Litter boxes are some of the most important contraptions ever devised for cats especially today that our feline friends are spending most of their time indoors. However, if you observe that your cleaning of the litter box is becoming all too frequent or that your self-cleaning litter box is sounding the alarm every now and then, you are potentially looking at a urinary problem in your cat. More specifically, you’re looking at excessive urination in your kitty.
Increase in Frequency or Increase in Volume?
Before we start looking into the different causes of excessive urination in cats as manifested through more frequent cleaning of their litter boxes or the more frequent operation of their self-cleaning litter boxes, it is important to classify this change in feline voiding:
This kind of excessive urination in cats has something to do with the frequency of voiding. This means that your cat frequently goes to its litter box but only voids small amounts of urine every single time. On average, cats can produce about 12 milliliters of urine for every pound of their body weight every 24 hours. As such if you have a 10-pound kitty, you can expect it to produce about 120 ml of urine every 24 hours. If your kitty is voiding frequently yet the total amount of urine on a 24-hour basis is less than what is being produced, then you’re looking at a possible oliguria which can signal reduced blood flow to its kidneys or even reduced filtration capacity of the kidneys.
This refers to an increase in the volume of urine. Given our example above, if you expect your kitty to be voiding about 120 mL in a 24-hour period, then polyuria will mean a urine output that is at least 10 percent greater than the expected norm. In this example, if your kitty is voiding at least 135 to 140 mL per day, then you may already think that your pet is having polyuria. This is most often related to your kitty’s inability to reabsorb water and electrolytes from the kidneys, allowing the substances to pass through as urine.
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What Can Cause My Cat to Have Excessive Urination?
Based on what we have discussed above, the causes of your cat’s excessive urination actually depend on which type of ‘excessive’ you are talking about. As such, we shall try to categorize the causes of excessive urination in cats into pollakiuria and polyuria.
If the major problem is actually an increase in the frequency of your cat’s voiding, a term we know now as pollakiuria, the following are some of the most common causes.
- Bladder irritation or inflammation
Bladder irritation or inflammation can produce increased frequency of urination in cats even though the bladder is not yet full. Normally, urination occurs when the stretch receptors found in the bladder are stimulated because of bladder distention as it fills up with urine. If there is cystitis or inflammation of the bladder, the irritation stimulates the muscle fibers of the bladder to start contracting; hence, the bladder empties its urine content even though it’s not yet full.
- Urinary tract infection
The mechanism of urinary tract infections in pollakiuria is the same with that of bladder inflammation. The presence of an antigen or microorganisms in the urinary tract – the ureters, bladder, and urethra – can lead to inflammatory changes. This, as we have already mentioned above, leads to stimulation of the muscle fibers of these urinary system structures to contract forcefully and expel the urine. Of course, other clinical manifestations must also be present to establish the cause of your cat’s excessive urination as urinary tract infection.
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- Bladder stones
Cats are not especially known to be fond of drinking. And if you’ve been feeding your kitty exclusive kibbles since its kittenhood and you’ve made no effort to teach it how to drink from its fountain, then the chances of bladder stone formation are high. The problem with the presence of bladder stones is that they accumulate at or near the junction of the urethra. This leads to inflammation of the area. While the stones are supposed to block urine leading to a decreased frequency of urination, the irritation caused by the bladder stones is what causes the bladder to contract with greater force just to push the urine through the very narrow opening.
If the main issue is in the abnormally large volume of urine passed out by your kitty every time it voids, then the following may be the likely causes.
One of the three cardinal signs of diabetes is polyuria, the other two being polyphagia (increased hunger) and polydipsia (increased thirst). In diabetes, your cat has excess glucose in its blood. In an attempt to re-establish balance, the body will try to get rid of the excess glucose by not reabsorbing it in the urine. Glucose is thus, left out to be eliminated together with the other metabolites in the urine. Sadly, glucose has a very strong affinity for water. So when glucose is flushed out through the urine, water goes with it. This is what causes polyuria in cats with diabetes.
The thyroid gland is responsible for a host of metabolic processes. When there is too much thyroid hormones present in the blood, there is an increase in the activities of the sympathetic nervous system. What this simply means is everything that the sympathetic nervous system does is increased many times. Since one of the functions of the sympathetic nervous system is an increase in urination, heightening the action of the SNS can lead to excessive urination.
- Kidney damage
Any damage to the cat’s kidney can also lead to an increase in the volume of urine. The principal role of the kidneys is to produce urine by filtering blood going through its glomerulus and continuously reabsorbing water and electrolytes needed by the cat’s body and secreting those no longer needed. Unfortunately, if the tubules of the kidney cells are damaged, there is a tendency that water may no longer be reabsorbed from the urine. This increases the volume of urine passed by the cat with each voiding. An example of kidney damage that is common to cats is lymphoplasmacytic nephritis and chronic interstitial nephritis.
How Is It Treated?
There are a variety of treatment options, depending on the cause of the excessive urination in your kitty. The goal of therapy is in the management of the cause. Both pollakiuria and polyuria are manifestations of another disease condition and are not really disease entities themselves. It is for this reason that treating the cause of excessive urination in cats can also lead to the effective management of the symptom.
If the main problem is the presence of infection in the urinary tract, then the organism should be identified so that your veterinarian can prescribe the most appropriate antibiotic to use. In some cases, your kitty will also be given other medications to help improve other symptoms such as analgesics for pain and inflammation.
If the problem is the presence of bladder stones, then your cat will have to undergo surgery to remove these stones from its gallbladder. Once fully healed, your vet will be recommending a specialty diet for your kitty so that it will not develop bladder stones again.
If the issue is diabetes, then the treatment can be quite tricky since diabetes management typically involves a host of approaches that can include medications, diet modifications, and increased physical activity. The idea is to lower the levels of circulating glucose by decreasing calorie intake and increasing the utilization of glucose by the cat’s cells.
If the reason for your kitty’s excessive urination is because of hyperthyroidism, your cat may have to be given antithyroid preparations that will help prevent the synthesis of thyroid hormones. Unfortunately, these medications can also have a variety of side effects that can undermine the health and wellbeing of your cat. In most cases, however, radioactive iodine therapy may be required to help restrict or even destroy the tissues of the cat’s thyroid gland. The method is most preferred when it comes to treating hyperthyroidism in cats. If it works on your cat, it will no longer have to undergo surgery to have the hyperactive thyroid gland removed.
For cats whose excessive urination is caused by damage to the kidney cells, treatment will be quite varied depending on the exact cause of the damage. If it is caused by an infection, then the appropriate antibiotics should do the trick. If the problem is because of either low potassium or high calcium levels in the blood, then increasing potassium or decreasing calcium will help balance things out. If the damage is because of an autoimmune disorder in cats, then taming the immune system might be necessary. If the damage to the kidney cells was brought about by certain medications, then the withdrawal of such medications can help solve the problem.
Excessive urination in cats can mean two things: an increase in the frequency of trips to its litter box or an increase in the volume of urine that your self-cleaning litter box has to manage every time. Either way, their management depends on how well you understand the causes of such conditions.
- Dr. Mike Paul, DVM, Why is My Cat Peeing so Much?, Pet Health Network
- Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, International Cat Care
- Hanna Netisingha, Stress, Maleness Linked to Urinary Tract Disorders in Cats, College of Veterinary Medicine
- Dietary Treatment Of Bladder Stones, Clinical Nutrition Team
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.