How to get a urine sample from a cat
Your vet might ask for a urine sample from your cat at some point. This could be for a regular check-up if your cat has trouble peeing or for other reasons. Sometimes, your vet will take the sample, but the chances are you’ll be asked to bring one in.
This might seem like a tough ask, but it's actually not that hard. We've made this guide to help you collect, keep, and bring in your cat's urine sample.
- Getting a urine sample from a cat is important for detecting health issues.
- It can be collected from a clean litter tray using non-absorbent litter and a syringe or pipette. Outdoor cats may need to be kept indoors temporarily.
- The sample should be delivered to the vet as soon as possible or refrigerated if there's a delay.
- Urinalysis can reveal conditions like bladder infections, kidney damage, stress cystitis and diabetes.
Why do vets need a urine sample from cats?
Urinalysis, as it’s called, is a hugely important part of regular preventative healthcare checks, allowing vets to detect potential health issues early, even before your pet shows any signs of illness. They can spot hidden kidney and urinary tract problems and indicate serious illnesses such as diabetes and liver disease. Urine tests can also help monitor the effectiveness of treatments or the potential side effects of medications.
All members of Pet Health Club receive an annual urine test as part of their subscription.
Urinalysis can be used to diagnose, or raise suspicion of, a range of conditions, including:
- Bladder infections
- Kidney damage
- Stress cystitis
- Kidney infections
- Bladder stones
- Kidney stones
Here’s what you need when getting a urine sample from cats:
- A litter tray
- Non-absorbent litter
- A syringe or eye dropper/pipette
- A sample pot (clean jam jars or spice jars work well, but they must be well cleaned as any residual sugar will affect the test readings)
- A pen to label your sample
- A fridge if you're not taking it directly to your vet
Pet Health Club members receive a cat urine sample kit for free as part of their membership. This kit includes specialist cat litter for urine samples, a pipette and a sample pot.
How to get a urine sample from a cat
Collecting a sample from your indoor cat is fairly simple. Steps you should take are:
- Clean your cat's litter tray and disinfect it. This will help get a usable sample
- Fill it with non-absorbent litter
- Place the tray in its usual place
- Watch your cat and get ready for when they head to their tray
- If they had had a poo, then remove it and any litter surrounding it to stop contamination
- Once your cat has peed, tip the tray so the urine pools in one corner to make it easier to collect
- Pipette or syringe the urine out of the tray. It's best to wear gloves here, but if you don't have any, then wash your hands before and after
- Put the sample in your sample pot and label it with your name, your cat's name and the time and date it was collected.
- If you can't get it to your vet immediately, then pop it in the fridge
Remember, the quicker the sample can be taken to the vet, the sooner it can be tested. This will ensure more accurate results. If the sample is over 24 hours old, it's best to get a fresh sample.
Taking a urine sample from an outdoor cat
If you have an outdoor cat that doesn't use a litter tray, you may need to put them under house arrest for a few days to collect their sample. Use the same technique as above but be vigilant for accidents elsewhere.
If you can't get a urine sample from your cat, call your vet to discuss your options. Generally, there are two ways in which your vet can extract urine from your cat. Cystocentesis and catheterisation.
What is cystocentesis?
This involves using a needle to get a urine sample directly from your cat's bladder. While this may be slightly uncomfortable for your cat, it does mean the sample isn't contaminated because it's taken straight from the bladder. Sometimes sedation is required for this procedure.
What is catheterisation?
Catheterisation is when a small tube is inserted up the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body) and into the bladder. It's a good choice for cats, especially male ones, having trouble peeing. But, it can sometimes push bacteria from the urethra into the bladder.
What is the best time to get a urine sample from cats?
Ideally, try to collect your cat's first wee of the day, as it's the most concentrated and easiest to examine. But remember cats, particularly indoor ones, can use their litter tray at any hour.
So, swap the litter when you can swiftly secure the sample afterwards. Just choose a time that reduces the urine’s "waiting" time.
How long is a cat urine sample good for?
Ideally, you'd hand over the fresh sample to your vet straight after your cat pees. But that's often not possible. But do try to get the sample to your vet within an hour.
Do cat urine samples need to be refrigerated?
If you can't get your sample to your vet within an hour, store it in a clearly labelled, secure container in the fridge. Ensure the sample reaches your vet on the same day it was collected for the most accurate diagnosis.
Vets can discover a lot from a urine sample from cats. As well as the conditions listed above, urinalysis may also spot:
Stress cystitis in cats
Also known as feline idiopathic cystitis, this is the most common cause of bladder inflammation among cats and is usually triggered by stress from moving home, changes to routine, having new pets in the house or conflicts with other cats.
Other factors that may bring it on are lack of stimulation and activity and poor diet. Some cats may also have a genetic predisposition to stress-related urinary issues.
While the exact causes of stress cystitis in cats are not fully understood, it results in their body producing too many stress hormones. This imbalance can then lead to inflammation of the bladder wall.
Urinary tract infection
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common in older cats. They are caused by an infection in the urinary tract. Your cat's urine sample will show bacteria and white blood cells if they have a UTI. Therefore, it will be one of the first things the vet will look for, if only to rule it out.
Urinary crystals are painful for your pet. They can lead to UTIs, and in severe cases, the crystals clump together and cause stones, making it very difficult for your cat to go to the toilet. In some cases, they can be dissolved with a change in food or antibiotics. Otherwise, surgery will be needed to remove them.
The kidneys help concentrate the urine. However, diluted urine can signal the kidneys aren't quite working as well as they should. This is why it is best to take your urine sample in the morning when it is meant to be most concentrated. If your cat’s urine test shows dilute urine, blood tests may be recommended to check kidney function.
Diabetes can be diagnosed through the amount of glucose (sugar) in your cat's urine. The urine test may also show ketones, another sign your cat may be diabetic. A blood test may also be required to confirm whether your cat is diabetic.
How do vets interpret urine test results?
Vets check a cat's urine using a test called urinalysis. It has three steps. First, they look at the urine's colour and clarity. Dark urine might mean your cat needs more water, while cloudy urine can suggest an infection. Next, they use a special strip that changes colour when dipped in the urine. This can show if there's sugar, which could mean diabetes or blood, hinting at an infection. Finally, they may examine a small urine sample under a microscope. This can reveal cells, bacteria, or tiny crystals. Bacteria can indicate an infection, and crystals could be a sign of bladder stones. Through these steps, vets can figure out if your cat has a health issue and what it might be.
Blood in your cat’s urine could be caused by a urinary tract infection, cystitis, urinary stones, trauma or even, although much less commonly, cancer. Blood in the urine, known as hematuria, is usually a symptom of a condition that requires urgent attention so seek advice from your vet straight away.
Need more advice?
Urine samples are a great way of diagnosing health issues. For any queries, contact your vet for advice tailored to your cat's breed and circumstances.