You stand frozen in place, wondering if what you just heard is correct. Your veterinarian has just asked you to bring in a urine sample. From your cat! Is this possible?
It is possible, but it may take some effort and patience on your part. In 30 years, I have had two clients who swore they just followed their cat to the litter box and placed the urine cup underneath him, as he politely and efficiently gave the requested sample. Don’t count on this method; you will be disappointed.
If you have been asked to collect a urine sample from your pet, this means that it should be a “clean catch,” versus a sterile collection which would need to be obtained in the doctor’s office. Find a clean, dry container.
For cats, I have three suggestions that are often effective. First, you could purchase “lab litter” from your vet that looks like small plastic, non-absorbable beads. You could also get similar material from an aquarium store. Place the beads in a clean dry litter box. Don’t use too much! Once your cat has urinated in the box, you can pour the urine into your container (including some of the beads is okay).
Second, you can cover a litter box containing new fresh litter with a sturdy plastic wrap (such as Syran Wrap), over the top of the litter and up the sides. Your cat can feel the familiar litter under his feet, but the urine won’t reach it. Yes, he may tear it up a bit, but hopefully some urine will be pooled in the crevices of the wrap. Either pour the urine into your container, or use an eyedropper or syringe to pull the urine up.
Third, some cats will urinate in a clean dry litter box even with nothing in it. With this method, I worry that some cats might say “Forget this!” and go find a nice absorbent material to use elsewhere.
For dogs, collection is sometimes easier. Take your dog out on a leash to a familiar area. Position yourself behind the female dog or to the side of the male dog. Have your container in hand. Pretend that this is a normal outing. Don’t let your dog see you bend toward him in anxious anticipation. He will know you’re up to no good!
Allow your dog to start the process. It’s very difficult for them to stop mid-stream, so once they start you can calmly and quietly bend over and place the open container under the stream. The sample should be close to sterile if it hasn’t touched surrounding skin or hair.
Because bending over may make your friend suspicious, you may have luck with fashioning a ring with a long handle from a wire coat-hangar. Like walking the invisible dog (remember the leash with the empty collar trick?), you slip the cup that you placed in the ring beneath your occupied pet after he has begun to eliminate. After you have collected a tablespoon or so, beware the descending or departing hind foot that suddenly plants itself in your freshly collected sample, dashing your recently acquired sense of satisfaction and pride.
If your pet is drinking more and urinating more, having “accidents” in the house, or has stopped using the litter box, the first thing to check is the urine sample. I prefer a first morning sample, if possible.
If your veterinarian wants a sterile sample, perhaps to culture looking for a bacterial infection, then you will be instructed to bring your pet in with a full bladder. In other words, try not to let your dog urinate before getting into the vet’s office, or if it’s your cat’s urine that is needed, you might remove the litter box for several hours before your appointment. Ideally, samples should be read by your vet within 30 minutes of collection.
A note to dog owners: Don't be embarrassed as you follow your dog around the neighborhood with collection apparatus. Many of your neighbors will have had the same experience at some point, and will understand and wish you luck on your collection adventure.