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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

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Urinary tract disease is a common ailment for cats. Though most people think of bladder or kidney infections when they think of urinary tract disease, many cats suffer from urinary tract disease without having infections.

Let’s talk first about male cats and urethral blockages. This is an important issue because it so quickly becomes life-threatening. If your male cat is trying to urinate but is unable to pass urine, he is in serious trouble and needs emergency veterinary care. He may have a urethral obstruction (a stone or other blockage in his lower urinary tract) which is keeping him from being able to urinate. Without proper care immediately, he may not survive.

What cats suffer from urinary tract disease? That depends on what type of disease you are talking about. Lower urinary tract disease is probably the most common type of urinary issue that we see in cats. Lower urinary tract disease can occur in both male and female cats, and cats of any age can be affected. However, when we talk about feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), we are actually talking about a number of different diseases that cause a similar set of symptoms.

If your cat is suffering from FLUTD, your cat may strain to urinate, urinate outside of the litter box, have blood in the urine, or cry when trying to urinate. Your cat may eat less and become irritable. You may even see your cat licking excessively at the belly, or at his or her penile or vulvar area, respectively.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help keep your cat’s urinary tract healthy. While it may not always be possible to prevent urinary tract disease, these tips may help.

  • Make sure your cat drinks plenty of water. Encourage water consumption by feeding a wet diet. Consider providing a water fountain for your cat or leaving a faucet dripping. Some cats prefer running water.
  • Feed a high quality diet. Wet diets have an advantage over dry foods because of their increased moisture content. However, if your cat has been diagnosed with a urinary tract disease or is at risk of FLUTD, your veterinarian may recommend a specially formulated diet for your cat.
  • Avoid stress. Stress is known to cause urinary tract disease in cats. Interstitial cystitis, a type of FLUTD, is commonly associated with stress. Unfortunately, cats can be stressed by factors that we may not suspect. And we may not always have complete control over these factors. Changes in routine, interactions with other pets, and new family members in the household are some of the things that cats may find stressful, but there are many others.

I had personal experience with stress causing interstitial cystitis for my cat Lilly. She experienced a period of grief when we lost her adopted sibling, Ebony. Ebony died after an illness lasting only a few days. During the last few days of Ebony’s life, Lilly began urinating on my bed. She was also licking excessively at her belly.

She recovered after a short period of time and with a little bit of extra TLC. I believe it was the stress associated with Ebony’s illness and her grief over his loss that caused her illness. She had not urinated outside of the litter box before Ebony’s illness and has not done so since.

What about you? Have any of you had urinary issues with your cats? How did you handle it? Are you doing anything to prevent it? If so, what?

Dr. Lorie Huston

Image: Nikolai Tsvetkov / via Shutterstock

Comments  8

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  • stress induced FLUTD
    02/05/2014 01:43pm

    I know this is an old post, but I thought I would give it a try.
    My 9 year old cat started straining to urinate, having anal gland issues, started defecating outside the litter box, spent a majority of the time hiding, not eating, losing weight. After 2 rounds of different antibiotics, the urine cysto still came back very bloody but with no bacterial growth and no crystals. This has been ongoing for several months. We did x-rays which showed no problems expect arthritis. Did an ultrasound and did find a small "blip" in the bladder, but it was not seen in all fields and was not consistent with any cancers/tumors or stones. We started him on C/D diet just in case it was sludge in the bladder.

    After all diagnostics came back with no results we deduced it must be a psychotic break for my kitty given all that has gone on in the household (grandmother died, I left for a week, 2 weeks later father in law died, husband left for a month. Then our doggy died a few weeks later. lots of stress)

    Started him on Amitriptyline and Meloxicam for the arthritis. After a little over a week, he seems to be improving as he is not hiding anymore and the urine is finally coming out clean. He is eating again like a little piggy and gaining weight again. He was even playing with his kitty brother this morning. But, he is still having anal leakage and continues to defecate outside the littler box, only occasionally now. Will this end? I am hoping my baby is permanently "broken". But, the meds really do seem to have helped so far.

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