Cats can suffer from the occasional urinary tract infection, or UTI, just like we humans do. We know just how uncomfortable having a UTI can be, and it can be even more irritating for cats because of their litter box - especially when they can’t tell their cat parents about it!
We’ll cover the symptoms of UTI in cats, why they happen and the causes, and what you can do to help your cat suffering from UTI.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Symptoms of Cat UTI
2. Who is more prone to UTI?
3. What are the Causes of Cat UTI?
4. How is Cat UTI Diagnosed?
5. What is Cat FLUTD?
6. What cats are at risk for Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease?
7. What are the causes of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease?
8. How is Cat UTI and FLUTD Treated?
9. What happens if a cat’s UTI goes untreated?
10. Frequently Asked Questions
Cat UTI is often confused with Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD), which is characterized by abnormal, frequent passage of urine, painful urination, blood in the urine, or accidentally urinating even when litter trained - some very similar symptoms to that of UTI.
Surprisingly, UTI is very rare in cats and usually occurs in senior cats aged 10 years and above, but can still occur in cats of all ages.
FLUTD can occur in both female and male cats. In the U.S., approximately 0.5 to 1 percent of domestic cats are reported to show signs of difficult or painful urination and blood in the urine. This can also occur at any age but is most prevalent in cats between the ages of one and four years old.
Symptoms of Cat UTI
So, how do you know if your cat has a urine infection? One of the most common symptoms that cats experience is bloody urine and a change in urination habits, such as not urinating in the litterbox or urinating in inappropriate places.
Female cats who suffer from UTI often have very similar symptoms to that of FLUTD, and may also tend to look for soft places to urinate.
With that, you might find yourself thinking, “What are the symptoms of a urinary tract infection in cats?”
Some of the symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection in cats are:
- Blood in the urine
- Drinking more water than usual
- Increased frequency of urination or time spent at the litterbox
- Not eating much as usual or loss of appetite
- Strained or painful urination
- Passing small amounts of urine frequently
- Stronger urine odor
- Crying out when urinating or showing signs of pain during urination
Who is more prone to UTI?
Generally, older aged cats are much more prone to UTI than the younger ones. If a young feline is showing signs of UTI, you may want to have him get checked up as it may be a much more serious underlying cause, such as feline idiopathic cystitis or kidney stones.
Both females and older male cats can get a UTI, however, a UTI in males is much more severe and dangerous simply due to the male anatomy.
The narrower urethra in a male can quickly become a blocked urethra with the formation of crystals from urine if a cat has a high pH with UTI.
What are the Causes of Cat UTI?
Urinary tract disorders are very pervasive in cats, but urinary tract infections are very uncommon in cats. If you think your cat may be experiencing any condition related to the Lower Urinary Tract, it is best to consult your veterinarian.
Cat UTI is caused by bacteria in the urinary tract and the urethra of a cat. When bacteria enter through the cat’s urethra and into the bladder, it can result in bacterial cystitis.
In severe cases, bacteria can enter the ureters in the kidneys and cause pyelonephritis.
Some of the causes of cat UTI are:
- Accumulation of crystals or stones
- Bladder inflammation or infection
- Congenital abnormality
- Incontinence from excessive water or a weak bladder
- Injury or a tumor in the urinary tract
- Spinal cord issues
How is Cat UTI Diagnosed?
Urinary tract diseases, or urinary tract infection, is diagnosed by your vet by performing a complete physical exam, and including a urinalysis and possibly blood work, urine culture, radiographs or ultrasound to take preventative measures in case it may be a much more severe condition.
What is Cat FLUTD?
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, or FLUTD, describes an array of conditions that may affect the urinary tract of a cat, including the bladder and urethra.
The symptoms of feline lower urinary tract disease are very much similar to that of UTI, merely because they are both directly related to the urinary tract.
What cats are at risk for Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease?
While feline urinary tract disease may occur at any age, certain factors increase the risk of contracting it.
Some factors that may increase the risk of developing the disease include:
- Abrupt changes in the daily routine
- Dry cat food diet
- Emotional stress
- Environmental stress
- Have little or no access to the outdoors
- Many cats residing in the same household
- Middle-aged cats
- Overweight cats
- Use indoor litter boxes
What are the causes of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease?
1. Feline Idiopathic Cystitis
Feline idiopathic cystitis or FIC, is also referred to as interstitial cystitis, and is a diagnosis of exclusion - a diagnosis that is made after all other diseases have been ruled out of the question.
No specific test can be done to diagnose feline idiopathic cystitis, and almost 40-50% of cats have relapses of the disease within a single year.
FIC is one of the most common diagnoses found in cats that are aged younger than 10 years old and with urinary tract disease.
Changes in the diet and stress can increase the risk of the disease, and your veterinarian may advise to feed only canned food and reduce the amount of stress the cat is experiencing.
2. Urolithiasis or Urinary Stones
Urinary stones or uroliths, may be a possible cause for feline lower urinary tract disease. Often these stones are found in the bladder or the urethra and are a collection of minerals, the most common being calcium oxalate and struvite.
There are unique, stone-dissolving diets that vets may prescribe to dissolve struvite stones, however, calcium oxalate stones are required to be removed surgically and may be the same if the diet fails for struvite stones.
A female cat may have its bladder flushed with sterile liquids or the vet may remove small stones from the bladder with a cystoscope if under anesthesia.
The male cat’s anatomy does not allow this, and only diet or surgery is an option for male cats suffering from urolithiasis. A diet is often prescribed to prevent recurrence ones the stones have been removed.
3. Urinary Infection
A urinary infection is an infection in a feline’s urinary tract often with bacteria, fungi, parasites, or viruses. The most common of these is a bacterial infection.
Oddly, urinary infections are quite uncommon in cats because of the acidity content and concentration of the cat’s urine.
The risk factors are increased with urinary stones, diabetes, and kidney disease and much more common for senior cats aged 10 years and above due to the change of acidity brought on by the conditions developed as a cat age.
Treatment of cat urinary infections depends on the severity and resistance of the infection and the organism that caused the infection and is often treated with antibiotics, fluid therapy, or urinary acidifiers.
4. Urethral Obstruction
Urethral obstruction, or a blocked urethra, can be fatal and requires immediate veterinary care. Cats with this condition strain significantly when urinating and can produce only little to no urine at all.
It may be prevalent that the cat may also be constipated and strain to pass stool as well. Urethral obstruction is often caused by the accumulation of urethral stones or urethral plugs.
A blocked urethra is very common in male cats than it is in females, but females may still experience this condition too if left untreated and stones accumulate.
Once the urethra is blocked, the kidneys can no longer remove toxins from the blood or maintain balanced electrolytes and fluids. When left untreated, results can be fatal and often results in heart failure within 24-48 hours.
Blocked urethras are often treated by removing the obstruction by flushing a sterile solution through a narrow tube in the urethra.
Post-treatment will depend on the condition of the cat after the obstruction has been removed, and intravenous fluid therapy often follows to treat dehydration and imbalance of electrolytes. Antibiotics are then prescribed to prevent further infection and restore the full function of the bladder.
If medical treatment results in recurring urethral obstruction, perineal urethrostomy is often done. This is a surgical procedure that is done only as a last resort, as the side effects may include bleeding, increased risk of urinary tract infection, narrowing at the site where the surgical procedure was performed, and urinary incontinence.
How is Cat UTI and FLUTD Treated?
Urinary tract disease varies feline to feline, and sometimes the symptoms and signs can be so subtle that they often go unnoticed. If you suspect your cat might be experiencing a urinary tract disease, it is best to get treatment from your vet immediately.
Treatment options will vary depending on the severity of the infection and prognosis, but are commonly treated with:
- Antibiotics or other prescribed medications
- Changes to the cat’s diet
- Fluid therapy
- Increased water intake
- Removal of small stones through the urethra
- Surgery to remove larger sized stones, tumors, or to correct any congenital abnormalities
- Urinary acidifiers
- Urinary catheter or surgery in male cats with blocked urethras
What happens if a cat’s UTI goes untreated?
If a cat suffering from UTI or FLUTD goes untreated, the cat may experience dangerous health hazards such as partial or even complete obstruction of the urethra which will prevent the cat from being able to urinate.
This is a severe medical condition that may rupture the bladder or lead to kidney failure. If the obstructed urethra remains untreated, the results can be fatal.
Urethral obstruction, or the obstruction of the urethra, is much more commonly found in male cats than females, due to the narrower anatomy of the male urethra. The most distinct symptom of urethral obstruction is little, or unable to pass urine at all.
It is also possible for a cat’s UTI to further develop into Kidney Disease, which can cause even further complications.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Will a cat UTI go away?
Yes, a cat’s UTI can go away with the proper treatment. However, even if the symptoms seem to just “go away” on its own, it is still better to be sure. Any leftover bacteria from a urinary tract infection can move up into the kidneys and cause further damage.
It is recommended that you follow all the steps advised by your vet, as well as complete any medications prescribed to ensure that the bacteria has been fully cleared from the body’s system.
2. What can I do at home to prevent UTI or FLUTD?
To reduce the chances of the recurrence if your cat has UTI or FLUTD, you can do the following:
- Consult your vet about the ideal diet for your cat, preferably canned food.
- Give smaller meals, but frequently.
- Keep litter boxes clean by scooping twice a day and changing litter weekly or as often as needed.
- Provide clean and fresh water that is readily available for your cat.
- Provide more than one litter boxes especially if you are in a multi-cat household and with different litter as some cats prefer specific litter over others, this reduces stress.
- Minimize or avoid any sudden, and significant changes in your cat’s routine.
- Reduce your cat’s overall stress.
3. Can a cat get a urinary tract infection from a dirty litter box?
Yes, a cat can get a urinary tract infection from a dirty litter box - especially in a house with many cats using one, or very few litter boxes. A dirty litter box is a welcome call for bacteria, infection, and parasites of all sorts.
Many viruses are spread through feline contact in the form of feces, saliva, or urine, and you can just about find all 3 from an unclean litter box. However, contracting a UTI from a litter box can be rare.
Cats are very well known for their cleanliness, and a cat may only use an unclean litter box if they are forced to and contract the bacteria by licking their paws after use.
4. What are the female cat UTI symptoms?
Female cats have a higher chance of contracting UTI than male cats do. Generally, the female and male cat UTI symptoms are similar, though female cats with diabetes, are overweight, have immune system problems or dental disease are much more prone to contracting the infection.
5. Is a Yearly Urine Test a Necessity?
Cats can have a UTI without even showing any symptoms, and that’s why it’s essential and recommended by veterinarians to have your feline undergo a yearly urine screening test. The good news is that bladder infections can clear up with a completed cycle of prescribed antibiotics.
6. How can I help improve my cat’s overall health?
A lot of pet parents, from cat owners, to dogs, to bird, and even horses, often find themselves asking how they can help improve the overall health of their pets. Thanks to the holistic advancement in the health industry, there are now many natural supplements being introduced to the industry for our pets.