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Just like humans, cats can get urinary issues. One of these issues is a cat urinary tract infection — or UTI — which can be painful for the cat and stressful for their parents. Pet parents should recognize the common cat UTI symptoms, treatment, and prevention methods to ensure the cat’s return to better health.
Pet parents may have many cat health questions about UTIs, but only a vet can confirm an infection. This process starts with a full review of cat UTI symptoms, which can include frequent urination, straining while urinating, blood in urine, vocalization or crying, and urinating outside the litter box. Pet parents can use an at-home urine test kit for additional guidance about cat behavior that might indicate a UTI.
If the cat behavior and symptoms suggest a UTI, the next step is to get a urinalysis done. This is a urine test that checks the appearance, concentration, pH, and chemical makeup of the urine, along with the presence of sediment. Pet parents can collect a urine sample at home. Alternatively, the vet can use cystocentesis — whereby the vet inserts a thin needle into the cat’s bladder.
Cloudy urine or urine that isn’t yellow could mean a bacterial infection, as can urine that’s too acidic or too alkaline. And if the urinalysis finds sediment in the urine, it could show bacteria or tissue cells from an active UTI. Bacteria is the most common cause of cat UTIs, but a smaller percentage of UTIs are from viruses, fungi, and parasites.
Another test is a urine bacterial culture that tries to grow the bacteria to identify the species and how to treat it. While the most common bacteria is Escherichia coli, other bacteria can include Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Proteus, or Klebsiella.
Pet parents with cat medical questions can start their cat on vet-ordered treatments if laboratory tests return positive for a UTI. These treatments depend on the severity of the illness. While a mild infection won’t need as much care, a severe infection may need several treatment approaches at the same time.
Antibiotics are the most common treatment because bacteria are the primary cause of a UTI. Antibiotics kill the bacteria to keep them from spreading further into the cat’s urinary tract. Vets study the laboratory results to find the best medication. Some common antibiotics they prescribe include amoxicillin, cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones, and doxycycline.
Apart from antibiotics, other treatment methods for cat or kitten care might include fluid therapy in case of severe dehydration or urine acidifiers to help the urine reach the correct pH.
To help their cats avoid a UTI, pet parents can take preventive approaches.
Cats with access to a water fountain can drink freely whenever they’re thirsty. Plus, the sight of fresh falling water can help encourage more cats to drink up — much like how some cats like to drink water dripping from a faucet. Cats also find moving water more appealing than still water because of the fresher taste from circulation.
Dry food may be convenient, but it doesn’t have much water content. Most types of dry cat food limited water content, while wet or canned food has at least 60% water. To give their cats a good mixture, pet parents should aim for a 50:50 ratio of dry to wet food to help increase water intake and reduce the chances of a cat UTI.
Another cat UTI prevention method is to follow a prescription diet that helps with urinary conditions and increases water intake. However, pet parents should always consult with a vet on the best diet for cat or kitten care and how different foods affect the digestive and urinary tracts.
Pet parents may be familiar with cranberries for preventing human UTIs, but they may not know the tart fruits can help their cats as well. Although not a replacement for antibiotics, proanthocyanidin compounds in cranberries have been shown to help prevent Escherichia coli bacteria from sticking to urinary tract tissues. In consultation with a vet, pet parents can offer their cats cranberry supplements to support healthier urinary systems.
The Fuzzy vet team is ready to answer cat medical questions — no matter how big or small. For everything from cat UTI symptoms to kitten care and cat behavior quandaries, The 24/7 Live Vet Chat can help pet parents get the answers they need when their cat is unwell.