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