Urinary Tract Infections in Cats: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Urinary Tract Infections in Cats
Written by zfarihe

If your cat urinates frequently or strains to urinate, he or she may be suffering from a urinary tract infection. Other common signs of a urinary problem in cats include changes in the size of litter clumps (lots of small clumps, for example) or accidents outside the litter box.

Although urinary tract diseases are relatively common in both male and female cats, they can be uncomfortable and painful for diagnosed cats and potentially lead to other health issues if left untreated.

Interestingly, male cats have slightly different urinary diseases than female cats, and we’ll explore how this translates into the treatment and prevention approach in this article. Knowing the potential causes, various symptoms, available treatment options, and ways to prevent urinary problems in cats can help keep your cat healthy and save you an unexpected vet bill.

What is a Cat UTI?

UTI stands for urinary tract infection. The “infection” part of the sentence implies that bacteria are the cause of the problem. Animals (and humans!) are not sterile creatures, and it’s possible for bacteria from outside our bodies to travel through the urethra into the bladder, causing infection. It is the most common cause of urinary tract disease in female cats.

Feline urinary tract disease (MFUF)

Interestingly, many male cats can have sterile urinary disease, meaning it is not from a bacterial infection at all. In these cats, the urethra becomes inflamed and in response it swells, causing painful urethral spasms and the persistent urge to urinate. FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease) is the medical term used by veterinarians to describe this disease in male cats.

It is important to differentiate between the two and confirm the presence of bacteria, as antibiotics are indicated in a true UTI, not in sterile inflammatory UTI.

Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection in Cats

Increased frequency of urination is one of the hallmark signs of urinary tract disease in cats. Usually, the amount of urine eliminated is also very small. This may be evident by smaller clumps of urine in the litter box, or if urine is improperly discharged outside the box, you may notice it is a small volume compared to normal.

Many times the urine will be tinted pink, indicating the presence of blood, and sometimes you will notice a strong or unpleasant smell of urine.

Crying or straining to urinate can come from pain. A painful effort to urinate without producing urine is always an emergency.

Causes of Feline Urinary Tract Infections

In a true cat UTI, bacteria are always the real cause of the infection. Female cats are at higher risk for bacterial urinary tract infection due to the larger size and shorter length of their urethra compared to male cats.

Obesity can exacerbate bacterial UTIs in both male and female cats, as overweight cats have a harder time keeping themselves clean through grooming. Weight loss can help prevent this from happening again.

Bladder stones can act as a focus for repeated infections. Imaging with x-rays or ultrasound is needed to rule out the presence of stones in the bladder, and stone removal by surgery or occasionally with a change in diet is indicated.

In male cats with FLUTD, stress has often been implicated as the underlying cause. Changes in routine, moving house, adding new pets or family members, and changes in diet are all common causes of stress that can lead to urinary problems in cats.

Treatment Options for Urinary Tract Infection in Cats

The treatment for cat urinary tract infection of course depends on the underlying cause. Cats with documented bacterial infections should be placed on antibiotics. Often, a veterinarian can prescribe pain medication in addition to antibiotics, to relieve discomfort caused by straining and inflammation.

Cats with FLUTD are often prescribed urethral relaxant drugs and painkillers. Sometimes they may be prescribed anti-anxiety medication to help them deal with the underlying stress.

Tips for Preventing Urinary Tract Infections in Cats

Feline urinary diets can help prevent urinary tract disease by targeting stress and altering urine pH to prevent crystals. These diets often contain ingredients that encourage cats to drink more water, thus diluting the urine. This can help prevent crystal formation and promote urinary tract health.

Switching to a canned diet will sometimes help too. Increasing the moisture content of canned food helps keep cats better hydrated and therefore can improve urinary health.

Weight loss will help cats with recurrent bacterial infections stay cleaner, as they will be more mobile and able to groom themselves effectively.

Other Cat Urinary Tract Problems That Could Present As A UTI

There are other conditions that may present as UTI or FLUTD with inappropriate urination outside the litter box or changes in urination behavior. A visit to the veterinarian is necessary to rule out diseases such as cat diabetes or urinary stones or even kidney disorders that could present themselves in the same way.

Consider having insurance as a way to help defray the cost of veterinary care. Additionally, Pets Best offers optional exam fee coverage in order to be more comprehensive.

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