Problems that affect a cat’s lower urinary system often prevent the bladder from emptying correctly or may even cause fatal blockage of the urethra, the tube connecting the bladder to the outside of the body. Very often the culprit is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD).
In and out. In and out. In and out. It’s not your cat keeping you on your toes as you open and close the front door for her, it’s her litter box activity. If you notice your kitty making frequent, seemingly pointless trips to her litter box, pay attention: She may have a bladder infection. Treatment depends on the cause, but keeping her hydrated — and urinating — is good for her urinary health.
What is FLUTD?
Says Hanen Abdel Rahman Feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD, is a term used to describe a group of disorders or diseases that affects a cat’s lower urinary tract (bladder or urethra). FLUTD is diagnosed after causes like urinary tract infection (UTI) or kidney stones have been ruled out. Causes include crystals or stones in the bladder, bladder infections, urethral obstruction, inflammation in the urinary bladder (sometimes referred to as interstitial or idiopathic cystitis), and other abnormalities in the urinary tract. FLUTD is one of the most common reasons cats are taken to the vet.
The Signs of Cystitis
When your cat’s bladder is inflamed or infected, she has cystitis, one of the conditions of feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD. It’s often hard to pin down the cause of cystitis in a cat, though sometimes bacteria around her bottom may move into her urethra and travel to her bladder, causing infection. Besides frequent urination, other symptoms of a bladder infection include cloudy or foul-smelling urine, blood in the urine, urinating outside the litter box, painful urination, and excessive licking around the genital area.
Reading Urine for Clues
Bladder infections are painful; they require veterinary treatment. Your vet will run tests including a urinalysis and a bacterial culture of your cat’s urine. The urinalysis confirms the presence of blood cells and bacteria in the urine, while the culture identifies the type of bacteria. If this isn’t a one-time thing with your cat, the vet will likely want to look at an ultrasound or an X-ray to determine if her troubles are caused by calculi in her bladder. Stress isn’t typically a cause of bladder infection, though it can contribute to it from a depressed immune system.
Take All Your Medicine
When the vet determines what type of bacteria is at fault, he’ll prescribe antibiotics for your cat, usually for two weeks. A cat often shows improvement within a week. It’s important to keep to the medication schedule prescribed by your vet to ensure the bacteria are gone for good. Water intake is important for treating a cat’s bladder infection; plenty of water will keep her urinating regularly and her bladder cleaned out.
No Repeats, Please
After your cat recovers from her infection, you can make some adjustments to minimize the chance she has a repeat occurrence. If she has long hair, keep her back end trimmed and clean to decrease the possibility of bacteria migrating into her urinary tract. Do what you can to encourage her to drink water; some cats love to drink from a running faucet while others enjoy a bubbling water fountain that keeps their water fresh, clean, and more appealing. Consider making canned food less of a treat and more of a dietary staple. Containing a moisture content between 70 percent and 80 percent compared to kibble’s 10 percent, canned food can help keep your cat hydrated. If you think your kitty may be feeling stressed from some life changes — perhaps she’s had a hard time adapting to a change in the house — consider using something such as a pheromone spray that will help soothe her. A holistic veterinarian may be able to recommend natural supplements to reduce inflammation in your kitty’s bladder.
Warning Signs of Feline Urinary Tract Infections:
- Painful urination: If your cat cries out while urinating, this is a tell-tale sign that she may be in pain.
- Blood in urine
- Licking the genital or abdominal areas: This is a way for cats to soothe the pain of a urinary tract disease.
- Urinating Outside the Litter Box: Take note if your cat is urinating in places other than the litter box, especially on cool surfaces like tile or a bathtub.
- Straining to urinate: Feline idiopathic cystitis can lead to straining while urinating, and can eventually lead to more severe situations such as the formation of bladder stones or a urethral plug. Male cats are more at risk to develop a urethral plug; this is a life-threatening condition that causes a cat to lose the ability to urinate.
- Frequent attempts to urinate: Cats with FLUTD have a frequent urge to urinate, but can only pass a small amount each time.