The Water Bowl
Breed & Health Resources

How to Get a Urine Sample from a Cat

By Dr. Jacqueline Brister

cat sitting in litter box

Getting a urine sample from a cat can be a bit frustrating for many pet owners. Veterinarians often need the urine to be fresh, kept at a certain temperature, and caught/stored in a special container. That’s a pretty big task when it comes to creatures like cats who need their privacy when they pee.

So why can’t you just bring in the litter clump, bath rug the cat peed on, or the paper towel you used to soak the urine up from the floor? Urine samples are needed to check for many things:

  • Urine from a urinary tract infection (UTI) will have infection-fighting white blood cells and/or bacteria
  • If a bladder stone or urine crystals are suspected, or the kitty is having trouble urinating (e.g. cystitis), microscopic examination of the crystals is needed
  • Monitoring urine protein levels may be necessary with certain diseases like kidney failure
  • Checking how dilute the urine is can help explain recent excessive drinking and peeing

If you soak up urine off the floor, out of a rug, or from a litter clump, bacteria will most definitely be present. Dirt, litter, and fibers from the paper towel, litterbox, or rug can also affect the protein and diluteness of the urine. If your floor or litter box had cleaning products on it, this could falsely change the number and type of bacteria seen. Litter boxes that have kitty poop in them will also affect the type/numbers of bacteria seen in the sample. Thus, you ideally need only urine in the sample, as straight from the source as possible, and it needs to go in a container that is as clean and sterile as possible, without any additional chemicals present.

Why does it need to be fresh? The longer the urine sits around, the more likely it is to grow bacteria, even if it doesn’t have bacteria in it at first. Urine that sits too long can also develop crystals separate from what the body makes, which will skew the concentration and urine crystal results. Urine also becomes more concentrated (i.e. less dilute) over time as some of the liquid evaporates.

How to Make a Cat Pee

Unfortunately, cats generally don’t pee on command. They prefer to use the bathroom in private and will often hold their urine for a long time. Some pet owners have success with following their cat to the litterbox and holding a small, clean container between their legs to catch the urine stream. This may be easier to do with indoor cats who urinate outside the litterbox because the shape of many litterboxes makes it hard to avoid disturbing the cat (and outdoor kitties like to go in the yard). If the kitty has a favorite bathroom rug he likes to pee on, following him to the bathroom, patiently waiting for him to pee, then catchi the urine as he goes on the rug may work fairly well. Because cats stand pretty low to the ground, it may be easier to use a shallow container to avoid disturbing the cat while he is peeing.

Another option is to use a very clean litterbox with no litter in it. Put the box in the usual litterbox spot and wait. If the cat objects to peeing in an empty litterbox, tearing a few small strips of clean paper or using a very small amount of clean litter can be effective. Nonabsorbent cat litter could also be used in some situations. Make sure this is okay with the veterinarian first- you don’t want to put you and your cat through all this trouble if the sample needs to be cleaner than that.

As it is with people, a cat’s urinary bladder fills up with urine throughout the day as he drinks water. When the bladder is full, the cat feels the urge to go, signaling that it’s time to use the bathroom. Offer normal amounts of water throughout the day to allow the kitty plenty of time to store up urine and watch him closely for signs that he needs to go (e.g. heading for the litterbox). If your cat urinates but you aren’t able to catch it in time, you may need to wait several hours before he needs to go again.

If all else fails, ask your veterinarian if you can leave your kitty in their care for the day to collect urine. The staff usually has a bit more training in such matters, so it may not take them as long to be successful. If you do manage to collect enough urine (great job!), wash your hands, stick the urine container in the fridge (not the freezer), and try to get it to your vet within 24 hours (ideally as soon as possible). You don’t have to keep the urine cool if you are going straight to the veterinarian’s office, but if you can’t go immediately, keeping it cool will help the urine remain stable.

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