A Guide to Feline Urinary Tract Infections

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is quite a common complaint for cats to experience at some point in their lives. In general, middle-aged and older cats are more susceptible but this largely depends on the overall health of the cat.

Cat UTI’s can occur for many different reasons and present with a range of symptoms. Finding and treating the root cause will be the most effective long-term approach to treatment and preventing future infections.

However, it is possible that the root cause may not be identified. This is classified as idiopathic cat cystitis, which is a surprisingly common type of FLUTD.

Signs of cat UTI

If your cat doesn’t use a litter tray and does its peeing and pooping outside, you will struggle to notice the first signs of a UTI. A cat not peeing is usually obvious if you are present when they urinate or can check their litter tray daily.

It is important to note that FLUTD in a serious condition requiring prompt treatment from a qualified veterinarian. If you are worried your cat may be experiencing difficulties with urination, seek veterinary assistance without delay.

The signs to look out for include:

  • Straining with urination
  • Inability to urinate
  • Only passing small amounts of urine
  • Going in and out of litter tray
  • Over-grooming of genital region
  • Trying to urinate but no urine present
  • Blood in urine
  • Vocalisation when urinating
  • Urinating in inappropriate places
  • Increased water consumption
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting

Causes of feline UTIs

There are many reasons behind your cat’s urinary difficulties. However, there is a difference between struggling to urinate and no urinating at all. If your cat has a complete blockage it can be fatal and requires immediate medical intervention.

Some of the possible causes of FLUTD include the following:

  • Bladder stones
  • Other blockages in bladder or urethra
  • Infection
  • Injury or trauma to the affected areas
  • Stress
  • Mineral imbalance
  • Anatomical abnormalities
  • Tumour within the urinary tract which may be cancerous
  • Inflammation of the bladder and/or urinary tract
  • Inherited abnormality
  • Spinal cord issues

Illnesses that may contribute to the occurrence of FLUTD include diabetes and hyperthyroidism.

How is cat cystitis diagnosed?

Cystitis can only be diagnosed by a qualified veterinary surgeon. In order to establish a diagnosis, a vet will need to see your cat.

After reviewing your cat’s clinical history and hearing the presenting symptoms, your vet will physically examine your cat. Your vet is also likely to undertake any of the following tests, as these will help to ensure an accurate diagnosis:

  • Blood test
  • Urine test
  • X-ray and/or ultrasound scan

Often your vet will be able to establish a blockage purely on physical examination of the bladder. However, to be certain it is common to want to scan or x-ray the area to confirm the location of the blockage. This will help your vet decide the best course of treatment.

If there doesn’t appear to be a blockage, your vet will likely take a blood test to look for signs of infection or any other potential red flags.

Cat cystitis treatment

If the cause of your cats urinary difficulties are unknown (idiopathic cat cystitis), your vet will likely prescribe drugs such as pain relief and possibly antibiotics if there is evidence of an infection.

However, cat’s experiencing a complete block will need to be admitted for treatment which will usually be under sedation or anaesthetic.

If the blockage is a stone, the favoured procedure is to use a urinary catheter to clear the blockage or an operation known as cystotomy which involves directly removing the stones from the bladder.

Recovery very much depends on the severity of the condition and the treatment given. If you cat had to undergo an operation, they may have to be hospitalised for several days.

If an underlying condition has been found, then further treatment may be given. These include prescription diets and other medications.

Once you cat is home, keep an eye on them for a few weeks and ideally use a litter tray so you can monitor the situation.