Sometimes we see a cat because someone in the home noticed red urine. But there is a lot we can tell before urine looks abnormal to the eye. If your cat starts to urinate outside the litter box, prompt attention is the best way to correct this before it becomes a behaviour problem.
How concentrated is the urine? We measure urine concentration using an instrument called a refractometer. This gives important clues about how well the kidneys are doing their job and whether kitty is drinking enough water. If the urine is too dilute, it can mean problems like kidney disease or other conditions.
What is the pH of the urine? Is blood or glucose present? Urine test strips look for glucose (diabetes), blood and protein (kidney or bladder disease) and other indications of disease.
To complete the urinalysis, we put the urine into a centrifuge and spin it so that the cells and particles can be separated from the fluid, then we take the cell portion on a microscope slide and examine it, with and without stain. Sometimes we see infection, sometimes we see crystals, sometimes we see abnormal cells.
Did you know, when cats under 10 years of age are urinating outside the litter box, infection is the cause only about 5% of the time?
If the urinalysis is not conclusive, or shows something abnormal, then we discuss what to do next. In the case of an obvious infection, we often use antibiotics. Sometimes we need to do further urine and blood tests or talk about xrays of the bladder and kidneys.