Cat urinary tract infections are rarer than urinary tract infections in dogs, but our feline friends do frequently experience other urinary tract issues. Here, our Redding vets share the symptoms, causes, and treatments for urinary tract infections and diseases in cats.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) in Cats
While urinary tract issues are often seen in cats, our feline friends are more prone to urinary tract disease than infections. Those cats that do develop urinary tract infections often suffer from endocrine diseases, such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus, and are typically 10 years of age or older.
If your kitty is showing symptoms of a urinary tract infection and is diagnosed with an infection such as cystitis, your veterinarian will prescribe an antibacterial medication to help fight your cat's UTI.
The most common symptoms of urinary tract infections in cats include straining to urinate, reduced amounts of urine, not urinating at all, pain or discomfort when urinating, passing urine tinged with blood (pink-ish color urine), and urinating around the house (outside of the litter box).
A urinary tract infection may indeed be the cause of your cat's symptoms however, there are also several feline lower urinary tract diseases (FLUTD) that could be causing your cat to display the UTI symptoms listed above.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)
FLUTD (Feline lower urinary tract disease) is an umbrella term that refers to numerous clinical symptoms. FLUTD can cause issues in your cat’s urethra and bladder, often leading the urethra to become obstructed, or preventing your cat's bladder from emptying properly. These conditions can be serious or even life-threatening if left untreated.
If your kitty has developed FLUTD, urinating can be difficult, painful, or impossible. They may also urinate more frequently, or in inappropriate areas outside their litter box (sometimes on cool surfaces such as tiled floors or a bathtub).
Causes of Feline Urinary Tract Disease
FLUTD is a complicated condition to diagnose and treat because there are several causes and contributing factors that impact this disease. Crystals, stones, or debris can gradually build up in your cat's urethra (the tube connecting the bladder to the outside of your cat’s body) or bladder.
Some other common causes of lower urinary tract issues in cats include:
- Incontinence due to excessive water consumption or weak bladder
- Spinal cord issues
- Urethral plug caused by the accumulation of debris from urine
- Bladder infection, inflammation, urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Injury or tumor in the urinary tract
- Congenital abnormalities
- Emotional or environmental stressors
Urinary tract disease in cats is more commonly seen in overweight, middle-aged cats who have little to no access to the outdoors, eat a diet of mostly or entirely dry kibble, or do not get enough physical activity. Any cat of any age can develop the condition, however. Male cats are also more prone to urinary diseases since their narrower urethras are more likely to become blocked.
Elements such as using an indoor litter box, emotional or environmental stress, multi-cat households, or sudden changes to their daily routines can also leave cats more vulnerable to urinary tract disease.
If your kitty is diagnosed with FLUTD, it is crucial to identify the underlying cause. FLUTD symptoms can be caused by serious underlying health issues such as bladder stones, infection, a blockage, or even cancer.
If your veterinarian can't determine the cause of your cat's FLUTD, your kitty may be diagnosed with a urinary tract infection called cystitis (inflammation of the bladder).
Symptoms of Feline Urinary Tract Disease in Cats
If you suspect your cat has FLUTD or a cat urinary tract infection, watch for the following symptoms:
- Inability to urinate
- Loss of bladder control
- Urinating small amounts
- Urinating more than usual or in inappropriate settings
- Avoidance or fear of litter box
- Strong ammonia odor in urine
- Hard or distended abdomen
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Drinking more water than usual
- Excessive licking of the genital area
Any bladder or urinary issues must be treated as early as possible. If left untreated, urinary issues in cats can cause the urethra to become partially or completely obstructed, which can prevent your feline friend from urinating.
The symptoms above indicate a severe medical issue that could quickly lead to serious outcomes such as kidney failure or rupture of the bladder. FLUTD can quickly be fatal if there is an obstruction that is not taken care of by a veterinary professional immediately.
Diagnosing Feline Urinary Tract Disease
If you believe that your feline friend may be having problems with their lower urinary tract, contact your vet right away, especially if your cat is straining to urinate or crying out in pain.
Your vet will conduct a complete physical exam to help assess your cat's symptoms and carry out a urinalysis to get further insight into your cat's condition. Ultrasound, radiographs, blood work, and urine culture may also be necessary for an accurate diagnosis.
Treatment for Feline Urinary Tract Disease
Urinary issues in cats can be complex and serious, so the first thing to do is to visit your veterinarian for immediate care. The underlying cause of your cat's urinary symptoms will dictate which treatment is prescribed, but may include:
- Increasing your kitty's water intake
- Veterinarian-prescribed antibiotics or medication for symptom relief
- Modifying your cat's diet
- Expelling small stones through the urethra
- Urinary acidifiers
- Fluid therapy
- Urinary catheter or surgery to remove urethral blocks (male cats)
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.