Right before we moved, Kieran, my Turkish Van, got a urinary blockage for the first time since I’ve had him. I had to rush him to a vet that I didn’t normally use, just because I wanted to get it treated fast. The veterinary office catheterized Kieran and kept him overnight, but the normally quiet Kieran threw a tantrum and tried to escape his cage. He was very stressed when I picked him up the next day, and I, of course, wanted to prevent anything additional happening that might harm Kieran. This vet did say that Kieran had an exceptionally narrow urethra.
I consulted with my regular vet and followed up. They were able to check his urine (which was fine at that point), and they advised me to follow up with another urine sample in a month or so, to make sure things were still okay.
Then, we moved, and life got a bit chaotic for many months as we settled into the new place. I admit that I got lax about following up with that second urine sample. I went through a period of having to look for a new veterinarian. When I found a practice that seemed really promising, I scheduled the urinalysis, along with everybody’s annual wellness exams.
Did I get lucky? Did Kieran actually have some urine in his bladder when I took him in for his wellness exam? Nope. So, I was told to try to get a sample from home, and bring it back.
I have taken a urine sample for my cats, at home, previously. It’s not always easy. Here are some tricks that a few of my vets taught me, and some things I learned on my own. Happily, I did succeed in getting a second urine sample from Kieran, and it was just fine. But I always keep an eye on his litter box habits, just in case.
Here are three techniques, which I’ve used in the past:
1. Use hard, uncooked white beans as cat litter media
My first vet gave me the creative idea of using dried beans as litter media. Buy a few bags of cheap white beans (such as great northern beans) and put them in the bottom of a clean litter box. If you want to be very precise about this, thoroughly clean (and possibly bleach and rinse) the litter box beforehand. Enclose your cat, by himself, in a room with the box, and wait. And wait. If you have multiple cats, you will need to make sure you isolate the cat in question, so you can be certain you are getting his urine and not another cat’s.
When your cat finally does his business, you should be able to drain the urine into a waiting container. Make sure you’ve sterilized this container, too! I made the mistake of using a yogurt cup that I thought I had cleaned sufficiently. But there was a tiny bit of food detritus in the container, which screwed up the results. We had to do the urinalysis again.
Kitten in blue plastic litter box by Shutterstock.com’>
Some cats may be more stubborn than others about using media that is very different from their usual litter. But don’t be tempted to use rice, for example, just because it is smaller than beans. I think rice would probably get soggy and ruin the urine sample.
2. Use pre-manufactured plastic “litter media” available from your vet or pet supply stores
My new vet wasn’t sure she liked the bean idea, so she sent me home with a product that feels like cat litter granules, but is made of plastic. The same process applies — start with a clean box, put the granules in the bottom of the box, and wait. But Kieran was acting much fussier than my cat from the past. Try as I could, I could not get him to use the litter box with the plastic granules. So, I went to plan C, which actually worked.
3. Stake yourself near the litter box, and wait
I isolated Kieran in the office with me. I know Kieran, and I know that if he has to be isolated from the cats or the rest of the house, it’s nice to have a human in the same room. I had his usual litter in a box, and I had a sterile cup ready and waiting. Being that I work at home, I was able to set the box right by my desk … and I waited and waited. Sure enough, patience paid off. It’s tricky, but I managed to get that cup under him as he was urinating. Of course, I missed the first time (it is hard to estimate a cat’s aim) but I succeeded the second time.
Get the urine refrigerated as soon as possible and get it to the vet’s office quickly. Your vet will be able to tell you how much leeway you have, but in general, the fresher, the better.
If you have to isolate your cat to get the job done, providing water in the room is a good idea. Canned food is also a good source of moisture, which could increase the volume of urine.
Do you have creative ways to get a urine sample from your cat? Let us know in the comments!
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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.