How to collect a urine sample, and how to use Keto-Diastix, what the results tell you. (And how to amuse your neighbours along the way!)
The purpose of urine testing is two-fold. Firstly you want to determine whether your cat’s blood sugar levels are going so high that the renal threshold is exceeded. Secondly, you want to see if ketones are building up in your cat’s body.
There are three types of urine testing strips associated with diabetes on the market. There are Diastix, Ketostix and Keto-Diastix. You can get from any chemists without prescription, but they’re normally behind the counter so you have to ask for them. I strongly recommend that you use Keto-Diastix, as they have a huge advantage over the other two.
Diastix just test for glucose in the urine. Ketostix test solely for urinary ketones. Keto-Diastix are a combination and test for both glucose and ketones.
Keto-Diastix come in bottles of 50 plastic strips with two reactive squares on each strip. Keto-Diastix are very sensitive to light, heat and moisture and you mustn’t touch the little squares. However, if stored properly they will last for six months. There’s even a little place on the bottle to write down the date you opened it!
DO NOT use a reading off a Keto-Diastix strip to adjust an insulin dosage – ever. Urine test strips can only tell you if the renal threshold was exceeded at any time since your cat last had a pee.
You cannot equate a urine test strip reading with a blood sugar reading. You cannot say (for example) that 0.5% on a urine test strip is equivalent to a blood sugar reading of 20 or whatever. The only way to accurately determine your cat’s blood glucose level is by doing a blood test.
Even though I blood test my cats I still urine test with a Keto-Diastix whenever the opportunity presents itself, just to make sure that ketones aren’t building up. The more things you can do for peace of mind, the better.
Using the Keto-Diastix is simplicity itself. Although using Keto-Diastix is straightforward, you’ll probably find that collecting your urine sample will be slightly more problematic! Below is a selection of tips to help you collect your sample.
Collecting A Cat Urine Sample
Cats are notoriously private with their toilet habits, which is what makes urine testing harder to accomplish than home blood testing! But with a bit of sneakiness, patience, and luck you’ll come up with a method that works for you. Try some of the following: (With grateful thanks to all the resourceful owners out there who have e-mailed tips to me!)
If your cat uses a litter tray, you can replace your normal cat litter with aquarium gravel. (Available from most pet shops) It’s non-absorbent and similar in size to cat litter, so your cat shouldn’t take offence at the change. Once the deed is done you can just tip the tray and dip your Keto-Diastix into it. Aquarium gravel can be dusty though, so you might have to rinse it first, and then dry it before using it.
If your cat goes in the garden, you could try an enforced imprisonment with a litter tray filled with aquarium gravel and see if you get a sample that way.
If you can’t get hold of aquarium gravel, you can try it with your normal pet litter. You’ll have to be quick before the urine soaks into the litter though! If you’re going to try this, first test the litter itself, by wetting a teaspoon of it and then dip-sticking it. If the Keto-Diastix changes colour at all, you can’t use your litter as it will give you a false reading.
If your normal cat litter fails the test above, try switching to a non-absorbent brand. Again, test it with water prior to using it for your cat to ensure it doesn’t give you a false reading.
Speaking of non-absorbent litters, Eryl in Lancashire wrote to me about Katkor - recommended to her by her vet. Eryl says my vet gave me a super litter replacement product to collect my cat’s urine sample. It’s small plastic pellets which do not absorb the urine so it’s easy to use the pipette to suck up the urine and place in the test tube (all provided in the same packet). Dead easy! If you can't get Katkor from your vets, try Catrine from www.vetukco.uk Thanks Eryl! It is expensive though, and you don't get much in the packet, so it may not work for you if your cat likes a lot of litter to dig about in.
John in America dropped me a line about a litter tray he was impressed with. John Says Was reading your website and thought you should know about this litter box. It is by far the easiest way to test urine and my cat, Charlie, loves using it. Here is the website: http://www.smartcatbox.com/
You could try this neat little trick sent to me by Audrey Jacobson, which she has found works well with her cats. Audrey says I take a white kitchen garbage bag and slip it over the box of litter and press it down a little over the litter. This works so well and is easy to collect a sample because of the plastic bag it’s on.
As odd as it might sound, raiding the kitchen cupboards worked a treat for Sarah and her cat - dried lentils!! Sarah says that her cat wasn’t impressed with the non-absorbent cat litter or the aquarium gravel, but a tray of dried lentils met with approval and resulted a urine sample!
Wilma has written in to share this little tip she uses with her cat, Dave. Wilma says When he was first diagnosed, I would follow him to the litter box with a small china coffee cup and try to stick it under his butt when he started to pee. This didn’t work so well because the cup is too tall and Dave would just get stressed out. Then I hit upon using a spoon rest. It’s flat and I just slide it under him and he can’t feel a thing.
Does your cat always pee in the same place outside? If so try this. Put a bit of pliable plastic (cling film or a plastic bag) over the normal peeing place and put some aquarium gravel or a bit of dirt around the edges to stop it blowing away. After your cat’s been to the loo you should be able to get enough of a sample off the plastic to get a reading.
This method always works with Paris. I wait until he’s squatting down and started to pee, then quietly walk up to him in the garden, place the Keto-Diastix directly under his bum, and then walk away before he was finished. He is never quite happy about it, and never quite sure about what is going on, but as I completely ignore him he lets me do it!
If you can be near but not right next to your cat, try attaching a 35mm film canister (or similar small container) to the end of a long stick or pole. You can then crouch a distance away from your cat and catch enough drops for a sample (hopefully!) Your neighbours will be highly amused, even if it doesn’t work!
I had an e-mail from Liana who uses this ingenious method to get a sample from her cat, Cupid. Liana writes: Cupid is pretty much clock work when he’s going to pee. I make a mini pee tray of aluminium foil! Usually the size of a playing card with about one centimetre sides. Foil is so easy to mold and shape. So when he goes, I just slip it under, and viola!
If your cat sprays outside to mark territory, a dripping shrub leaf can give ample drops for a sample.
Update January 2005: There’s a new product in America called Purina Glucotest. This product is little confetti-like "indicator pieces" that you mix in with your normal cat litter. The indicator pieces change colour on contact with glucose in the urine.
I asked Purina when it would be available here in England - this is their reply: "Thank you very much for contacting us regarding the availability of Purina Glucotest. Unfortunately we do not manufacture or sell any accessory items in the United Kingdom and we are afraid we do not have any plans to do this in the near future. We do however produce the diabetic prescription diets for dogs and cats and these are available through your veterinary surgeon."
I would love to hear what works for you, so please drop me a line. What helps you could well help someone else!
How to use Keto-Diastix
Now the easy part!
Exactly 15 seconds after that (therefore 30 seconds in total) match the colour on the Glucose band on the container (the green brown colour swatches) to the end square on your strip. It’s on the left-hand side of this picture.
As you can see in this picture, there are no ketones in the urine, but this strip has gone dark brown on the outer glucose square, indicating that the urine contains about 2% glucose. This cat has exceeded the renal threshold since it last went to the loo. That’s Tatty for you!
A little giggle! One day my Mum was at my house and she just happened to see Paris out in the garden spraying up his favourite laurel bush. She grabbed a strip, rushed outside and collected a little drop on the strip. When I got home she proudly announced that Paris had tiddled and that he was 6.5 - which left me completely bewildered because as you know Keto-Diastix don’t measure like that. Turns out she’d used a strip for testing the Ph level of the pond to urine test the cat!
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