Cats are the subtlest of creatures. The smallest change in their behavior can provide huge clues regarding their health. For example, an increase in how much your cat is drinking and urinating can be signs of a medical problem.
Of course there are normal causes for increased thirst, such as unusually hot and dry weather or if your cat has been playing more than usual. But you should always take note if there is more water consumed without an obvious cause. Unlike dogs, cats don’t usually choose to drink more than they need.
With cats, it can be difficult to observe an increase in urination. This is where clumping litter provides a great way to detect increased water consumption. In general, cats are very efficient with water consumption and usually urinate twice a day. They can also hold their urine for a day or more when stressed. If you normally scoop two golf-ball-sized clumps of litter a day, that is probably about right, especially if your cat is fed dry food only. Canned food has more moisture in it and will cause cats to urinate more frequently. Veterinarians advise monitoring the size and amount of urine productions in the litter so you can more easily detect a change in their urinary behavior. If you notice your cat is near the water bowl more often and suddenly the clumps of litter increase in size, then there is likely a medical problem that needs attention.
There are three main causes of excessive drinking (polydipsia) and excessive urination (polyuria): diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, and kidney disease. While generally these conditions only occur in older cats, younger cats can experience these problems, especially with diabetes, if the kitty is overweight.
Hyperthyroidism increases metabolism and blood pressure, which causes an increased flow of blood through the kidneys resulting in more urine production. Hyperthyroidism tends to also cause weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, increased activity, increased vocalization and a ravenous appetite in an older animal.
Diabetes mellitus in cats mirrors insulin resistant Type II diabetes in humans. This condition is more common in obese cats, and causes thirst because of glucose in the urine. Weight loss occurs when a cat’s insulin does not work properly in the tissues.
Primary kidney disease is a bit broader and harder to pinpoint. Increased urination and thirst can be caused by infection or kidney failure. Acute kidney failure is not restricted to older cats. This condition occurs very suddenly and can be caused by diseases, parasites, poisoning (from drugs, plants, or chemicals), heart failure, blood clots, and shock related to injury or trauma. In contrast, chronic kidney disease is a slow decline in kidney function due to age or other chronic conditions.
To take the best care of your feline friends, look for the signs of increased thirst and urination in cats and pay attention to the subtle clues in your pets. An examination and blood work by your veterinarian can determine if there is something wrong and if treatment is needed.
Originally published October 2015 in the Lake Norman Citizen