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How to Care for a Cat With a Urinary Tract Infection

While urinary tract infections in cats are not especially common, when they do happen it is usually in senior cats or cats with another illness impacting their urinary tract in combination with the infection. Read this post from our Perry vets for more information about symptoms, causes, and available treatments for urinary tract infections and diseases in cats. 

How common are urinary tract infections in cats? 

While veterinarians frequently diagnose cats with urinary issues, our feline friends are more prone to urinary tract disease than infection. Cats that do develop urinary tract infections often suffer from endocrine diseases such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus. These kitties are also typically 10 years of age or older. 

If your cat is displaying symptoms of a urinary tract infection (see the list below) and is diagnosed with an infection such as cystitis, your vet may prescribe an antibacterial to fight the infection. 

Symptoms of urinary tract infections in cats include pain or discomfort when urinating, not urinating at all, releasing reduced amounts of urine, straining to urinate or passing urine tinged with blood (pink-ish color urine). 

That said, many feline lower urinary tract diseases (FLUTD) may cause your cat to display the symptoms of urinary tract infection listed above. 

What is feline urinary tract disease (FLUTD)? 

FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease) refers to numerous clinical symptoms that can trigger issues in your cat's bladder and urethra, often causing the urethra to become blocked or preventing your cat's bladder from emptying properly. Left untreated, an FLUTD condition can be fatal to a cat. 

Urinating may be difficult, painful or impossible for your cat if they are 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 bathtub or tile floor). 

What causes feline urinary tract disease?

FLUTD is a complex condition to diagnose and treat, as multiple causes and contributing factors can play a role. Over time, crystals, debris or stones can build up in your cat's urethra (the tube that connects the bladder to the outside of your cat's body) or bladder. 

Other potential causes of lower urinary tract issues in cats include:

  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Spinal cord problems
  • Tumor or injury within the urinary tract 
  • Environmental or emotional stressors 
  • Incontinence due to excessive water consumption or weak bladder 
  • Bladder infection, inflammation or urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Urethral plug caused by accumulation of debris from urine 

Overweight, middle-aged cats that have little or no access to the outdoors or that do not get enough physical activity are at higher risk for urinary tract disease. A dry diet may also be a contributing factor. However, cats of any age can develop the condition. Male cats are also more prone to urinary diseases than females, since their urethras are more narrow and are therefore more likely to become blocked. 

Other factors such as 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 cat is suffering from FLUTD it is essential to determine the underlying cause. FLUTD symptoms can be caused by a number of serious conditions such as bladder stones or infection to cancer or a blockage.

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

What are the common symptoms of urinary tract disease in cats?

If you suspect your cat has FLUTD or a urinary tract infection, watch for common symptoms, such as:

  • 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

It’s critical that any bladder or urinary issue be treated straight away. If left untreated, urinary issues in cats can cause the urethra to become partially or completely obstructed, which can prevent your feline friend from urinating.

This is a medical emergency that can quickly lead to kidney failure or rupture of the bladder. It may also be fatal if the obstruction is not eliminated immediately.

How is cat urinary tract disease diagnosed and treated?

If you believe that your kitty may be having problems with their lower urinary tract, this can be a medical emergency. See your vet for immediate attention, especially if your kitty is straining to urinate or crying out in pain.

Your veterinarian 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. Ultrasound, radiographs, blood work, and a urine culture may also need to be done.

Urinary Tract Infections & Your Cat's Recovery

Urinary issues in cats can be both complex and serious, so the first step should be to contact your veterinarian for immediate care. The underlying cause of your cat's urinary symptoms will dictate which treatment is prescribed, but may include:

  • Increasing your kitty's water consumption
  • Antibiotics or medication to relieve symptoms
  • Modified diet
  • Expelling of small stones through urethra
  • Urinary acidifiers
  • Fluid therapy
  • Urinary catheter or surgery for male cats to remove urethral blocks

Generally, you'll be able to take care of your cat at home with one or more prescription medications, provided your kitty has received treatment from a vet. Your vet may also recommend a canned food diet.

Most cats will make a full recovery within 7-10 days of developing a urinary tract infection. However, they may need to stay on a canned diet for longer. Your vet may request a urine sample after treatment to determine whether all the bacteria are gone. 

Occasionally, cats will develop recurring urinary tract infections. Cats with recurring UTIs often require more testing to determine the underlying cause. 

Urinary tract infections or feline lower urinary tract disease require immediate care. Contact our Perry vets today to book an urgent exam for your feline friend if they are displaying signs of these conditions.

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Looking for quality veterinary care in a warm and friendly atmosphere? Westmoreland & Slappey Animal Hospital in Perry, GA is accepting new patients! Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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