Kitty has been in and out of the litter box all day. He looks like he's straining to pee, but not much is coming out. He's licking his privates as though to ease pain. If your cat exhibits signs such as these, he needs to see the vet right away.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, or FLUTD, is a term for bladder and urinary tract issues in cats. It was formerly referred to as Feline Urological Syndrome, or FUS. FLUTD includes crystal formation in the bladder, which might obstruct the cat's urethra. Male cats are far more likely to form urine crystals than females, but that doesn't mean females can't be affected. Personality matters, too. High-strung kitties are more prone to FLUTD than their calmer brethren.
Feline urine crystals consist of either struvite or calcium oxalate crystals. Struvite crystals contain magnesium, phosphate and ammonium, and result from too much alkalinity. The calcium oxalate crystals result from the opposite factor, too much acidity.
Diagnosing the presence of urinary crystals is relatively simple for your vet. She'll run a urinalysis, which confirms whether crystals are present and the type. She'll also conduct a physical exam, feeling his bladder for fullness.
Treatment depends on your cat's condition. If he is suffering from a blockage due to the crystals, it must be surgically removed. Blockages are life-threatening. Surgery means Kitty will be hospitalized for a few days, along with possible catheterizing. Once he's peeing on his own, your vet might release him to go home. She might also prescribe pain medication while he recuperates. If Kitty has a urinary tract infection, your vet will prescribe antibiotics. She'll also offer recommendations on diet to prevent or reduce crystal formation.
To prevent a recurrence of urine crystals or to keep them from forming in the first place, look to Kitty's diet. Feed him a primarily meat diet. Cats aren't designed to eat grains and vegetables -- they're carnivores, through and through. Avoid dry cat food and feed a good quality canned cat food containing less than 0.5 percent magnesium as per the label. If you find a suitable food that your cat likes, don't switch flavors frequently. Your vet might recommend a specially formulated food for urinary tract health. Kitty also needs constant access to fresh, clean water. Since stress is also considered a risk factor for urine crystal formation, try to keep Kitty's life and and your household as calm and routine as possible.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.