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feline health problems

The essentials

  • Cats get urinary tract infections, too If your cat is urinating outside of the litter box or excessively licking their genitalia, it may be a UTI. 
  • Some cats are more prone to UTIs — Middle-aged and overweight cats are likely to get UTIs, but so are healthy cats who have undergone stress.
  • Natural substances can go a long way Apple cider vinegar, bone broth, marshmallow root, and cranberry are some natural treatment options.
  • Diet is important in prevention There are a few changes you can make in your cat’s diet to help stave off UTIs.

What is a cat UTI?

Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is the formal medical term for a cat UTI. It describes any condition or bacterial infection that affects the bladder or the urethra of cats. 

UTIs occur when bacteria gets into the bladder via the urethra. This build-up and growth of bacteria causes an infection. If you leave UTIs to their own devices, they can be extremely harmful for cats and potentially cause other problems such as bladder or kidney stones.

Some cats are more prone to UTIs than others

While all cats can contract UTIs, especially when they undergo stress or changes to their daily routine, some are more at risk than others. The following cats may be more likely to suffer from UTIs: 

  • Overweight cats. These felines are not able to groom themselves appropriately, thus leading to a buildup of bacteria in their genital region. 
  • Middle-aged and older female cats. Due to female cats’ shorter urinary tract, E. coli from their stool can easily infect the urinary tract. 
  • Cats fed a dry diet. Feeding your cat only dry food can lead to urinary issues. Dry food dehydrates and makes urine more concentrated — so it’s harder for a cat to pass crystals and other disturbances to the urinary tract. 
  • Diabetic cats. They are likely to suffer from UTIs because of the glucose in their urine. This glucose or sugar is a food source for bacteria.
  • Cats with bladder stones. Stones are a collection of crystals and minerals that can cause infection and inflammation in the urinary tract.

Common cat UTI symptoms

The good news is that there are a few telltale signs to look out for when identifying whether or not your cat has a UTI. The following are the most common symptoms: 

  • Urinating outside the litter box (often on cold tile surfaces or in the bathtub)
  • Blood in the urine
  • Excessive licking around genitalia 
  • Straining to urinate 
  • Painful urination and discomfort (you may hear your cat meowing) 
  • Changes to your cat’s daily bathroom regimen 

👉 Frequent licking is one of the most common symptoms of a cat UTI and may look something like this.

Keep an eye on your cat’s bathroom habits 🚽

It’s extremely important to pay close attention to your cat’s daily bathroom habits. Take a look at what you’re scooping during your daily cleaning of the litter box. That way, you’ll be able to identify when something is off.

You should start paying attention to your cat’s daily routines early on. Track how often and how much urine your cat produces each day. If you notice any changes to these “normal” habits, it might be a sign that there’s something up.

Underlying causes of a cat’s UTI

There are a few possible causes of UTIs in cats: 

  • Urinary stones. These are a collection of harmful minerals in a cat’s urinary tract that can lead to infection. 
  • Kidney disease. Cats with chronic kidney disease are likely to develop UTIs because abnormalities of the kidneys often cause secondary infection.
  • Infection. Bacteria, fungi, and parasites can all lead to signs of a cat UTI.

How cat urinary tract infections are diagnosed

If you notice any of the latter mentioned symptoms, you should get your cat to the vet right away for an official diagnosis. The vet may carry out one or a few of the following tests to decide if your cat is suffering from a UTI: 

  • Urinalysis. These urine sample tests assess the pH of urine while looking for blood, crystals, excess protein, and infection. 
  • Urine culture. Your vet will take a culture or sample of your cat’s urine and send it to a laboratory for testing. Cultures are specialized urine testing that is recommended for cats with fevers. 
  • Physical examination. The vet will feel your cat’s body looking for inflammation around the affected regions. They will examine genitalia and feel for a distended urinary bladder.
  • Abdominal ultrasound or x-rays. If your vet wants to conduct a more thorough analysis, they may do an ultrasound or x-ray. This helps them see what your cat’s bladder looks like — and find internal cysts or tumors that can’t be seen or felt.

🚨 Do not self-diagnose your cat with a UTI. The vet will carry out special tests to ensure your cat gets the correct treatment.

How to treat cat UTIs

There are a variety of treatment methods, both at home and medicinal, to help treat your cat’s UTI. Only follow a treatment method according to your vet’s recommendation. The best treatment method for your cat depends on the underlying cause of the infection. 

Prescriptions from the vet

The vet is your first line of contact when you need to treat your cat’s UTI. If your vet sees it as necessary, they may prescribe antibiotics for the infection. They will likely prescribe an oral medication or an injectable medication. These antibiotics get rid of the infection or reduce inflammation.  

At-home treatment methods

Some natural or at-home treatment methods are thought to help prevent or treat UTIs in cats. These treatments may be recommended by your vet to aid in your pet’s recovery. The following natural remedies have proven efficacy but should not replace antibiotics unless recommended by your vet: 

  • Apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is an antibacterial substance. While it should not necessarily replace antibiotics, it can be a great addition to your cat’s daily supplement intake.
  • Marshmallow root. Marshmallow root creates a protective layer over mucous membranes in the urinary tract. 
  • Bone broth. You can feed your cat bone broth to give them an extra boost of hydration. It contains nutrients that help to boost the immune system.
  • Cranberry. Some studies discuss cranberry extract as another natural way to ease a cat’s UTI symptoms due to the acidity’s ability to lower urine pH. These cranberry supplements by Coco and Luna help prevent UTIs in dogs and cats.

👉 Always check with your vet before introducing one of these natural substances into your cat’s diet. 

Cat UTI prevention, in steps

While urinary tract infections aren’t always easy to avoid, there are five preventative measures you can to take to improve your cat’s overall well-being.

1. A healthy diet goes a long way

Believe it or not, your cat’s diet can increase or decrease their risk for UTIs. Your vet may suggest that you feed your cat a diet with less minerals — these minerals are often found in commercial dry cat food. Consider feeding your cat a canned diet instead of a dry diet. If they prefer dry food, make sure your vet approves the quality and try to mix in a little bit of wet food each day.

👉 While your cat may watch you eat dinner, never feed your feline table scraps.

2. Provide clean water for hydration 💦

Lots of water goes a long way for your cat. The more your cat drinks, the more they urinate and are likely to flush out bad toxins from their system. Concentrated urine is more likely to contain stones, crystals, and other irritants. Make sure to keep your cat’s water bowl filled with clean water at all times!

👉 We love this cat water fountain to help your cat drink more water.

3. Reduce stress on your cat

Regardless of whether or not your cat is prone to infections, you should work on keeping their stress levels low. There are plenty of things you can do to keep your cat happy, such as:

  • Taking them outside or stimulating environmental enrichment indoors, by providing them with places to rest, scratch, and play. 
  • Making sure they have plenty of toys or perches to relax on
  • Spending time with your cat 
  • Avoiding lots of movement or environmental changes

4. Practice good bathroom hygiene

Make sure your cat’s litter box is always clean. There are plenty of hazards that come with a dirty litter box. If your cat’s litter box is holding waste, they may actually avoid using it to urinate. If a cat holds it for too long, it can cause bacteria build-up and infection. 

👉 It is a good idea to provide multiple litter boxes around the house so your cat’s potty is more likely to stay clean.

5. Make regular trips to the vet

Regular vet visits are always smart. If you take your cat to the vet often, you are more likely to catch infections early before they become too serious. This will prevent your cat from experiencing excessive pain or developing other health issues. 

Frequently asked questions

Will my cat’s UTI pass with time?

While UTIs can sometimes resolve on their own, it’s important to get your cat the appropriate treatment. If they finish their antibiotics, take your cat to the vet to do another urinalysis to confirm that the infection is gone.

Are UTIs deadly?

While UTIs in cats are highly treatable, they can be deadly if neglected. When UTIs are a result of stones or crystals, it’s possible that your cat might need surgery or a diet change. Some prescription diets can dissolve stones.

Are female cats more prone to UTIs?

Older female cats are more prone to UTIs and bladder infections because they have a shorter urinary tract compared to males. It’s important to note that UTIs and bladder infections are just as dangerous for male cats. In fact, a male cat has a narrow urethra which can make infection extremely dangerous.

What happens if my cat’s UTI doesn’t go away?

If your cat’s UTI doesn’t seem to go away or they have recurrent UTIs, you should go back to the veterinarian. Even when their UTI does subside, pet owners should continue sticking to healthy habits with their cats.