Is your cat peeing on your carpet? Are you noticing blood in her urine? Does she seem to be drinking or peeing a lot more lately? Or perhaps she appears to be losing weight, maybe even in spite of a healthy appetite? You likely (hopefully) recognize that all of these signs are indications that your cat needs to be seen by your veterinarian. But do you also know that you should be taking steps to ensure that she has a full bladder when she gets there?
Liquid Gold — Making Your Cat Cross Their Legs Before Going to the Vet
You see, whatever problem you’re bringing your cat to the vet for, or even when it’s just for a routine wellness check-up, that urine your cat is so cavalierly disposing of (even if on your carpets or laundry) could actually be the thing that helps your vet diagnose the underlying problem or, in the case of a wellness check-up, confirm their good health. In many situations, the importance of a urinalysis and/or a urine culture cannot be overstated. And since my super-intelligent friend and colleague, Dr. Ann Hohenhaus of The Animal Medical Center in New York City, wrote a great post on this very topic, I’ll leave it to her to explain all the information and value that we vets and pet owners get from a few simple urine tests.
The purpose of this post is to share with you some tricks and tips to help you make sure that your vet can get the urine they need to provide you with the best information, advice, and treatment for caring for your cat.
How to keep your cats from urinating within the few hours prior to their veterinary visit
- Isolate them to the bathroom with their food and water, but no litterbox.
- Give them run of the house, but pick up or block off their litterboxes a few hours prior to their visit.
- Bring your outdoor cat indoors the night before your vet appointment, or at least several hours prior to it.
- The veterinary team will collect a fresh sample during your appointment, so having your cat’s bladder full helps.
- Note that with all of these cat “tricks,” the change in your cat’s routine may well cause them stress — which isn’t in anybody’s best interest. So for cats, it’s often best to get as early morning an appointment as is possible and/or use the home urine collection method described below. And for tips and advice on decreasing the stress you and your cat may experience with a trip to the vet, read this article.
How to collect your cat's urine sample from home, if preventing pre-visit urination isn’t possible or practical
- Try to get as fresh a sample as possible (ideally within a few hours of your cat’s appointment).
- Replace your cat’s regular litter with shredded plastic shopping bags or with a sheet of “bubble wrap” packaging material cut to fit the bottom of your cat’s litter box. (*Note that some cats might refuse to walk on or use such materials.) — OR — Use a specific non-absorbing cat litter.
Kit4Cat is a revolutionary, non-absorbing cat litter and collection kit that allows you to easily get a diagnostic urine sample from your cat.
- Transfer the collected urine sample to a sealable glass or plastic container (clean baby food or jam jars work great). Best to use a container you don’t plan on getting back!
- Be sure to keep the sample on ice in a cooler or in the fridge if you won’t be taking it immediately to your vet. This helps to ensure the most reliable and accurate test results.
- If you have a dog, check out these tips for collecting a sample.
If your cat has snuck in a pee prior to arrival at your vet’s office or if you were unable to collect a sample yourself, don’t worry too much, it’s not the end of the world. If your vet needs urine to complete their diagnostic profile, there are still a couple of tricks they and their team will likely still have up their sleeve for getting the necessary sample. If they have an ultrasound machine in their office they may use it to help find your cat’s (now smaller) bladder and extract a sterile urine sample directly from the bladder with a small needle (a common procedure called cystocentesis, more often abbreviated to just cysto). Additionally, if the urine concentrating ability of your cat’s kidneys isn’t a crucial piece of information your vet is looking for at that particular time, your vet may also give your cat a dose of subcutaneous (under the skin) fluids and sit them in a cage for a few hours while those fluids work their way through your cat’s kidneys and arrive in their bladder as urine.
How to Clean Up Accidents
It's one thing to collect your cat's urine to help find out what's going on with them, but what to do if a sick cat urinates outside their boxes? First of all, know that a cat who goes outside their litter boxes is probably either dissatisfied with their litter box situation or maybe even sick or in pain.
If your cat does have an accident, it's important to clean it up as quickly as possible and as thoroughly as possible. You'll need a good enzymatic cleaner to remove the smell, otherwise it will attract your cat back to the same spot if it hasn't been thoroughly cleaned. I recommend these cleaners.
For more tips on cleaning cat pee (and poop) accidents, check out our aptly titled "How to Clean Cat Pee and Poop Accidents" article.
A Note About Cat Urine Collection Methods
Lastly, a note regarding the type of urine sample you can collect at home (“free catch”) versus the additional type your veterinarian and their team is able to collect (“cysto”). Free catch urine samples are great and perfectly fine in most cases. However, when your veterinarian is concerned about the possibility of a urinary tract infection (UTI), they’ll most likely want to collect a cysto sample if possible. The reason for this is that since the cysto sample is taken directly from your cat’s bladder there is no concern of contamination of the sample from your cat’s fur or genetalia, which often happens with a free catch sample and could otherwise interfere with or skew the results of the urine culture which your veterinarian may wish to have run on the urine.
So, there you have it — a bit about the importance of the urine sample and how you can go about collecting it (or helping to make sure that your vet can). I hope this article has been helpful to you as you strive to best understand and care for your cat.