Urinary issues are relatively common in cats and can involve the kidneys, ureters, bladder, urethra or a combination. The most commonly seen condition is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD), which describes a group of clinical signs (although not all are seen together):
- bloody urine
- urinating in unusual places
- straining to urinate (sometimes mistaken for constipation)
- urinary blockage (a male cat problem)
- licking the urinary opening (often from pain)
It is also common to see:
- Abdominal pain (often seen as reluctance to be handled)
Key Point: Urinary problems in male cats should be treated as an emergency. If unsure, assume it is an emergency and call your veterinarian office immediately.
What Causes FLUTD?
The age of the cat gives us a good indication of what to look for, but a thorough approach from your veterinarian is required in each case to ensure nothing is missed.
In younger cats (less than 8 years of age), we most commonly see:
- Idiopathic Cystitis (an inflamed bladder with no obvious cause) (50% of cats)
- Bladder stones (more common in females) (20% of cats)
- Urethral blockage (nearly always male cats) (20% of cats)
- True urinary tract infection (most commonly bacterial)
In older cats (over 10 years of age), we most commonly see:
- True urinary tract infection (50% of cats)
- Bladder stones (10% of cats)
- Urethra blockage (nearly always male cats) (10% of cats)
- Urinary Tract Cancer (only 3% of cats)
Contributing factors to idiopathic cystitis and urinary tract infection are:
- Formation of crystals in the urine due to mineral / pH imbalance which causes irritation
- Environmental stress
How Does Your Veterinarian Determine The Cause?
Your veterinarian will run urinalysis on a fresh sample of urine either by expressing the bladder or via a needle and syringe. If the patient is an older cat, a urine culture may be performed due to the higher incidence of true infection. If bladder stones are suspected, then x-rays can be taken (occasionally using contrast medium to help identify the stones).
There is a large percentage of young adult cats where no cause is ever identified, so often a veterinarian may elect to do no testing unless the symptoms become a recurring problem. Urine testing is relatively simple.
How Is FLUTD Treated?
The treatment aims to reduce symptoms and prevent recurrence.
The general recommendations are (although not all are used in all cases):
- Antibiotics in the case of urinary tract infection
- Restoration of the mucosal lining of the bladder using glycoprotein supplements
- Dietary urine pH therapy (to reduce formation of crystals)
- Anti-spasmodic drugs (to reduce painful urethral spasms)
- Pain killers/Anti-inflammatories where indicated
- Increasing water consumption (primarily achieved by using canned food with additional water added)
- Reduction in environmental stress
- Ensure an adequate number of litter boxes are available and that they are clean (1.5 per cat per household)
FLUTD is a common condition in cats but with early recognition and treatment your cat should recover quickly.