Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

If you notice your cat attempting to urinate frequently with little result, if you observe blood in the urine, or if your cat uses areas outside the litter box such as sinks, bathtubs or floors, your cat could be having a urinary tract issue. Veterinary attention is important. The veterinarian will perform urinalysis to diagnose the problem and provide treatment.

Female cats are more prone to bladder infections than male cats, while male cats are more likely to have a urethral blockage issue than female cats.

A change in diet to acidify the urine to the proper pH value of 6 to 6.5 should be ongoing for cat urinary tract health. Antibiotics may be prescribed or immediate treatment may be necessary, if the infection is connected to a blockage of the urethra or to kidney stones.

Time Frame
A blocked urethra could result in death within 24 hours, if left untreated by a qualified veterinarian. Treatment for crystals in the urine and recovery from a blocked condition may take 8 weeks or more.

Antibiotics are prescribed for bacterial infections of the bladder and kidneys. Catheterization due to obstruction of the urethra allows urine to pass out of the body and clears impacted crystallized minerals and sloughed dead cells that are causing the blockage. A change in diet is prescribed for increasing the acidity of the urine produced by the kidneys, in an effort to break up magnesium ammonium phosphate crystals.

Make fresh water available to your cat at all times to encourage hydration. Keep litter boxes clean; cats do not like to use a dirty litter box and may hold onto urine too long, leading to irritation of the bladder wall and infection. Feed your cat a diet designed for urinary tract health. Feed your cat several small meals through the day or allow free feeding on dry food, rather than one or two large meals.

Urinary tract infection (UTI) issues are more common in a cat undergoing stress, such as moving to a new home. A stressed cat is likely to hide and not drink water or use the litter box as often as the cat would when not stressed. These actions put a strain on the urinary tract and can lead to infection or irritation of the bladder and urethral tissues.

Feline Interstitial Cystitis (FIC)

Feline interstitial cystitis, sometimes called feline idiopathic cystitis or FIC, is an inflammation of the bladder that causes symptoms of lower urinary tract disease. However, in the case of interstitial cystitis, a definitive cause for the disease cannot be identified.

Feline interstitial cystitis can occur in both female and male cats. It is a chronic disease that can be difficult to treat and frustrating for cats and cat owners alike.

Symptoms and Types
Symptoms associated with interstitial cystitis include:

  • Frequent attempts to urinate
  • Straining to urinate
  • Urinating in inappropriate places in the house
  • Crying out during attempts to urinate
  • Blood-tinged urine
  • Causes
    Though the cause of feline interstitial cystitis is not fully understood, stress and the changes inherent in the body as a result of stress are thought to play a large part in interstitial cystitis. Some researchers believe that interstitial cystitis is only one of the manifestations seen in cats suffering from stress and may only be the “tip of iceberg” in terms of symptoms that may be caused by stress. Abnormalities have also been found in the nervous, endocrine and cardiovascular systems of cats in addition to the urinary system. It remains unknown why some cats develop symptoms of FIC and others do not.

    Diagnosis relies on ruling out other diseases that may cause similar symptoms, such as urinary tract infections, bladder stones, and other bladder abnormalities in cats. Testing that is frequently performed include:

  • A blood screen, including a complete blood cell count (which examines the different types of cells circulating in the blood stream, such as red blood cells and white blood cells) and chemistry profile (which is useful in evaluating the function of major organs such as the liver and kidneys)
  • A urinalysis, which checks for abnormalities in the urine, including blood, crystals, protein and other abnormal substances as well as testing the pH (which determines how acidic the urine is), and the urine specific gravity (which determines whether the urine is concentrated or not)
  • An abdominal X-ray and/or an ultrasound exam of the bladder to rule out stones and other abnormal structures in the bladder
  • Treatment
    Treatment consists primarily of modifying the environment to help reduce stress levels, dietary modifications, medications for pain, and other pharmaceuticals that may alter your cat’s mental state.

    Multi-modal environmental modifications (MEMO) is the term that is used to describe altering the cat’s environment in an attempt to reduce the cat’s stress level. See the Living and Management section below for more information about MEMO.

    Pain medications are often used in treating interstitial cystitis to relieve the discomfort caused by the inflammation within the bladder and urinary tract and make your cat more comfortable while urinating.

    Dietary modifications are often necessary and you should follow your veterinarian’s directions if a special diet is recommended. Increasing water consumption is an important part of treatment and feeding canned food, when possible, will help increase the moisture content in your cat’s diet.

    Pheromones such as Feliway are often recommended to help reduce stress levels for your cat.

    Other medications that your veterinarian may advise include amitriptyline, clomipramine or fluoxetine, all of which are antidepressants. These medications are generally reserved for cases where MEMO, dietary modifications and pain medications have failed to help.

    Living and Management
    MEMO involves providing for all of your cat’s basic needs.

    Litter box management is a necessary part of environmental modification.

  • Provide an adequate number of litter boxes. There should be one more litter box than the number of cats in the household.
  • Most cats prefer a large litter box over a smaller one.
  • Make sure the sides of the litter boxes are not too high for your cat. This is especially important for older cats that may suffer from arthritis or other mobility issues and for young kittens.
  • Choose an appropriate litter for your cat. The ideal litter is dust-free and fragrance-free. Strongly scented litters may be pleasant for you but not for your cat. You may have experiment with different types of litters to find the one your cat prefers.
  • Be sure to clean the litter boxes frequently.
  • Place all litter boxes in a quiet location where your cat will not be disturbed or frightened when using the box.
  • Provide feeding and water stations that are accessible for all cats in your household. If you have more than one cat, you may need to provide more than one feeding and water station.
  • Cats prefer perches, preferably at eye-level or above, on which to rest and observe their surroundings. Be sure to provide an adequate number of perches for all the cats in your household. Consider placing one or more of these perches near a window for your cat’s enjoyment.

    All cats need hiding places. Your cat should have a place to retreat where he will not be disturbed by people or by other pets. In a multi-cat household, be sure there is an adequate number of hiding places for all cats.

    Provide interactive toys for your cat. Food puzzles are also helpful to provide distraction for your cat and also provide exercise.