Urinary Tract Infections in Cats

While urinary tract infections aren't common in cats, our feline friends can still develop a range of urinary tract conditions in their senior years. Here, our Glendale vets talk about urinary tract infections and diseases in cats, including the symptoms and treatments available.

Urinary Tract Infections in Cats

Even though it's common for cats to develop urinary tract problems, your kitty has a higher chance of getting a urinary tract disease over an infection.

However, when cats do get urinary tract infections (a UTI) they are generally the result of an endocrine disease such as hyperthyroidism or diabetes mellitus. Also, cats that suffer from UTIs are usually over 10 years of age.

If your cat is exhibiting symptoms of a urinary tract infection (see below) and your vet diagnoses them with an infection such as cystitis, your kitty will be prescribed an antibacterial to help fight the 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, and urinating around the house, outside of the litter box.

If your cat is displaying any of the symptoms detailed above they might have a UTI, however, these symptoms may also be a sign of a feline lower urinary tract disease or FLUTD.

Feline Urinary Tract Disease - FLUTD

FLUTD, Feline lower urinary tract disease is actually an umbrella term that refers to numerous clinical symptoms. FLUTD can cause issues in your cat’s urethra and bladder, often resulting in an obstruction in the urethra, or preventing your cat from being able to empty their bladder properly. If these conditions are left untreated they can become serious or potentially life threatening.

Urinating can be difficult, painful, or impossible for cats suffering from FLUTD. 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).

The Causes of Feline Urinary Tract Disease

Diagnosing and treating FLUTD can be a complex process because 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.

Below we have listed a few other common causes of lower urinary tract issues in cats:

  • Emotional or environmental stressors
  • Incontinence due to excessive water consumption or weak bladder
  • Bladder infection, inflammation, urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Injury or tumor in the urinary tract
  • Spinal cord issues
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Urethral plug caused by the accumulation 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 furry friend has been diagnosed with FLUTD it's imperative for the underlying causes to be determined. The symptoms of FLUTD could be brought on by serious underlying health problems like bladder stones, a blockage, an infection, or cancer.

Your cat might be diagnosed with a urinary tract infection called cystitis (which is inflammation of the bladder) if your vet can't determine the cause of your cat's FLUTD.

Feline Urinary Tract Disease Symptoms in Cats

Your kitty may display one or more of these symptoms if they have FLUTD or a cat urinary tract infection:

  • Strong ammonia odor in urine
  • Urinating more than usual or in inappropriate settings
  • Inability to urinate
  • Urinating small amounts
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Avoidance or fear of litter box
  • Cloudy or bloody urine
  • Hard or distended abdomen
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive licking of the genital area
  • Drinking more water than usual
  • Vomiting

It’s imperative for any urinary or bladder problem to be treated as early as possible. If there is a delay in your cat's treatment, their urethra may become partially or completely obstructed, which could prevent your kitty from being able to urinate.

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.

Diagnosing Feline Urinary Tract Disease

Cats suffering from urinary tract infections or FLUTD require veterinary care. If your feline friend is exhibiting any of the above symptoms it's time to take them to the vet. You also need to call your vet or take your kitty to the nearest emergency vet as soon as possible if your cat is straining to urinate or crying out in pain because they might be having a veterinary emergency.

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 kitty's condition. Your vet might also conduct a radiograph, blood work, and urine culture.

Cats Recovering From Urinary Tract Infections

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
  • Increasing your kitty's water consumption
  • Expelling of small stones through the urethra
  • Modified diet
  • Fluid therapy
  • Urinary acidifiers
  • Urinary catheter or 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.

If you think your cat may have a urinary tract infection contact our vets at Limehouse Veterinary Clinic in Glendale immediately to schedule an appointment or call the closest emergency vet hospital.