Inappropriate Urination in Cats

Inappropriate Urination in Cats

A common presenting complaint for cats is the issue of urinating outside the litter box. This can be a very frustrating problem for owners to deal with. It can disrupt a household and put a strain on the human-feline relationship. Determining the underlying reason can be a complex puzzle with multiple pieces.

Obtaining a Urine Sample

A clean sample of the patient’s urine must be collected and analyzed for the presence bacteria, crystals, WBCs, RBCs, and other important values. Obtaining that sample has its challenges.  We often employ a urine collection kit with non-absorbent plastic litter in a clean litter box. This may take some time as the patient is not accustomed to this setup and often holds their urine. If this method is unsuccessful, we may need to retrieve a sample via cystocentesis, carefully sticking a needle directly into the bladder, often guided by ultrasound, to extract an uncontaminated sample.

Urinary Tract Infection

The first thing to rule out with urinary issues is a urinary tract infection. UTIs are regularly treated with antibiotics, but isolating which bacteria is present in the urine indicates which antibiotic is needed. This is why a culture of the urine is often recommended.

Bladder Stones

Bladder stones develop when the pH of the urine is unbalanced, and an overabundance of minerals start to merge and harden. This problem can be diagnosed by taking a radiograph or ultrasound of the bladder. They are usually treated with surgical removal or diets specially formulated to dissolve the particular compound.


Another value that is measured in a urinalysis is the presence of glucose in the urine. This can clue us in that diabetes may be on the differential. Glucose in the urine can be due to stress, so more testing is required to definitively diagnose the disease. A symptom of diabetes is frequent urination, which may lead the patient needing to go when a litter box is not convenient.

Kidney/Thyroid Disease

Kidney disease and hyperthyroidism are common ailments in cats. Both have symptoms of frequent urination. The frequency or urgency leaves them little time to make it to the box and instead turning to the nearest available location. A low specific gravity of the urine may indicate the need to run blood work to check kidney function.


The urethra is a small tube leading from the bladder to the outside world. It can become plugged with mucous and/or crystals, blocking the flow of urine. Since the kidneys filter toxins from the body and eliminate them through the bladder, the inability to urinate can cause a build up of toxins in the body. This is a serious and life-threatening condition.

FIC- Feline Idiopathic Cystitis

Idiopathic means that we do not know the cause of inflammation in the bladder. This diagnosis is reached when other conditions have been eliminated. Treatment options may include anti-inflammatory pain medication, diet change, and environmental enrichment. Since cats are notorious for not drinking enough, encouraging increased water intake can help flush out the bladder.


Behavioral problems can be the most challenging to diagnose and resolve. Cats are creatures of habit and do not like variations to their routine. Even something small like moving the furniture around in the living room can stress them out. A larger change like a new human or animal in the household or moving can be even more upsetting.

With the invention of new products that relieve stress, we have more tools in our toolbox. Here are some examples:

  • Specialized Diets- Hill’s Feline c/d stress management or Royal Canin Urinary SO + Calm
  • Probiotics- Purina Calming Care®
  • Pheromone- Feliway® Spray or Plug-in
  • Pharmaceuticals- Fluoxetine, Gabapentin, etc.

Litter Box Aversion

Even after symptoms of a UTI or other issue have resolved, the patient may still associate the litter box with the pain caused from that issue. Moving their litter box to a new spot or offering them a new one may help them overcome this aversion.

Location Preference

Felines prefer a quiet, private place to do their business. If the litter box is in an area of high traffic or noisy area of your house, your cat may just need a change of scenery. If they are frequently eliminating in a specific spot in the house, move their litter box to that spot as it just may be where they feel most comfortable. The type of litter you use can be unfavorable to a cat.

Age Related

If a senior cat is having urinary issues and medical conditions have been ruled out, we investigate age related issues. Cognitive dysfunction may mean the cat is forgetting where to go or even getting lost in your house and unable to find the box. Try offering more litter boxes and placing them in areas around the house they most frequent. Arthritis can also play a role. They may be having difficulty getting in and out of the box. Consider a box with shorter sides or one that is wider allowing easier movement in and around. Make sure they have a box available on each level of the house in case they are unable to navigate the stairs.

In summary, inappropriate urination may just be the cat’s way of telling you that there is something wrong. There are other issues not on this list that could be the underlying problem. The important part is to observe the cat’s behaviors or reactions to treatment and communicate your findings with your veterinarian. Together, we can add up the pieces to the puzzle to paint the complete picture.

Senior Cat Care

Senior Cat Care

Our feline friends live an average of 12-18 years, while some live into their 20s. Senior and geriatric cats need some special considerations regarding their daily care. Here are some tips to help keep your elderly companion happy, healthy, and comfortable well into their golden years.


A cat’s nutritional needs change throughout their lifetime. Older felines need less calories since it doesn’t take much energy to sleep an average of 20 hours a day. Senior cat food usually contains increased fiber as well as vitamins and essential fatty acids. Prescription foods formulated for specific health conditions are available with restricted or added ingredients that support the nutritional needs of the patient.

Most common diseases in older cats:

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Kidney
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Dental Disease- Cats can get painful holes in their teeth, broken teeth, gum disease and oral tumors that significantly affect their quality of life.


Felines are notorious for not drinking enough water. Dehydration can lead to or exacerbate chronic medical conditions such as kidney failure. Some cats can be finicky and require fresh, clean water. Adding in a water fountain can encourage them to drink. Canned food contains more moisture and can be added to their diet to increase water intake.


The pain of arthritis can limit geriatric cat’s movements. It may become difficult to jump up on counters and tables or even manage stairs. The location of their food, water, and litter box may need to change. Keep it on the level of your house that they frequent most or provide one on each level. If they have neck or spinal issues, have bowls raised to shoulder level. The height of the sides of their litter box can affect their ability to move in and out freely. Finding a shorter, wider litter box can decrease the likelihood of inappropriate elimination.

Photo Credit:

Senior cats can lose the ability to fully retract their claws due to arthritis, injury, or infection. Keeping the nails trimmed can reduce the instances of getting caught in carpet. Cut any loose strings or loops on carpet or rugs. If unable to use a scratching surface, the nails may grow too long and penetrate the paw pad.

Photo Credit:

There are products on the market that can help ease your cat’s arthritis pain. Many of them contain Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Prescription pain medications may be prescribed by your cat’s veterinarian. Feline patients should have cat specific medications and supplements as they are more sensitive and metabolize drugs differently.


Elder felines may need a little assistance in the grooming department. Arthritis, obesity, and other conditions can inhibit cats from reaching certain spots for grooming. Often mats develop on the lower back, abdomen, and around the rear end. You may need to assist by combing or brushing these areas. They also may need help bathing their rear ends. Using a baby wipe or wet wash cloth, gently wipe their rectums. Longer haired cats may need to be trimmed to keep tidy.

Increase Visit frequency

Since problems can sneak up quickly, it may be necessary to bring your senior cat to the vet more frequently for physical exams. Keeping a close eye on their normal behaviors at home and noting any deviations can help expose issues sooner. Blood work may be recommended by your cat’s veterinarian as they are excellent at hiding illness. Catching a disease in early stages can increase the success of treatment, improve quality of life, and extend their life expectancy.

Behaviors to Monitor:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Drinking
  • Urination & Defecation- amounts and locations
  • Stiffness, difficulty jumping up or with stairs
  • Losing balance
  • Poor coat, decreased grooming
  • Growths
  • Vomiting

You cat’s annual physical exam is an opportune time to discuss any concerns with your veterinarian. It can be helpful to make a list of behavior changes to address. Give us a call at 444-5797 to schedule an appointment.

Coyotes, Wolves, & Bears

Coyotes, Wolves, & Bears

As we continue to develop wild territory into human habitat, it is no wonder that instances of confrontation with predators are on the rise. Predators have become more accustomed to living in close proximity to humans which can be dangerous for both parties. Spring is the time of year we see an increase in attacks by coyotes and wolves on domestic pets. January through April is breeding and whelping season for these predators. They tend to be more aggressive, defensive, territorial and hungry. They aren’t picky when it comes to their prey. Fluffy bunny vs fluffy Pomeranian, squirrel or Shih Tzu; food is food.

Bears can also be dangerous this time of year. They are waking up from winter hibernation and emerging from their dens. They can be groggy, grumpy, and hungry. A dog is no match for the large, powerful claws of a bear. Given the bear’s disoriented, post-hibernation state, they may not run away but rather stand their ground. Mama bears may also have cubs to protect; never come between a mama and her cub.

Here are some tips on how to protect your pet from predator attacks:


Monitor pets when they are outside; do not leave them outside by themselves. Keep pets on a leash when walking, especially in wooded areas. Bring outdoor cats in at night. Avoid the twilight hours since predators are more active at these times. Know the area you are walking in. Check for sign such as tracks or scat.

Protective Gear

The need for protective gear is an unfortunate reality for some situations. If you search the internet you will find multiple products available.

  • Kevlar neck collar with spikes
  • Puncture resistant Kevlar vest
  • Spiked collars
  • Dog Horn
  • Ultrasonic Devices
  • Pepper Spray


Having a fenced in yard can protect your pet from many dangers. Unfortunately, predators can be very determined when hungry and will climb or dig their way in. It is recommended that fences be at least 6 foot tall, buried 18 inches in the ground, and even have rollers at top.



Predators often attack in the dark. Keeping your yard well-lit can help deter predators from getting too close. Motion detecting lights are helpful to scare off unsuspecting wildlife.

Food sources

Eliminate all sources of food. Do not feed deer, squirrels, and rabbits. Attracting the prey will attract the predators. Remove all garbage or keep it in animal proof containers. Cover compost piles. Do not leave out dog or cat food. Clean your grill. Remove any roadkill near your property. Remove excess fruit from fruit trees.

Yard Care

Remove their hiding spots by keeping your yard clean, trees and shrubs trimmed, and having an obvious barrier from woods to lawn. Cleaning up your yard and removing the pet feces will reduce the scent that can attract predators.


Females in heat

Females are especially at risk during their heat cycle. They emit scent and pheromones that draw willing males for miles. Be sure to keep a watchful eye during this time. If not planning to breed, have the female spayed to eliminate the heat cycle.


There has been much debate in the use of bells on hunting dogs. Some hunters believe that it deters predators while others argue that it acts as a “dinner bell” attracting them. Use whistles, horns, or other non-natural noise makers to let predators know that humans and not wild canines are present.

Other Important Things to Note:

  • Vaccines- Keep pets up to date on vaccines. Wild animals carry preventable diseases such as Rabies, Distemper, Parvo, and Leptospirosis.
  • Don’t Run- It is important that you do not try to run away. This activates the predator instinct to chase. Instead, back away slowly, yell or make loud noises, wave your arms, and throw things at it.
  • Spread the Word- Share sightings and information with your friends & neighbors so they can be vigilant for their own pets and follow the deterrent recommendations as well.
  • DNR- Report nuisance or strange acting animals to the Department of Natural Resources. They are responsible for keeping track of the level of conflict and managing the species. They use the data to create or change laws and regulations regarding hunting and trapping.

DNR website statement on Coyotes:

The DNR does not trap, shoot, or relocate coyotes; it is the responsibility of the landowner.

DNR website statement on Wolves:

Wolves in Minnesota can only be killed in defense of human life. Only agents of the government are authorized to take wolves if pets or livestock are threatened, attacked or killed. Protect evidence and report depredation incidents to a DNR or conservation officer.

DNR website statement on Bears:

Bears are common in Northeast Minnesota, but the DNR asks you to report any sighting in the South and West portions of the state to track movement (see map on website).

To report wildlife issues please contact the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Wildlife office in Bemidji at 218-308-2339.

Greeting a Dog

Greeting a Dog

As dog lovers, we love to meet and say “Hello” to every dog we see. However, we often unknowingly greet dogs the wrong way. We habitually set dogs up for failure with our over-excited, over-bearing, rude (in doggy etiquette) greetings. Greeting the proper way can help with most behavior issues dogs have when it comes to meeting new people or even old friends. Read on to learn how to help with jumping, excited/submissive urination, and fear or anxiety with people.


This is one of the most common, obvious, and annoying behavioral issues dogs demonstrate when it comes to greeting. One simple way to help this behavior for both owners and strangers is to ignore the excitement. Not the dog, the excited behavior. This is not meant to hurt their feelings, but to make sure it is understood they will not get attention or affection using excitement and invading our personal space. Uncontrolled excitement can also lead anxiety and frustration. We should be quiet and calm when approaching dogs that are excited. Wait until the dog has calmed down, then give affection in a calm manner, with little to no talking. Think of when two polite and well-behaved dogs meet each other. They approach and sniff each other quietly with no jumping or noise until they mutually agree to move on, socialize, or give cues to play.


Some dogs urinate when greeted. There are different causes for this including excessive excitement, fear, or submission. Fortunately, the best way to prevent this from happening is the same no matter what the cause; don’t talk to them and don’t initiate eye contact. Ignore the excitement or fear behavior until they are more comfortable. When you do approach or give attention, do it calmly to avoid sending them right back into the undesirable state. This simple step will go a long way in preventing unwanted urination when greeting.

Fear & Anxiety

A happy-go-lucky dog may jump on you. On the other hand, fearful dogs may run the opposite way, cower, bark, shut down in fear, or even show fear aggression as a response.  As much as we may want to talk to and pet them to show we mean no harm, this is often too much pressure for fearful dogs. They want time and space, and to not feel pressure to be touched. Not all fearful dogs will walk away when they don’t want to be approached. Some will shut down and freeze even if they are physically able to move away. If we approach or talk to a dog in this state they may urinate, growl, bark, or snap/bite. This is clear communication they are not ready to be touched and these signals are often ignored.

Greeting with too much exuberance causes the dog to jump up.
Greet calmly, while ignoring the dog and not making eye contact.

A greeting with a dog should feel quiet and relaxed. Humans often encourage inappropriate behavior, many times unknowingly. The goal is to promote the correct behavior and set them up to succeed. This helps dogs understand what is expected of them in any situation, whether they are meeting a dog lover or someone who is unsure about or has a fear of dogs. It is our responsibility to be in control of our own dogs. By learning a little bit about canine communication and helping other humans recognize their cues, we help promote well behaved doggy citizens.

Feline Enrichment

Feline Enrichment

Cats tend to be very independent animals, but they are also quite social. It may seem like they are always sleeping; on average 12-16 hours of the day.  When awake, felines need some environmental and social enrichment to stimulate their minds and encourage exercise to keep them happy and healthy.  We’ve compiled a list of activities and additions to their environment that can help fight obesity, anxiety, and other undesirable behaviors.

Note: Cats are creatures of habit and don’t always appreciate change. It is wise to introduce new items or activities slowly, and one at a time, to determine whether the cat enjoys them or is stressed by them.

Crunchy enjoys his perch next to the window with bird feeders outside.

Window Seat

Providing your cat with a good view of the outdoors is like giving them a television. Supply them with a special perch next to the window. Offer different “channels” by installing a bird or squirrel feeder, bird bath, or other nature inviting element.

Interactive Toys

Raizo loves his floppy fish

There are so many products on the market, narrowing down one that your cat will actually use and enjoy can be difficult. Different activities and toys appeal to various natural instincts and characteristics. Food motivated cats may like toys or puzzles with treats inside. Cats who enjoy the hunt may like moving toys, wands, balls, etc. Some cats may prefer toys that make noise, crinkle, or squeak. And remember, cats can get bored with their toys, be sure to rotate them occasionally.

Channel your inner crafter; some household items can become DIY toys. Simple things like a cardboard box, paper bag, and paper towel rolls can be entertaining. Try before you buy; borrow toys from your cat owner friends to see if your cat will play with them. If you do buy something that your cat doesn’t end up liking consider donating it to a shelter or rescue.

Enjoy the Outdoors Safely

Cats are safest indoors but getting them outdoors for protected and supervised outings is a great way to both stimulate their mind and promote exercise. Cat specific harnesses are a great way to take them for a leashed walk. Not all cats will walk on a leash, therefore a stroller or backpack may be more their style. If you have the space and ability build them a “Catio”. These outdoor play areas are usually enclosed with fencing or netting to keep cats in and other critters out.

Plants & Herbs

Cats often like to chew on indoor plants. Choose house plants that are not only non-toxic, but ones that cats enjoy and are edible. Plant some cat thyme, rosemary, parsley, mint, oat or wheat grass, or bean sprouts. Catnip is popular, but not all cats enjoy it.

Go Vertical

Cats enjoy sitting high upon their thrones and watching over their kingdoms. Give cats an opportunity to climb and provide a higher perch (cat trees, sturdy shelving, etc) to watch the happenings of the household from above. This helps cats feel more secure and safe when they can get away from stresses such as dogs, kids, vacuums, etc.


Scratching posts fill the innate need to sharpen claws, stretch out, and mark their territory. Providing both vertical and horizontal options can help deter cats from using inappropriate items such as your furniture. Placement, texture, and scent are important for cats to use the scratching posts. A product called Feliscratch® from Ceva Animal Health can be applied to surfaces to encourage them to us it as the preferred scratching spot.

Other options are available to deter cats from scratching at the wrong spot. Nail caps, double sided tape, and natural sprays are all helpful alternatives to declawing. Declawing is an amputation of the end of the cat’s toe. It is an elective procedure and is discouraged by most Veterinary Associations due to common complications such as pain, arthritis, lameness, and limb disuse.

The Best Enrichment Available= You

Crunchy “helps” put puzzles together

Nothing is better than your time, attention, and love. Enjoy some one-on-one time together with your furry feline friend doing whatever they enjoy.

  • Cuddle
  • Take a nap together
  • Brush or pet them
  • Play with them
  • Read to them
  • Teach them a new tricks

If your cat is having behavioral issues, it may be worth your time to try some environmental enrichment. Boredom can be the cause for mischief and misbehavior. A few new toys, some outdoor time, perfectly placed cat furniture, or structured play time could be the remedy.

Lawn Care & Dogs

Lawn Care & Dogs

After some hot temperatures this summer, your lawn can start to look pretty rough. Your dog’s urine is likely not helping much. Those yellow, burnt looking areas are called “grass scald”. How do you prevent it without harming your dog?

Why does it happen?

Dog urine can contain a large amount of nitrogen. Nitrogen is commonly found in fertilizer, but too much of it can have negative effect on your lawn. Urine can also be very salty, which can dry out the grass.

Myth Busting

A common myth is that female dog urine is worse than males. In fact, it is the way in which they urinate that makes the difference. Squatting down directs the urine in a small area, concentrating the nitrogen. While male dogs tend to urinate up on things and/or spread it out into a larger area, diluting the amount of nitrogen.


“Dilution is the solution to pollution”


This quote is popular in veterinary medicine overall, but definitely works on this subject. Watering heavily in the area your pet does its business will dilute the nitrogen to a level safe for your lawn. This will likely make your grass green and lush.

Urine Supplements

We strongly recommend treating the environment rather than the dog. This is especially important in breeds prone to urinary issues such as Bichons, Schnauzers, Dalmatians, Yorkshire Terriers, etc. Some of these supplements change the pH of the urine which can lead to urinary crystals or bladder stone formation. If you do use a supplement, be sure to research it thoroughly. Pick one with natural ingredients. Read the reviews from other users.


Since nitrogen is the problem, pick a fertilizer with small amount or no nitrogen. There are many other fertilizer options for your lawn. Organic fertilizers are safer for you and your pets. Besides ready-made commercial products some of the most common compositions include corn gluten meal, cow or poultry manure, compost, earthworm castings, bone meal, and seaweed or kelp. Some lawn care websites recommend pouring a can of beer on the scalded spots to repair them.

Pick A Spot

Your dog can be trained to eliminate in a specific spot in your yard. Products such as pheromone spikes can be placed in the area of your choice which then attracts the dog to do their business there.