What is Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) in Cats?
Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) in cats, also known as Idiopathic Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (IFLUTD), Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC), Feline Urologic Syndrome (FUS), Interstitial Cystitis or just Cystitis. Is a condition that causes inflammation of the lower urinary tract, resulting in pain and discomfort, frequent and bloody urination. For this article I will refer to it as UTI’s.
This article is more balanced towards cats with UTI’s, this is because it is a far more common occurrence in cats rather than dogs. That is not to say that dogs don’t get UTI’s, they definitely do, therefore if you have a dog with an UTI then everything in this article is the same for dogs or cats.
What causes Cystitis or UTI’s?
Infection is not so common in cats, it is usually inflammation. It develops in the lower urinary tract (bladder) and not the kidneys.
Several things contribute to a cat developing cystitis – urine ph, urine concentration, the amount of time it stays in the bladder and the amount of minerals in the urine, phosphorus and magnesium.
The inflammation is usually caused by crystals that form in the urine, these tiny crystals form when there is a change in the environment of the bladder and irritate the bladder wall, because of this irritation there is quite often blood in the urine.
A healthy cat’s urine is quite acidic with a ph of 6.0 to 6.5, it is the acidity in the urine that breaks down the crystals and stops them from forming. Different factors are identified as causing the urine to turn alkaline, which encourages crystal formation.
Stress and environmental issues can be a factor; cats are solitary animals and can find living with humans, dogs and even other cats quite stressful. They will usually eat and do their movements in private, when put in a situation where they have to share litter boxes, be bullied by another cat or eat out of a bowl beside other cats, can put the animal under stress. This stress can create changes in the nerves that connect to the bladder wall; this in turn causes pain and inflammation in the bladder and turns the urine to alkaline.
Low water intake is more common in cats on dry food diets, they don’t drink enough fluids and the urine then becomes concentrated and turns alkaline. This is where diet plays a big part in the prevention of UTI’s, as raw meats make acidic urine, and dry food – grains make alkaline urine.
Cats won’t drink anymore fluids that they have to; raw meat will have a high volume of water keeping the cats fluids volumes up. A cat on a dry food diet will be in a constant state of dehydration which puts stress on the kidneys.
The amount of time the urine stays in the bladder can lead to inflammation of the bladder as well as other problems such as over stretching. This can be caused by being bullied, not being let pass to go outside, cats that are shut indoor without access to litter boxes and holding on to long.
The main type of crystals found in the urine are struvite, they are made up of magnesium, ammonium, and phosphate. Most crystals can be dissolved naturally in the cat’s urine if the ph is right and there are good concentration levels. If too many crystals are produced they can clump together and make bladder stones. After the first episode the cat will become prone to reoccurrences of cystitis, especially if the causing factors are not looked at and addressed.
Over weight, indoor cats are more prone to cystitis, due to their state of inactivity. Cats in the wild are less likely to be found with struvite crystals in their urine, they eat raw meat diets and have high level of exercise.
In male cats if they develop too many crystals they can travel up the urethra and cause an obstruction. This is a serious condition and needs immediate veterinarian help, as it can over extend and rupture of the bladder, cause kidney failure and also the toxins that are in the urine can poison the body from being retained to long. This is more common in male cats as the urethra is thin and narrow going through the penis, whereas in female cats it tends to be larger and does not block as easily.
What are the signs?
You may see that your cat takes a while to start urinating or it may look uncomfortable or in pain, is this Dysuria or painful urination. They may also have the presence of blood in the urine this is known as Haematuria.
They may be urinating more frequently but only passing a few drops at a time. They may also seem more lethargic, depressed or aggressive.
What can help?
Increase fluids – orally adding water into food, and always have fresh water available for your cat to drink.
Changing your pet’s diet from dry to wet, or at least reducing the amount of dry food they eat. More raw meat in the diet will make the urine more acidic, which will help dissolve crystals.
Decrease stress on the animal. Provide more litter trays in different areas around the house. Cat love to be up high, they feel safe and secure, so beds and litter boxes on cupboards or bookcases will help.
Naturally we have a remedy in the Natural Pet range that can help to support an animal suffering with urinary incontinence.
Uri-Tone is a homeopathic and herbal blend which works well with helping this condition.
We also offer a full consultation service, where we can develop a treatment plan individualised for your animal. If this is of interest please email or phone.