Q: My cat Simba has suddenly started urinating in the house on the floor around the baseboards. He is 14 years old and an indoor/outdoor cat. He has always preferred to potty outside so this is a new behavior. Do you have any thoughts as to why he would suddenly start doing this and what we can do to stop it?
A: There are a few reasons this behavior suddenly starts regardless of the age of the cat. The first choice likely would be a lower urinary tract infection. You said he was urinating on the floor not “spraying” or urinating on the wall surface. Should he be urinating on the wall or “spraying” we would be more likely to consider that he is marking his territory. This might be due to a new cat or kitten in the household or to another cat hanging around or just passing through his yard.
When cats urinate in a strange spot, which might be in a sink, a bathtub on the living room carpet or throw rugs, they are usually trying to tell us something is wrong. If there is a pink or red color to the area of urination this would be due to blood in the urine. Another common finding is seeing shiny particles in the areas of urination after it dries that look like salt particles. These would be crystals and could indicate another complication of the problem. If he is forming crystals, he can potentially also make stones that can be in the kidneys, urinary bladder or urethra. This potentially can cause a blockage in the outflow of urine and will be very painful as well as life threatening.
Although you did not mention the character of the urine, these would both be a concern, i.e. blood or crystals. Male cats especially are prone to urethral blockage and not being able to urinate. This can be due to inflammation and swelling from a simple urinary tract infection or to stones forming in the urine and getting caught in the urethra. The male urethra or tube exiting the urinary bladder to the outside is longer and much smaller in diameter than in the female cat. Thus male cats are at a higher risk of urethral blocking.
To help Simba the most, you need to take him to see your veterinarian as soon as possible. A urine sample would be fantastic to have if you can collect one to take with you. If not, she will be able to get one. The results of this test will help facilitate Simba’s treatment and let him receive the best treatment for whatever is wrong.
It is certainly possible that this is a behavioral issue, but infection and/or crystals/stones must be ruled out first for his health. Left untreated, a lower urinary tract infection can certainly progress to a life-threatening blockage. Antibiotics, possibly a change in diet or an anti-anxiety medication may be all he needs.
At his age, you should also look at his general kidney function to be sure it is within a normal range. Again, minor changes in diet and possibly fluids can treat this condition and buy him several more quality years.
DR. M. MARGARET KING, a longtime Edmond veterinarian, is a guest columnist. If you have any questions for her, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.