Cats are famous for having urinary problems, so it’s no wonder that many feline health questions have to do with UTIs. Urinary tract infections are common causes of bathroom problems in humans — it’s only natural that pet parents would worry about them in their fur babies.
UTIs are less common in cats than other health issues, but they do happen. By learning to recognize cat UTI symptoms and what to do about them, pet parents can help their kitties stay comfortable and healthy.
What Is a UTI?
A UTI is an infection of the bladder. Urine in the bladder is naturally sterile, but microbes can make their way inside by way of the urethra. Once those microbes enter the bladder and start reproducing, they can cause an infection fairly quickly.
Cat urinary tract infections can be due to bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. Bacterial infections are the most common and usually require treatment by antibiotics.
Cat UTI symptoms tend to be the same regardless of the type of infection. It’s important that pet parents are able to recognize those symptoms so they can see a vet, get a diagnosis, and start treatment.
Which Cats Are Prone to UTIs?
Any cat can get a UTI, but cats with a history of bladder stones are prone to frequent urinary infections. Treating the bladder stones can help to reduce the cat’s risk of developing UTIs in the future.
Cat urinary tracts are very small, and some breeds (such as red tabby cats) are more prone to infections than others. Older cats and cats with diabetes are also at higher risk.
Signs of a UTI
Common cat UTI symptoms include:
- Frequent attempts to urinate without urination
- Straining in the litter box
- Crying or whining while urinating
- Incessant Licking between the rear legs
- Blood or discoloration in the urine
Sometimes, peeing outside of the litter box is also a sign of a UTI. If the cat has a strong urge to go but can’t make it to the box in time, or if they start to associate the box with pain, they may pee somewhere else in the house.
A pet parent shouldn’t assume a UTI if peeing outside of the box is their cat’s only urinary symptom. That is, on its own, more likely a cat behavior issue. The kitty may not like the litter box, its location, or the litter inside it. They could also be stressed out by recent changes in the household.
What Else Might It Be?
When a cat has multiple urinary symptoms, a UTI is only one of the possibilities.
A UTI is just one cause of feline lower urinary tract disease. FLUDT means there’s some kind of problem with the cat’s bladder and/or urethra. This might not be an infection. It could also be:
- Urinary stones (in the bladder or urethra)
- Urethral blockage
- Feline idiopathic cystitis
- Systemic disease (diabetes, hyperthyroidism, etc.)
The most common cause of FLUTD is cystitis, particularly when the cat is under 10 years of age. Even the youngest cats can get cystitis, so watching for urinary symptoms should be a standard part of kitten care. Systemic diseases and tumors are much less common causes of FLUTD.
Diagnosing a UTI
Pet parents who believe their cat may have a urinary issue should contact a vet. To diagnose a UTI, a veterinarian will do a urinalysis, which measures levels of various compounds in the cat’s pee. If a pet parent knows their cat may be prone to UTIs they can keep At-Home Urine Tests for cats in the medicine cabinet for quick at-home testing. This makes treatment and illness resolution much easier when working with an online vet.
The urinalysis will tell the vet if the problem is a UTI or something else. If it’s something else, the results often identify that other issue.
If it is a UTI, the vet will use the results to reveal what bacteria, if any, is causing the infection. Identifying the bacteria will help the vet to prescribe the right antibiotic.
Common UTI Treatments
Antibiotics kill or attack bacteria. Since bacteria are the most common cause of cat UTI symptoms, antibiotics are the most common treatment.
Other treatments include anti-inflammatory medicines, pain medicines, and special diets. Anti-inflammatories help to reduce the swelling and discomfort a UTI causes. Prescription diets primarily control dietary pH, which may also help to reduce swelling.
Dietary pH refers to the level of acidity in a cat’s system. Controlling dietary pH modifies acidity in the bladder. This makes it less likely that crystals or stones will form and contribute to infection.
Finally, it’s crucial for cats with UTIs to stay well-hydrated. A vet may recommend the temporary addition of wet food to their diet to help. Cats are attracted to moving water, so if a cat resists drinking water, a vet may recommend a cat water fountain.
Watching for urinary problems is something every responsible pet parent should do. For more information about how to spot cat UTI symptoms, become a Fuzzy member today and access 24/7 online vet help. The Fuzzy vet team is standing by to answer pet parents’ pressing cat medical questions, whenever those questions arise.