Cystitis in Cats Diagnosing and Treating Cat Urinary Tract Disease

Cystitis in Cats
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Cat cystitis can be troubling for both the cat and their owner. Learn about the symptoms of cystitis in cats and how to prevent and treat it.

Cystitis in cats, also called idiopathic cystitis, is an inflammation of the bladder. Like in humans, cystitis is also known as lower urinary tract disease. The causes of the problem are unknown except that there are some diet and environmental factors that increase a cat’s risk for developing cystitis.

Risk Factors for Cystitis

Several factors have been shown to cause a greater risk for developing idiopathic cystitis, and they include diet, environment and genetics:

  • Diets that are primarily dry food with high minerals
  • Stressful environment
  • Indoor environment
  • Long-haired cats

Male cats can get a more severe, life-threatening form if they develop a urinary tract obstruction in addition to the cystitis. Female cats, though they do get cystitis, rarely develop a urinary tract obstruction because the urethra of the female cat is wider and shorter than that of the male cat.

Signs of Idiopathic Cystitis

Cats suffering from cystitis often exhibit the following signs:

  • Urinating in areas other than the litter box (bathtub, sink, ceramic floors…)
  • Meowing while in the litter box (a sign of distress)
  • Straining to urinate
  • Blood in the urine
  • Increased urination in the box or outside the box
  • Increased grooming of the genital area (a sign of discomfort)

The more serious result of idiopathic cystitis is urinary obstruction. If your male cat suddenly stops eating, is very lethargic, is vomiting, or makes frequent (and failed or painful) tries at urinating in his litter box, he may have a urinary obstruction. If he shows these signs, he must be taken to the veterinarian immediately. This is an emergency situation; if it is after hours, find a 24-hour veterinary clinic. Since he cannot excrete toxins like he normally would through urine, his heart could stop and he could die.

Diagnosis of Cystitis in Cats

If your cat shows any of the signs of cystitis, you need to take him or her to the veterinarian for treatment. Your veterinarian will perform tests like an ultrasound and radiograph of the bladder, urine culture, and urinalysis.

Treatment for Idiopathic Cystitis

Treatment involves changing the cat’s diet to canned food, reducing the cat’s stress, encouraging more water drinking, increasing exercise, and using pain or anti-inflammatory medication that may be prescribed by the veterinarian.

Canned food helps increase your pet’s intake of fluids, thus allowing the cat to make less concentrated urine, which is healthier for the urinary tract and will also be less painful.

If the cause is an infection, your veterinarian may prescribe an antibiotic.

To increase your cat’s drinking of water, you can also add clam juice or tuna juice to their food. In addition, constantly running pet fountains encourage cats to drink and play more in their water. Such products, Drinkwell, for example, are available in pet stores.

Toys, climbing trees, scratching trees… anything your cat can play with and chase are recommended to reduce stress and increase exercise. Because many cats will hold their urine if the litter box is unclean, ensure that your cat’s box is routinely clean to encourage them to use it frequently.

In addition, pheromones like Feliway can be used to prevent improper urination or spraying around the house.

More on Cat Care

When to Take a Cat to the Vet
How to Choose a Cat Litter Box and Kitty Litter
How to Train a Cat

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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