In order for the litter box to be a useful tool in monitoring a cat's health, it is important to understand your cat's routine and habits.
For example, how many times does your cat normally urinate in a 24-hour period? Most healthy cats go two-to-four times per day. How big of a clump is normal after each urination? Does your cat poop everyday? How does it regularly appear (size, shape, consistency)?
Once regular habits are identified, it becomes quite easy to identify problems.
It is important to use a natural, non-clay clumping litter like World's Best Cat Litter or Swheat Scoop (there are several others that fit this category). These litters clump well and will help you keep track of urination habits.
Repeated attempts at urination with one or more small clumps left behind after the cat leaves the box
This can be a sign of a urinary blockage, urinary tract infection (UTI) or cystitis (inflammation of the lining of the bladder). Please see your vet immediately. A urinary blockage is an emergency. If this happens in the middle of the night, please do not wait until the morning to seek medical attention.
Bypassing the litter box and instead urinating on the floor, in a sink or tub
This is often a sign of a urinary tract infection. As with humans, it can be painful for a cat with an UTI to go. They will often look for cool surfaces.
Urinating right outside of the litter box
This may be a way of communicating that the box has not been cleaned (please do scoop at least twice per day). It can also be a symptom of UTI or kidney disease.
If this happens once or twice in a day, there is most likely not anything to be concerned about. Add a teaspoon of pumpkin puree to the next meal and that often clears up the issue. But if your cat is making repeated trips to the box and is leaving behind stinky diarrhea, it is a good idea to see the vet. It can be caused by so many different things - everything from expired or compromised cat food to eating a bug or lizard or consuming foreign objects or toxins. In addition, diarrhea can cause severe dehydration.
Blood in urine or stool
Call the vet right away.
Way too much stool
This can be caused by low quality foods. When the body cannot use what it is fed, it is eliminated as waste. Raw and homemade foods produce the least amount of waste (and with much less odor).
Obviously, this is a sign of constipation. If your cat appears normal - is eating and playing and is behaving normally, there is probably nothing to worry about. Adding pumpkin puree to the cat's food is a wonderful way to get things moving again. But if your cat appears lethargic or uncomfortable or is vomiting, call your vet. There may be a blockage caused by ingesting something foreign.
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