Fuzzypedia - Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC)
On episode 2 of Fuzzy Lives Forever! we talked about stressed out cats. These poor kitties sometimes have issues like peeing outside the litter box, straining when urinating, or having blood in the urine.
Given the symptoms, pet owners may think their cat has an infection, but bladder infections are very rare in cats. Far more commonly, cats get feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC), which basically means your cat has inflammation in the bladder, but we aren’t sure exactly why. Although the details remain foggy, we do know that stress is a major trigger for this painful condition.
Cats can get stressed out by a lot of things. This makes sense if you consider their closest ancestors, the European and African wildcats. Here’s a photograph of an African wildcat:
An African wildcat.
Not too different than Mr. Foo Foo, right?
Mr. Foo Foo. (A domestic shorthair.)
The similarities don’t end with appearances, either. Most domestic cats are capable of living in the wild. They have keen hunting skills and a general distrust of people unless socialized early. In this sense, domestic cats and wildcats are more similar than dogs and wolves.
So it’s easy to see why our cats get stressed out easily. They are a whisker away from being wild animals. Wildcats live as stealthy, solitary animals, but we ask our cats to live with other cats, multiple people, screaming toddlers, dishwashers, banging pots and pans, and all the other chaos of human life. Not only that, they are supposed to poop and pee in a box.
Unlike a screaming toddler, litter boxes are under your control. With a little planning, you’ve got a good chance of keeping your cat mellow so she can make that good yellow. (Yes, a bad joke, I know.)
6 Litter Box Tips
1 - Do a little math.
Einstein discovered this little-known equation: 1 litter box per cat, plus 1. So, if you have 2 cats, then you’ll want 3 litter boxes. 9 cats? 10 litter boxes. Also, if you have 9 cats, then it might be time for an intervention.
2 - Find a not-so-scary place.
The laundry room is a classic choice for a litter box, but some cats are afraid of washers and dryers. If your cat won't enter the room when these machines are running, then you need to find a new place for your litter box.
3 - Get simple litter boxes.
Ideally, each litter box should be 1.5 times the length of your cat (not including the tail). Many boxes are too small.
Avoid motors, covers, toilet training devices, or other bells and whistles. Cats hate both figurative and literal bells and whistles.
4 - Get clumping, unscented litter, then scoop it daily.
Back away from the lavender, Pamela.
5 - Change the box yearly.
Boxes get stinky, even with regular cleaning. A yearly box change will be good for you and your cat’s nose holes.
6 - Be nice to your old cat.
Old cats may have issues getting in and out of litter boxes with high sides due to mobility issues like arthritis. If your old friend seems stiff, consider a litter box with low sides, make a ramp, or cut a door into the side of the box.
Final Thoughts and Knowing When It's an Emergency
Of course, these are just starting points, or factors to consider if your cat is going outside the box. If your cat is having trouble hitting the target, then make an appointment with your veterinarian. While managing stressors is an important part of the healing process, some cats need pain medications or muscle relaxants to push through the tough times.
Also, we can’t forget that some cats have bladder stones or actually do have bladder infections. That’s where your friendly neighborhood vet comes in. She’s got the skills to make sure you aren’t missing something important.
Plus, a vet may write a prescription for a urinary diet that helps your cat manage stress. While it seems pretty out-there, a diet with select ingredients may help your cat calm down while also preventing bladder stones.
And remember, if you’ve got a male cat that is trying to pee, but nothing is coming out, then take him to a vet immediately. Your cat may be “blocked” meaning he has an obstructed urethra. This is a painful and potentially fatal condition, so don’t try to fix it with light piano music and fresh litter boxes, please!