It’s not uncommon for cats to be taken to their vet because of problems with passing urine. They may have blood in their urine or be straining in their litter box frequently. There are a number of causes of urinary tract disease in cats, but one that is perplexing to pet parents and vets alike is feline idiopathic cystitis. An affected cat will appear to have difficulty in urinating and will only pass small amounts of urine, but more frequently than normal. The exact cause of feline idiopathic cystitis isn’t known, but urine tests show that bladder infections are not a part of this condition.
Veterinarians in Norway have been trying to identify issues that may contribute to a cat developing this disease. They found that affected cats were likely to be overweight and have a more nervous temperament than those that showed no symptoms. Overall, the study found that environmental stress could play a major role in the development of feline idiopathic cystitis.
One of the most important things a pet parent can do to control symptoms of idiopathic cystitis is to reduce stress. It’s not always obvious that a cat is stressed, nor is it easy to identify the cause.
How to Reduce Stress in Cats
Making sure cats feel safe and secure and providing environmental enrichment are essential in keeping them well. Cats should have their own space where they can go for a “time out” from people and other cats if they need to. They also appreciate the opportunity to express normal behaviors such as hunting and climbing. Hygiene can be very important to cats’ toileting habits; maintaining litter boxes will definitely help to reduce stress. There should be enough litter boxes to accommodate all members of a feline family – provide one box for each cat plus one spare. Cats should be offered a variety of litter types so they can choose which they prefer. It goes without saying that the litter boxes need to be kept clean.
Other therapies can be useful in cats with idiopathic cystitis. Diet appears to play an important role in managing this condition. A recent study found that feeding wet cat food could reduce the recurrence of symptoms in affected cats when compared to feeding dry food. This is because the extra water in the wet food results in more dilute urine. Other ways of increasing water intake in cats is to add flavored broths to their food, and providing more interesting sources of water such as a water fountain. It appears that prescription diets can also help to minimize the number of episodes of idiopathic cystitis. These prescription diets are available from your vet.
Inflammation is involved in cystitis so therapies aimed at reducing inflammation may help. Omega fatty acids and Vitamin E have an anti-inflammatory effect and can help to keep the urinary tract healthy. Speak to your vet for advice on how these may benefit your cat.
In many cases, feline idiopathic cystitis can’t be completely cured, but instead is managed with stress reduction techniques and diet. The aim of management is to reduce the severity of symptoms and to increase the time between episodes of the disease.