifest this as a behavioral change.
3. Testing. If the cat hasn’t had bloodwork in the last few months, it’s always a good idea. A basic bloodwork panel can pinpoint infections, diabetes, renal failure, and hyperthyroidism. A urinalysis is always indicated as well to rule out urinary tract infections, FLUTD, and crystals in the urine.
4. If everything comes back clear and the signs point to a behavioral issue such as marking or litter box aversion, we move forward with behavioral modifications and sometimes medication.
That’s a pretty basic framework, and obviously the approach is tailored to each individual, but it’s necessary to be thorough. It’s a pain, yes, and cats aren’t too thrilled with the sample collection, but if you as owners commit to following through with a systematic process, we can often help with the problem quite a bit.
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