VCA Animal Hospitals

What causes feline urinary tract problems?

Published: Jul 16, 2012

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If a cat is having trouble urinating, it may indicate a problem with the animal's urinary tract. A number of urinary problems are common in felines, and the issues are typically grouped under the feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) umbrella.

Most of the problems associated with FLUTD have to do with an inflammation of the urinary tract, which is referred to as cystitis in cats. This term simply refers to the irritation in the tract, and there are several possible causes. 

Inflammation of the cat's lower urinary tract may cause several issues when it comes to feline urination. Cystitis may cause an increased frequency of urination related to pain and inflammation within the urinary tract.  A decreased amount of urination is also possible and may be related to a blockage caused by bladder stones. In this case, cats may strain to urinate but will only pass a small amount or urine or may not be able to urinate at all.  The latter is a medical emergency. 

Besides changes in the frequency or amount of urination, owners may also notice a change in the urine itself. It may be foul smelling, cloudy, or contain blood. These signs may indicate the presence of a bacterial infection. Owners should be vigilant in looking for these clinical signs, and take their cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible if any appear.

The first test a vet may recommend to determine the nature of the problem is a urinalysis. A urinalysis for cats will tell the doctor what may be causing the cystitis, and the recommendation for treatment will depend on these test results.   

If infection is present, cats can be treated with antibiotics.  If a vet suspects bladder stones based on the urinalysis or x-rays, a special diet or dietary additive may be able to break up the stone and allow the cat to pass it. Many times bladder stones will need to be removed through surgery.

Most cases of FLUTD in cats are not caused by infection, stones or other abnormalities.  These are called idiopathic cases of FLUTD and are the result of general inflammation within the bladder.  This inflammation often occurs as a result of insufficient water intake, obesity, physical inactivity and stress within a cat's environment.  It is a manageable--not curable--condition and often recurs over the life of an affected cat.  To minimize recurrences, a veterinarian may recommend a dietary change to canned or prescription food in order to increase a cat's water intake to help dilute bladder inflammation.  Recommendations to enrich and stimulate a cat's environment and to increase physical activity will also usually be made.

Owners should consider taking steps to prevent FLUTD in their cats. Inactive or obese cats or those that don't get enough water seem to be at a higher risk for the disease, reports VCA Animal Hospitals.


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