Urinary Tract Infections in Cats

While urinary tract infections aren't as common in cats as they are in dogs, there are still a handful of urinary tract conditions that your feline friend can develop. In this blog, our Jacksonville vets talk about the symptoms and causes of urinary tract infections in cats as well as other urinary conditions. 

Cat Urinary Tract Infection

Although urinary tract issues are often seen in cats, your cat is more likely to suffer from a urinary tract disease rather than an infection.

However, when cats do get urinary tract infections (a UTI) they are generally caused by endocrine diseases such as diabetes mellitus or hyperthyroidism. Also, cats that are 10 years of age or older typically suffer from UTIs more than younger cats.

If your feline friend is showing 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.

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 kitty is exhibiting 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

Did you know that FLUTD, Feline lower urinary tract disease is an umbrella term for various clinical symptoms? FLUTD can cause problems in your kitty's bladder and urethra, often making the urethra obstructed, or keeping your cat's bladder from properly emptying. If these issues go without treatment, they can become serious or potentially life-threatening.

Urinating can be difficult, painful, or impossible for cats suffering from FLUTD. They might also urinate more often, or in inappropriate areas outside their litter box (generally on cool-to-touch surfaces like tile floors or bathtubs).

Causes of Feline Urinary Tract Disease

FLUTD is a complex 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.

Some other common causes of lower urinary tract issues in cats include:

  • Bladder infection, inflammation, urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Emotional or environmental stressors
  • Incontinence due to excessive water consumption or weak bladder
  • Urethral plug caused by the accumulation of debris from urine
  • Spinal cord issues
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Injury or tumor in the urinary tract

Most of the time urinary tract disease is diagnosed in cats that are overweight, middle-aged cats, have little to no access to the outdoors, have a dry food diet, or don't receive enough physical activity, but cats of all ages can develop this problem. Male cats are also at a higher risk of getting urinary diseases because their urethras are narrower and 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 cat has been diagnosed with FLUTD it's very important to find out what the underlying cause is. FLUTD symptoms could be triggered by serious underlying health problems such as a blockage, bladder stones, an infection, or cancer.

If your vet can't figure out what is causing your cat's FLUTD, your feline friend might 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:

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

It's very important for any urinary or bladder problems to be treated as fast as possible. Any delay in treatment may result in a partially or completely obstructed urethra that could prevent your kitty from urinating.

All of these symptoms above could be a sign of a serious medical problem that could quickly lead to rupture of the bladder or kidney failure. FLUTD can quickly be fatal if there is an obstruction that is not eliminated immediately.

Diagnosis of Feline Urinary Tract Disease

Urinary tract infections and FLUTD in cats have to be addressed by a veterinarian. If your cat is exhibiting any of the symptoms above you need to bring them to the vet. If your cat is straining to urinate or crying out in pain contact your vet, or the nearest emergency vet as soon as possible - your cat may be experiencing 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. Radiographs, blood work, and urine culture might also have to be completed.

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:

  • Modified diet
  • Increasing your kitty's water consumption
  • Urinary acidifiers
  • Antibiotics or medication to relieve symptoms
  • Fluid therapy
  • Expelling of small stones through the urethra
  • 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.

Contact our vets in Jacksonville immediately or bring your kitty to the emergency veterinary hospital that is closest to you, if they are showing signs of a urinary tract infection.