Sep 18, 2018

Recently we were very lucky to have been sent some test boxes of Kit4Cat Hydrophobic litter (http://www.kit4cat.com/) and CheckUp kits for cats http://checkupkit.com/cats.html from Kit4Cat, a company based in the US who are eager to help pet owners keep an eye on their pet's health without invasive sampling methods.

What is Hydrophobic Litter?

We ought to explain what hydrophobic litter is, because it’s pretty cool. Those of you who hold a degree in Google Latin, as I do, will be able to find out in a jiffy that Hydro = water and Phobic = fear and anything hydrophobic is logically likely to be something to do with repelling water. And that’s exactly what this litter does!

When a watery substance hits a hydrophobic surface, it beads instead of being absorbed and is able to be sampled easily:

Yes, this is wee. Wookie’s wee, to be exact. We tried our Checkup Kit with the Cat Emporium cats to see if it could be used as a diagnostic tool for our feline best pals and here’s how it’s done:

How to use the CheckUp Kit

Here is everything you're going to need. The CheckUp Kit includes everything pictured except for the timer, but given that timers are included on any smartphone you buy these days, it would be wasteful for them to include one, really. You can use your phone or any kitchen timer you might have in the house.

We also used latex gloves as a personal preference, but they aren't included. 

You need to keep the box when you open it up, as it contains instructions and also the colour chart for you to compare your results against. 

We also recommend having a pen or a pencil so that you can mark the results on the chart while they are still valid (we will explain what this means later). 

Step 1: Prepare a clean tray

In our case, this meant actually getting out 2 clean litter trays, because Wookie decided he wanted to lie down in the first one and Amy had to go get another one.  

Wookie in a litter tray

If you're gonna sit there, you're gonna have to model then.

Next, under careful supervision, we took our second fresh, clean tray and poured the hydrophobic sand into it.

 As you can see, the black-and-white cafe crew made sure we did it properly and this is very important. 

In our case, the quantity of hydrophobic sand wasn't quite enough to fill the tray and we think that this affected some of the cats willingness to use the tray.

We have found in the past that some cats in our colony will avoid a tray that doesn't have enough litter to adequately cover. It's something that's very individual and not all cats are the same about it.

Although we were able to get a sample, if you know your cat is a little particular about this, you may want to get an extra packet of hydrophobic sand just to make sure they'll go. Bear in mind that you can't really re-use the sand for a second attempt and it isn't cheap, so that's a factor to consider too. 

Step 2: Let the cats do their thing

For us, this meant sitting back and watching every cat in the cafe sniff it and pretend to pee in the tray containing hydrophobic sand but not actually pee. Then it involved waiting for Salome to get out of the tray after she, too, decided it was a good place to chill out. 

A bit of fake news from Wendy here.

The unrepentant centre of attention

As you can see, there was no shortage of interest and the cats weren't bothered about the litter being unfamiliar: on the contrary, they seemed pretty aware that this was a Special Thing and they very much like Special Things.  

Eventually: Success! It was only when we left the room, so I guess there was an element of 'I can't go when you watch' occuring, but we did see that it was Wookie who left the tray and so we know it was his sample. 

Now we're not looking for anything in particular for this test - we just wanted to give it a go - so there aren't any particular symptoms for Wookie that we wanted to explore or find out more about. 

Step 3: Collect the Sample

The kit contains a vial and a pipette which you can use to collect the sample. We always have latex/vinyl gloves for the Cat Carers in the cafe, so Amy is wearing those here, because that's how we do. 

You'll need to take the lid off the vial before you start collecting the urine sample, and make sure you keep it nearby so you can pop the lid back in after the testing has completed. 

You may find that the cat has covered the sample, but you can use the pipette to push the sand away and the water will bead up again.

When Wookie *ahem* left his sample, the urine made contact with the tray, which you can see toward the back of the photo above. This is a bit of a problem, because the tray has therefore contaminated the sample. The sand hasn't contaminated anything because it is hydrophobic and therefore never makes actual contact with the urine, but contact with the tray itself means that the sample isn't 100% guaranteed to be free of contaminants. 

You need to fill the vial to 3/4 full and once again do be sure to have a responsible cat there to help you: 

Step 4: Test the sample

The next stage is to test the sample. To do this, you need to open the packet that contains the testing strips and insert the strip into the sample, keeping it there for 2 seconds only, making sure all the squares on the testing strip are submerged.

Once you've taken out the strip, it's a good idea to put the lid back on the vial, but we feel like you'll take care of that without necessarily needing that advice. 

Step 5: Check the results

You'll notice that there are times next to the dimensions that are being tested: 

  • Glucose (30 sec)
  • Protein (30 sec)
  • pH (30 sec)
  • Blood (60 sec)

These times indicate when the results on your strip are accurate. The colours on the diagnostic strip can continually change, so CheckUp recommends that you circle your results on the card at the designated time. 

As you can see, Wookie is showing Positive for a Protein issue (the green square on the strip, second from the top) and his PH has a Positive result too (the yellow square on the strip, third from the top). 

(p.s. Negative means 'good' in this context and Positive means there's an issue). 

Step 6: What to do with the results? 

To be honest with you, at this stage we were a little flummoxed. A seemingly-healthy cat has a Positive result for Protein. Does this mean he's deficient in protein? Too much protein? What are the implications of this result and what should we do? 

The advice from the CheckUp Kit team is to take these results, and the sample, to your veterinarian. So we chatted with Cesar from Home Vets London, who looks after all our cats, and discussed the CheckUp Kit diagnostic tool. 

Cesar felt that unfortunately, because of the contact the sample made with the tray itself, this could yield false positives for things like Protein. Because our trays are pretty well-used and are covered in scratches from that use, they're pretty much impossible to get clinically clean.  We discussed what applications this kit could have in a cafe or household context, given this constraint.

The first benefit is that it can reassure - if you do get all Negative results, your cat pal is in the clear.

The second benefit is that a Positive result may compel a pet owner to visit a vet just to make sure, and this may pre-empt a serious condition before symptoms get particularly worse. However the flip-side to this is that you may have a few more expensive, paranoid trips to the vet than you really need, and this on top of spending on the CheckUp Kit in the first place. 

We do like the hydrophobic sand and found it very effective, non-invasive and stress-free method for collecting samples. For conditions that are less sensitive to contamination, like urine crystals, we are absolutely going to purchase and use the sand itself. 

If you'd like to try this yourself, you can pick up Kit4Cat and Checkup Kit products on Amazon. Lady Dinah's also hopes to be a stockist for hydrophobic sand in the coming months, as we think it is a very useful tool for specific conditions. 

Whilst we have learned a great deal about cats from our cats and our Cat Care team are qualified in Animal Management, please remember that Lady Dinah's is not a veterinary practice and we are not trained vets by any means:  if you have any concerns about your cats toilet or grooming habits (especially if they're excessively grooming the anogenital region), please do speak to your regular veterinarian. 

But what about Wookie??

Of course we aren't going to ignore the Positive results for Wookie! However Cesar's view is that the only way to obtain a properly clean urine result is directly from the bladder - which means a big needle and a very upsetting experience for Wooks. Alternatively, we can also do blood testing. However,  we're dealing with an asymptomatic cat who seems very happy and comfortable right now and putting him through all that when he's not showing any behavioural issues whatsoever seems unnecessarily stressful for him. 

We've talked to Cesar about what kinds of conditions might produce a protein and PH issue and we're going to monitor Wookie's habits more closely before doing anything drastic. We'll be paying a little extra attention to his water and food intakes and overall behaviour. 

If it seems necessary to escalate and undertake more rigorous tests we will, and if anything comes of it, we'll be sure to keep everyone updated! 

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