A urinary tract infection in cats is one of the most common illnesses that your feline friend will suffer from, in their lifetime. Despite this, many cat owners aren’t aware of the symptoms of a cat UTI and the dangers that it can present.
Of course, knowing the signs of UTI in cats can significantly improve their outlook, and this is where we can help. Below, we give you a full rundown of everything there is to know about bladder infections in cats, the signs and symptoms, and how you can help them to recover as quickly as possible.
What Is FLUTD?
FLUTD stands for feline lower urinary tract disease, which can encompass a range of different issues in the bladder and urethra of cats. Put simply, it covers all the areas required to urinate. It can affect between 1-3% of cats each year – and, when you consider just how many cats there are in the world, that’s a significantly high number! The most common FLUTD is a urinary tract infection (UTI), which also covers bladder stones, anatomical defects and, as is discussed in this article, a cat bladder infection.
Unfortunately, because of the wide range of issues that come under the umbrella term of FLUTD, any cat of any breed, gender and age can be affected. However, a cat UTI will rarely occur in cats under 10 years old – and, if they are under this threshold, it is always a good idea to see your vet as soon as possible, if you suspect a urinary tract infection in cats under 10.
How Do Cats Get UTI?
The root causes UTI in cats can range significantly, depending on their age and whether or not they have any other medical issues. However, the main cause of urinary tract infections is simply through the growth of bacteria in the bladder or along the urethra.
Thus, a cat with diabetes, bladder stones, kidney disease or a bladder tumor is more likely to suffer from a UTI, as these illnesses allow for greater growth of bacteria along the urinary tract. Sometimes, however, cats will simply get poorly through a general bacterial infection – especially if the cat is older, or hasn’t been drinking as much recently.
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Cat Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Symptoms
Signs of UTI in cats can vary significantly, but almost always come down to very different behaviors than normal. Remember that, the greater the infection, the greater the change in your pet, so do try to get advice as soon as you think that something is amiss. Early symptoms of a UTI in cats include:
- Visiting the litter box more often than usual
- Spending a longer amount of time than usual in the litter box
- Peeing little and often
- Drinking more water than usual
However, as the infection gains momentum, you may quickly spot further signs and symptoms that can be more worrying. These often include:
- Straining to urinate
- Visiting the litter tray without peeing
- Peeing in other areas of the house
- Crying or vocalizing while using the litter tray
- Blood in the urine
- Frequent grooming of the bottom and genital area
These are signs that the infections has progressed and that you need to visit a vet as soon as possible for treatment. Finally, there are signs that the infection has become serious when your cat no longer eats or is vomiting, is lethargic and uninterested in food, and will no longer drink water. In these cases, we recommend an emergency visit to the vet, as the infection may have spread, and the bladder may need to be emptied manually.
Cat Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Treatment
For most UTI issues, the symptoms are caught early enough that the problem can be resolved with a short course of cat UTI antibiotics. These will help the body to fight the infection at the source by stopping the growth of bacteria and killing the bacteria present. If your vet prescribes antibiotics for their UTI, it is vital that you complete the entire course prescribed.
Because bacterial infections are rare in cats under 10, your vet may prescribe anti-inflammatories, instead. These work by helping reduce the level of inflammation along the urinary tract and soothing the sharp pains that come with UTI’s, allowing your cat to comfortably empty their bladder – and, subsequently, clearing the area of bacteria in the process.
Cats that have a blockage caused by a UTI will need to have their bladders manually evacuated, as time is of the essence in these cases. Luckily, most cases are caught before the need for this arises.
How to Prevent Future UTIs in Your Cat
If your cat suffers from regular UTI’s, your vet may prescribe you a course of low-level antibiotics, which can help prevent the recurrence of infections. If the problem is chronic (happens frequently over the course of 6 months to a year), then your vet may order further exploratory tests to see if there is an underlying problem.
For most cats, however, urinary tract infections can be prevented by following some simple tips. For starters, it’s important to always keep a good level of clean, fresh water nearby, to encourage your cat to drink. Placing a few bowls around their favorite spots can help them to flush out the bacteria growth before it becomes a problem.
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You can also help your cat by keeping an eye on their weight, as UTI’s are more common in cats that are slightly overweight. If your cat is struggling with their weight, you can use prescription-based food or high-quality cat food that helps you to maintain a healthy weight, while encouraging more exercise through play. You can also provide your cat with added supplements, designed to help soothe the bladder, as well as having many other benefits.
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Finally, you can help to prevent FLUTD’s by keeping up with regular check-ups at your local vets. Most vets will encourage clients to visit them once every six months, so you can give them an overview of how they’re getting on, and your vet can perform basic tests to see how healthy your cat is.
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Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.