Care.com

Lauren B. Stevens @LaurenBS

The Scoop on Blood in Cat Urine

Finding blood in the litter box is alarming for any cat owner. Find out what to do and the possible causes of finding blood in cat urine.

You go to scoop your cat's litter box and discover blood in your cat's urine -- but don't panic! While finding blood in cat urine is alarming, your first step should be to call your veterinarian for an appointment. You'll instantly feel better once you know your vet will answer your questions in the near future. Here are the possible causes for the blood as well as what you can expect when you take your cat in to be examined.

How Soon Should Your Cat See a Veterinarian?
You should get in touch with a medical professional as soon as possible. Dr. Kathleen Small, veterinarian and owner of Le Chat Cat Hospital, says, "Hematuria, the medical term for red blood cells in urine, can potentially be a sign of serious feline disease. A pet owner should contact their veterinarian, or an emergency veterinary hospital, right away to discuss the pet's symptom and to determine the urgency of the situation."

"Some conditions can become life-threatening quite quickly if not treated appropriately," says Dr. Laura Campbell, associate veterinarian at Lambs Gap Animal Hospital. Dr. Campbell also emphasizes that cat owners should allow their veterinarian to "determine if it's a life-threatening situation rather than trying to figure it out at home."

What (and how much) your cat has been drinking could be the first sign of a problem. "It's important for owners to monitor their cat's water intake and urine output habits at home on a regular basis," Dr. Small says. She notes cat owners should be aware of any changes in water intake or output and report them to their veterinarian, as those symptoms can indicate an issue.

What Are Possible Causes for Blood in Cat Urine?
Once you've contacted your vet, you'll be anxious to find out what's causing the blood. Here are some possibilities:
 

  • Calculi, or Stones
    Dr. Small says that stones "may be in the kidney, ureters, bladder or urethra. [They] may cause pain and may lead to an obstruction in the urinary tract."
     
  • Urinary Tract Infection (kidney or bladder infections)
    "Older cats are at higher risk for a bacterial infection, though it can occur in any age cat," says Dr. Small. Bladder or urinary tract diseases could also be the culprit. This includes the mysterious feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC), according to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).
     
  • Cancer
    According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), cancer could be causing the urinary problems.
     
  • Trauma
    According to the AAHA, stress could lead to urinary issues including bloody urine.
     
  • Medication Induced
    Too much medicine, like acetaminophen, says the Cornell University Department of Animal Science, could cause blood in urine.


Dr. Campbell adds "Male cats, in particular, are at risk for urethral obstruction with some urinary tract diseases, such as bladder stones or feline idiopathic cystitis." If the obstruction isn't cleared, says Dr. Campbell, "the condition can progress to acute (sudden) renal failure, toxin buildup in the body, and collapse or death within a matter of hours."

What Can You Expect at Your Vet Visit?
Dr. Campbell recommends cat owners arrive with as much information as possible. "The more you can tell your vet the better, since your kitty won't be talking anytime soon!" You should note the food you feed your cat, any changes in litter box habits and frequency of urination, drinking and appetite, as well as any straining when using the litter box and unusual vocalizations.

Ask if these symptoms could be related to the bloody urine or connected to another issue. Dr. Campbell also urges owners to recall any changes in behavior or the household in general.

Your cat will undergo a complete physical exam, urine sample collection (your veterinarian will determine the best method of collection and testing based upon your cat's clinical history), a blood work panel and possibly an X-ray or ultrasound.

Dr. Small says that "the actual treatment of the hematuria will depend on the cause and may include antibiotics, diet change if urinary tract stones are diagnosed, change to an all-canned [food] diet to increase water consumption or surgery." Don't fret -- your kitty's litter box habits will back to normal soon!

Want more on cat health? Read How Normal Is Cat Vomiting?

Lauren Stevens has had many cats over the course of her lifetime, and has seen everything from hairballs to hyperthyroidism (and even anal gland expression). While she and her husband are cat lovers, they are currently only raising one child -- of the furr-less variety.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.