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February is National Cat Health Month, so we wanted to discuss something vital to your cat’s health – their litter box! While it may not be the most glamorous topic, keeping an eye on your cat’s litter box habits can help you manage their overall health and wellness.
Your cat’s digestive habits can be a good indicator of their overall health. Typically we try to spend as little time as possible taking care of our cats’ deposits, but taking a quick glance at their poop as you clean it can help you gauge their proper food intake and watch for potential illness.
Most cats have a bowel movement once per day, although that can depend on their age, activity levels, diet, and frequency of feeding. Their poop should be brown in color and well formed but not too hard. Your cat’s poop should also not be too stinky. Some odor is normal, but if you have to hold your nose to get close to the box that may be an indication of a problem.
Emergencyvetsusa.com has a great chart (shown below) for understanding cat’s bowel movements as well as more detailed information about what could be the problem if your cat’s poop is not normal. Fetch by WedMD also has a helpful chart for clarifying what your cat’s poop may be telling you about their health.
In general, your cat’s poop should be unvarying in color, consistency, and frequency. If your pet’s diet has not changed, their poop should not change, so if you notice a difference in color, consistency, or frequency you may want to contact your veterinarian.
Your cat’s urinary habits are also important to track. Much like with bowel movements, the color, consistency, and frequency of your cat’s urinations can tell you about their health. While it might be difficult to tell with most types of litter, according to the PetHealthNetwork.com urine should be light yellow or clear without any cloudiness or debris. Most cats typically pee a plum sized amount about 2-4 times per day, but that’s just an average and can vary based on your cat’s diet, water intake, and medical conditions.
If your cat’s urine is pink, red, or brown, if your cat is suddenly urinating more volume or more often, or if your cat is urinating outside of the litter box, this could be an indication of a problem and you should contact your veterinarian. Also, if your cat’s urine has a strong odor, this may be an indication of an illness or underlying condition that should be discussed with your veterinarian.
If your cat is ever straining to urinate, this is an indication of a serious, potentially fatal problem and your cat should go to the emergency veterinarian immediately.
A litter company called Pretty Litter has created a new silica based litter that can help you track your cat’s health. When your cat urinates, the litter changes color depending on the contents of the urine. If your cat’s urine is within normal ranges the litter will be a yellow/green. If the litter is blue, orange, or red, that could indicate a deviation from normal urine and a potential issue with your cat’s health.
Why a Clean Litter Box is Essential
Be sure to clean your cat’s litter box daily. Your cat likely does not want to use a dirty litter box (who would!?), so keeping it clean can help ensure that your cat uses their box regularly. Cats are fastidious creatures, so if their litter box is dirty they are much more likely to find an alternate location to eliminate more comfortably. If your cat continues to use their litter box when it’s dirty, they may try to do so less frequently per day, which can increase the risk of several medical problems. Daily cleanings also makes it easier for you to track the frequency of your cat’s deposits to know what is or isn’t normal for them.
A dirty litter box can potentially make you and your human family sick. Many of us have heard about toxoplasmosis being dangerous to pregnant women, but there are a host of other illnesses that humans can get if their cat’s litter box is not kept clean. This means not only scooping it daily, but fully scrubbing the box and replenishing the litter at least several times per year.
If your cat is having trouble using the litter box for either urination or bowel movements, there may be an underlying medical, behavioral, or environmental issue. Speak with your veterinarian or a behavior consultant to help ensure that your cat has all he or she needs to comfortably and safely use their litter box.