While cat urinary tract infections are rare compared to how often they happen in dogs, older cats can experience numerous other urinary tract issues that lead to similar symptoms. In this post, our Baltimore vets list symptoms, causes and treatments for urinary tract infections and diseases in cats.
Urinary Tract Infections in Cats
Though cats often experience urinary tract issues, our furry feline companions are more susceptible to urinary tract disease than infections.
When cats do develop urinary tract infections, they also often suffer from endocrine diseases such as diabetes mellitus and hyperthyroidism. Most of these cats are also seniors - 10 years of age or older.
If your cat is showing symptoms of a urinary tract infection (see these listed below) and is diagnosed with an infection such as cystitis, your veterinarian will prescribe an antibacterial to help treat your cat's UTI.
The most common symptoms of urinary tract infection in cats include pain or discomfort when urinating, straining to urinate, reduced amounts of urine or not urinating at all, passing blood-tinged urine and urinating around the house, outside of the litter box.
If your cat is displaying any of these symptoms, they might be suffering from a UTI. However, these signs can also point to a feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).
Feline Urinary Tract Disease - FLUTD
Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is an umbrella term that covers many clinical symptoms. The disease can cause issues in your cat's urethra and bladder, often causing obstructions in the urethra or preventing your cat's bladder from emptying properly. Left untreated, these conditions can turn serious or even life-threatening.
For cats suffering from FLUTD, urinating can become difficult, painful or even impossible. They may also urinate more frequently, or in unusual or inappropriate areas outside their litter box (occasionally on surfaces that are cool to the touch such as a bathtub or tile floor).
Causes of Feline Urinary Tract Disease
This complex condition can be challenging to diagnose and treat, since multiple causes and factors can contribute to the disease. Stones, crystals or debris can gradually accumulate inside your cat's urethra (the tube connecting the bladder to the outside of your cat's body) or bladder.
Other common causes of lower urinary tract problems in cats are:
- Environmental or emotional stressors
- Injury or tumor in the urinary tract
- Spinal cord issues
- Congenital abnormalities
- Incontinence due to excessive water consumption or weak bladder
- Bladder inflammation, infection or urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Urethral plug due to a buildup of debris from urine
Urinary tract disease in cats is most often diagnosed in overweight, middle-aged cats who have little to no access to outdoors, eat a dry food diet or do not get enough physical activity, although cats of any age can get the condition. Male cats are also more prone to urinary diseases since their narrower urethras are more likely to become blocked.
Using an indoor litter box, emotional or environmental stress, multi-cat households or sudden changes to their everyday routine can also leave cats more vulnerable to urinary tract disease.
If your kitty is diagnosed with FLUTD it is essential to determine the underlying cause. FLUTD symptoms can be caused by serious underlying health issues such as bladder stones or infection to cancer or a blockage.
If your vet is unable to determine the cause of your cat's FLUTD, your kitty may be diagnosed with a urinary tract infection called cystitis which is inflammation of the bladder.
Symptoms of Feline Urinary Tract Disease in Cats
If your cat has FLUTD or a cat urinary tract infection you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Loss of bladder control
- Inability to urinate
- Urinating small amounts
- Urinating more than usual or in inappropriate settings
- Avoidance or fear of litter box
- Hard or distended abdomen
- Drinking more water than usual
- Excessive licking of genital area
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Strong ammonia odor in urine
It’s critical that any bladder or urinary issue be treated as early as possible. Delays in treatment could lead to your cat's urethra becoming partially or completely obstructed, which can prevent your feline friend from urinating.
The symptoms above indicate a serious medical issue that could quickly lead to kidney failure or rupture of the bladder. FLUTD can quickly be fatal if there is an obstruction that is not eliminated immediately.
Diagnosis of 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 perform a complete physical exam to help assess your cat's symptoms and perform a urinalysis to get further insight into your cat's condition. Radiographs, blood work and a urine culture may also need to be done.
Cat Urinary Tract Infection Recovery
Urinary issues in cats can be complex and serious, so the first step should be to make an appointment with your veterinarian for immediate care. The underlying cause of your cat's urinary symptoms will dictate which treatment is prescribed, but may include:
- Antibiotics or medication to relieve symptoms
- Modified diet
- Expelling of small stones through the urethra
- Increasing your kitty's water consumption
- Urinary catheter or surgery for male cats to remove urethral blocks
- Urinary acidifiers
- Fluid therapy
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.