Urinary Stress for Cats – When They are Struggling to Pee!

As a veterinary team, it’s not unusual for us to receive calls from owners reporting that their cat is squatting in the litter tray more frequently than usual, or even constantly but not producing much pee.  Often clients say that their cat is a bit miserable, perhaps more vocal than normal and even sometimes quite aggressive. This can be due to a urinary problem.  

Urinary problems can be due to numerous causes, with stress or infection being highest on the list of possible reasons.  The common term for this condition is cystitis – it’s uncomfortable and needs addressing quickly.  Left untreated urinary problems can become quite serious with blockage being the most worrying situation, especially for males.  It’s important to ensure that the bladder is not enlarged, as this is a good indicator of a blockage.  So, a veterinary examination is essential.  If a urine infection is suspected this will likely need antibiotics (more than 50% of cystitis cases in cats over the age of 10 years are due to infection).  If stress is more likely the culprit then, pain relief helps to make your cat more comfortable.  When a cat’s urine problem is down to stress, it’s not always possible to pinpoint what has triggered the condition, but the focus is very much on dealing with the here and now, and then slowly trying to work out what has upset your cat.  Some of the possibilities that can trigger urinary stress for cats include:

  • A new cat in the neighbourhood – but remember, you’re not up in the middle of the night always, when our back gardens are like dual carriageways for wildlife.  Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean there isn’t a new cat on the block!
  • Changes at home – moving house or maybe you’re having some home improvements done and it’s not just you that stressed about it!
  • Visitors – if your’s is a quiet household normally, additional people at home can be stressful for some cats.

Cat In Litter Tray

There are some easy things you can do to help your cat and reduce stress:

  • The first one’s easy!  Keep things normal. Whether we like it or not we are all creatures of habit.  In times of stress, we all look for normal things to help us feel comfortable.  In this regard cats are no different.  They like things just the way they are.
  • Provide sufficient food and water bowls for each cat in your household and keep them separated away from their litter trays.  Microchip activated bowls are now available.  These are worth the investment in multicat households, especially if your cats have different feeding requirements.  Good quality foods have balanced nutrition.  Specific diets are available for cats urinary problems and we may recommend one of these.
  • Ensure litter trays are regularly cleaned, cats have high standards.  Behaviourists also recommend that households have one litter tray per cat plus an extra one.  Cats can feel very exposed when toileting, so, place litter trays in a quiet area rather than a thoroughfare.  If you have more than one litter tray, it’s best to place them separately rather then lining them up, as again this can cause cats to feel unconcealed.
  • Cats on the leaner side are less likely to suffer from urinary problems.  If your cat has gained weight, speak with the veterinary team for weight loss advice.  It’s extremely important that cats lose weight gradually as sudden weight loss can induce other complicating health issues.
  • Consider a microchip activated cat flap if the problem is down to an unwelcome visitor.  These essentially provide your cat with their own key, they’re easy to install, activate and set for your cats only.
  • Hideaway – we all need some ‘time out’ on occasions.  Cats really appreciate their own den.  They love having high places on which they can peruse their household from a distance.  Height offers cats security.


If you think your cat maybe showing any of the signs discussed above, contact your veterinary team for advice.