Urinary Tract Infections in cats

All you need to know & quickly act upon!

Pet-parents tend to be familiar with their pet’s bathroom habits, thanks to litter-box cleaning which every pet parent hates. But cleaning the litter-box can be an excellent way to keep an eye on your pet’s urinary tract health. Read on to know what are urinary tract infections, signs and symptoms to look out for, and home remedies that can be helpful.

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If your cat’s bathroom habit change, it might be a sign that they have a urinary tract problem. Cats of any age can have problems with their lower urinary tracts. Some cats are prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs) that go away after taking antibiotics. Other cats get blockages and bladder stones that need surgery to fix. Lower urinary tract infections, or UTIs, can develop in
any pet.

Some cats are naturally more likely to develop UTIs, like male cats, overweight cats, or cats with diabetes. However, the infections can affect any cat throughout its lifetime. FLUTD (Feline lower urinary tract disease) is actually a general term referring to a cluster of clinical symptoms. FLUTD can cause issues in your pet’s urethra and bladder, often leading the urethra to become obstructed, or preventing her bladder from emptying properly. These conditions can be serious or even life-threatening if left untreated.

FLUTD symptoms you should be aware of

The lower urinary tract includes the bladder and urethra. Urine is formed and stored in the bladder until it flows out of your pet’s body through the urethra. When those body parts get infected or obstructed, your cat won’t be able to urinate normally. The most common symptoms of UTI in cats are –

  • Frequent urination, but only passing a small amount of urine.
  • Urinating outside the litter box.
  • Blood in the urine.
  • Straining during urination.
  • Pain during urinating.
  • Increased licking of urinary opening.
  • Fever, lethargy and loss of appetite.
  • Distended abdomen.

If you notice these symptoms, you should call your vet right away to discuss them. This could be a sign that your cat needs immediate veterinary attention.

Causes of FLUTD

There can be many reasons due to which cats develop UTIs. But most commonly it is due to bacterial invasion inside the urinary tract. It can also be caused by age, lack of proper hygiene around the genitalia, or abnormal pH levels of urine (acidity or alkalinity in liquid) in your pet’s diet. However, it may also be caused by more serious conditions like uroliths or bladder stones (hard deposits in the bladder), injuries, tumours, or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).


Can both male and female cats get urinary tract problems?

All cats can develop urinary tract problems. However, male cats are more likely to have urethral obstructions. They have longer, thinner urethras than female cats. The narrower passage can get blocked more easily because of its size and shape.

Deciphering the diagnosis

If you believe that your feline friend may be having problems with their lower urinary tract, contact your vet right away, especially if your cat is straining to urinate or crying out in pain. Your vet will perform a complete physical exam to help assess your pet’s symptoms and perform a urinalysis to get further insight into the condition. Your vet might perform an ultrasound, radiographs, blood tests, or a urine culture test for proper diagnosis.

Don’t be too late for treatment

Urinary tract diseases are common in cats and can cause discomfort and distress. If left untreated, a UTI can lead to partial or complete blockage of the urethra. This can lead to kidney failure or rupture of the bladder, which could be deadly. So, timing for the treatment is very important for saving your pet’s life. Depending on the severity of the infection, the infection can be treated using at-home remedies like given below or need a proper medical and surgical intervention.

Home remedies for UTI

l Cranberries: Cranberries are known as a UTI treatment in humans, they can also be used to treat UTIs in cats. The acidity of cranberries can lower the pH of your pet’s urine, which can help treat a UTI and stop it from coming back. Many cranberry juices are high in sugar. Instead, you can find cranberry capsules (pills), supplements, or powder to add to your cat’s diet. Before giving your cat cranberry, you should first test the pH levels in your cat’s urine. While the acidity of cranberries may help with some UTIs, in other cases, it could make the condition worse. Only provide cranberry supplements if your cat’s urine is too alkaline and if the vet recommends to give these supplements.

  • Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar can also lower the pH in your pet’s urine, eliminating and preventing any harmful bacteria. Add half a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to cat food each day. To reduce the bitter taste, you can mix it in with chicken broth. Just make sure the broth doesn’t contain onions, as they are toxic for cats.
  • Glucosamine & Chondroitin: Glucosamine can help replace a compound in the lining of the cat’s bladder wall. Chondroitin helps prevent this compound from breaking down. Combining these two supplements can rebuild the bladder wall and prevents further damage from bacteria. This reduces inflammation and other UTI symptoms. For every 10 pounds of your cat’s weight, you can give the cat 100 milligrams of glucosamine and 50 milligrams of chondroitin.

When to see a vet?

These at-home treatments and remedies may be effective for clearing up minor infections, but serious infections need to be treated by a vet. If your pet is experiencing mild or moderate symptoms, you can try these remedies to relieve their symptoms. If their symptoms show no sign of improvement in a few days, talk to a veterinarian. If your pet seems to be in pain or is unable to pass urine, see a vet immediately. This could be a sign of urethral obstruction, which can be fatal if not treated within 24 to 48 hours.

Your vet will prescribe the right medication for your pet. He/ she might also recommend certain dietary modifications for your pet’s health.

Clearing obstructions in urethra

The vet will insert a tube into the urinary opening and flush the area with sterile fluid to clear the obstruction. If urinary catheter is not able to clear the obstruction than your vet might be go for surgical intervention like Laparocystotomy or feline perineal urethrostomy. In both the procedures surgeon tries to remove the obstruction either by opening the bladder or by excising the penile urethra to form a urethral stoma directly on the skin. Follow-up care must be required after the surgery.
Safety always!

Your vet will let you know if there is anything that can be done to prevent your cat’s UTI from coming back. Depending on the underlying cause for FLUTD, the clinical signs may never, or only occasionally, reoccur. To help reduce the chances of recurrence –

  • Feed small meals on a frequent basis.
  • Consult your vet about the best diet for your cat. Many commercial diets are acceptable, but some urinary conditions respond better to specialised diets. Canned food may be preferred.
  • Provide clean, fresh water at all times,
  • Provide an adequate number of litter boxes (usually one more than the number of cats in the household) with the type of litter that the cat(s) prefer.
  • Keep litter boxes in quiet, safe areas of the house.
  • Keep litter boxes clean – they should be scooped twice a day and the litter changed weekly (or more often as needed).
  • Minimize major changes in routine
  • Reduce stress

(Dr Dishant Saini is PhD Scholar; Dr GS Khandekar is Professor; Dr SD Tripathi is Assistant Professor; Dr SV Gaikwad is Assistant Professor from the Department of Veterinary Surgery and Radiology; Dr GG Khandekar is from the Department of Veterinary Medicine, Mumbai Veterinary College, Mumbai.)