Cat Urinary Tract Infections & Disease

While urinary tract infections in cats are rare, our feline friends do commonly experience other urinary tract issues. Here our Tucson vets explain the symptoms, causes and treatments for urinary tract infections and diseases in cats.

Cat Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)

Unlike dogs (which frequently experience urinary tract infections) cats are much more likely to experience diseases of the urinary tract.

When cats do develop urinary tract infections (UTIs) the infection is often a secondary condition associated with underlying endocrine diseases, such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus, and cats suffering from UTIs tend to be 10 years of age or older.

If your kitty is displaying symptoms of a urinary tract infection (see below) and is diagnosed with an infection such as cystitis your veterinarian will prescribe an antibacterial to help fight your cat's UTI.

Symptoms of UTIs in Cats

The most common signs that your cat may have a urinary tract infection include:

  • Straining to urinate
  • Reduced amounts of urine
  • Not urinating at all
  • Signs of pain or discomfort when urinating
  • Passing urine tinged with blood (pink-ish color urine)
  • Urinating around the house (outside of the litter box)

Although it's possible that an infection may indeed be the cause of your cat's symptoms there are also a number of feline lower urinary tract diseases (FLUTD) that could be causing your kitty to display the UTI symptoms listed above. 

FLUTD - Feline Urinary Tract Disease

Feline lower urinary tract disease or FLUTD is actually an umbrella term that refers to numerous clinical symptoms that point to problems somewhere within the cat's urinary tract or bladder.

FLUTD can cause issues in your kitty’s urethra and bladder. These issues can cause your cat's urethra to become obstructed, or prevent your cat's bladder from emptying properly. FLUTD conditions can become serious or even life-threatening if left untreated.

If your cat is suffering from FLUTD, urinating can be difficult, painful or even impossible. They may also urinate more frequently, or in inappropriate areas outside their litter box (occasionally on surfaces that are cool to the touch such as a tile floor or bathtub).

Causes of Feline Urinary Tract Disease

FLUTD can be a very tricky condition to diagnose and treat since there are multiple causes and contributing factors to 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.

Other causes of lower urinary tract issues in cats include:

  • Incontinence due to excessive water consumption (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 (birth defects)
  • Emotional stressors
  • Environmental factors

Urinary tract diseases are 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, however, cats of any age can develop the condition. Male cats are also more prone to urinary diseases since they have narrower urethras that are more easily blocked. 

Using an indoor litter box, emotional or environmental stress, multi-cat households or sudden changes to everyday routines can also increase the risk of urinary tract disease in cats.

If your kitty is diagnosed with FLUTD it is essential to determine the underlying cause. Symptoms may be caused by serious underlying health issues such as bladder stones or infection due to cancer or a blockage.

If your vet is unable to determine the cause of your cat's FLUTD symptoms, your pet may be diagnosed with a urinary tract infection called cystitis which is inflammation of your cat's bladder.

Symptoms of Feline Urinary Tract Disease in Cats

Cats suffering from FLUTD conditions or a urinary tract infection may experience one or more of 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
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting

Bladder or urinary issues must be treated as early as possible to avoid serious complications. The symptoms above indicate a serious medical issue that could quickly lead to kidney failure or rupture of the bladder. FLUTD can be fatal if there is an obstruction that is not eliminated immediately.

Diagnosing Feline Urinary Tract Disease

If you believe that your cat is having problems with their lower urinary tract, contact your vet right away, especially if your kitty is straining to urinate or showing signs of pain.

Your vet will perform a complete physical exam to assess your cat's symptoms and perform a urinalysis to get further insight into your cat's condition. Ultrasound, radiographs, blood work and a urine culture may also need be done to pinpoint the precise cause of your kitty's health issue.

Treatment for Feline Urinary Tract Disease

Urinary issues in cats can be complex and serious, so the first step should be to visit your vet for immediate care. The underlying cause of your cat's urinary symptoms will dictate the best treatment for your kitty and may include:

  • Increasing your cat's water consumption
  • Antibiotics or medication to relieve symptoms
  • Prescription diet
  • Expelling of small stones through urethra
  • Urinary acidifiers
  • Fluid therapy (IV)
  • Urinary catheter
  • Surgery for male cats to remove urethral blocks

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.

Urinary tract issues in cats are very serious health concerns! If your cat is displaying symptoms of a UTI or FLUTD condition contact our Tucson specialty vets today to book an examination for your feline friend. If you cat is in need of urgent emergency care head over to our Tucson emergency animal hospital straight away. 

Cat Urinary Tract Infections & Disease

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