Feline problems may not be a clear cut as they seem

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Is your cat using your house as its litter box?

An Ohio veterinarian says the problem may not be behavioral, but medical.

According to a recent study, urination problems represent the main reason why so many cats in the United States are being surrendered to animal shelters. Dr. Jennifer Jellison, a veterinarian with the Canton Banfield Pet Hospital at PetSmart, explained that owners get frustrated and often think this is a behavioral issue, but in many cases, the urination problems are caused by an underlying bladder health condition called Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD).

She said these cats do not use their litter box. They go in abnormal places or just outside their box.

"People may find small spots of urine in the house," Jellison said. "The cats may also strain and cry when going to the bathroom."

In addition, feline owners may notice their cat licking fur on their belly.

"Grooming excessively is a subtle sign of the disease," said Jellison.

This can be painful for the cat but it may not be noticeable to humans.

"Cats can hide illness very well," said Jellison. "As predators they hide their weakness."

FLUTD is most commonly found in young adult cats. The cause is not known but stress and high levels of minerals in the diet are thought to be involved.

"It is not a curable disease – it’s a manageable disease," said Jellison.

If you suspect your cat has FLUTD, the veterinarian will likely perform a urine analysis and x-ray the bladder. The cat may then be placed on a special prescription diet.

"It can be expensive for the tests and x-rays but the cost of the food is comparable to high quality over-the-counter food," Jellison remarked.

This disease does not include spraying.

"The urinary disease involves the cat squatting and urinating, their tail is not up in the air like a cat spraying would be," explained Jellison.

She believes owners do not realize this is a disease so they kick the cat out or take them to shelters.

"Some people even think this is normal behavior," Jellison noted. "If it were normal behavior we wouldn’t have invited cats into our homes so many years ago."

According to a Hill’s Pet Nutrition survey, one out of every four cat owners noted their cat has experienced problems while urinating, such as urinating outside the litter box. It also stated that 83 percent of cat owners would take their pet in for care if it was experiencing trouble while urinating, yet 28 percent noticed trouble but waited to see if the behavior stopped.

If you suspect your cat has FLUTD, talk to your veterinarian.

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