image of multiple cats eating
A Crowd of Cats
Question:
One of our foster families has a cat with bladder disease.  She had a UTI, which has now cleared up after medication.  She is now on gabapentin, but is still not always using the litter box.  Her family is using Feliway and is isolating her from the other cats, but things are slow to improve.  It is one of our higher-density foster homes.
Dr. Nichol-
There is a flip side to the kindness of fostering homeless pets. Cats with no history together, and crowded into a house, are prone to severe stress. Bullying and intimidation at the hands (paws?) of others in the group is often evidenced by fighting, house soiling, and physical signs like respiratory infections and inflammatory bladder disease.
Over 64% of cats with urinary symptoms, including soiling, have feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) – a chronic inflammatory bladder disease caused by stress. Symptoms usually last for 3-7 days before spontaneously resolving. The near continual release of adrenalin from these kitty’s brains damages the integrity of their bladder walls. Genuine bacterial infections are actually quite uncommon in cats, responsible for less than 2% of these problems. Antibiotics are seldom justified.
Regardless of the number of cats in this house, stress management will be essential to improving their welfare. Multiple hide boxes at various heights in different rooms will allow them to spread out and chillax. If they’re like most kitties they have delicate sensibilities. Stopping for a whiz at a stinky, soggy restroom results in them holding it until the next exit ramp. Cats with fresh-as-a-daisy litter pans are more inclined to void their bladders often.
Gabapentin is a safe and reliable antianxiety and pain relieving medication for cats; Feliway Multi Cat pheromone diffusers are also helpful. A nonprescription antianxiety supplement like Zylkene or Anxitane could also help.
Your rescue colleague can also reduce her cats’ collective tension by making her home a wonderland of feline amusements. Go to my website,drjeffnichol.com, for a good list of Environmental Enrichments. As these foster cats find new homes or pass on, this feline crowd needs to shrink. Cats are wonderful but more is not better.
Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or a Facebook Live to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.