Cystitis can be a serious problem for cats and should not be ignored. Long-term management and short-term treatment of cystitis are available for your cat, but cat owners must be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of this urinary problem. Knowing what to look for can help you get the help your cat needs.
What is cystitis in cats?
Cystitis is inflammation of the cat’s urinary tract. It is also known as Feline Idiopathic or Interstitial Cystitis (FIC), Pandora Syndrome, Feline Urinary Syndrome (FUS), Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) or Feline Idiopathic Lower Urinary Tract Disease ( iFLUTD). This problem affects a cat’s bladder and urethra, and due to the inflammation and discomfort associated with it, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to urinate.
Cats with cystitis will show a variety of symptoms that may also indicate other urinary tract problems in the cat. While some symptoms of cystitis can be purely troublesome for cat owners, others can indicate a life-threatening problem. This is why it is so important to understand the symptoms of cystitis in cats.
Signs of cystitis involve the cat’s urination, so any unusual litter box behavior could be a sign of the problem. If you regularly scoop more urine boluses from the litter box, you can determine that your cat is urinating more frequently, which may be the first symptoms of cystitis. As cystitis worsens, your cat may cry due to pain or discomfort when urinating and straining to squat to urinate. Cystitis can worsen when your cat urinates until the body is unable to urinate, and your cat may urinate in small amounts rather than a steady stream. As cystitis worsens, the inflammation prevents urine from leaving the bladder, and cats are said to be “obstructed.” This is a life-threatening problem that requires immediate veterinary attention. Cats that are “blocked” will have a large, firm bladder that can usually be seen or felt in the cat’s abdomen.
Other signs of cystitis include blood in the urine, unusually foul-smelling urine, cloudy urine indicating crystals or small stones in the bladder, excessive licking and attention to the opening of the urethra, most notably urinating in a litter box outside the body. This inappropriate pee can be next to a box, on a sofa, on a plastic bag, on a pile of clothes, or anywhere your cat sees fit to urinate.
Causes of Cystitis in Cats
Most of the time, the cause of cystitis in cats is unknown. That’s why it’s often called idiopathic, which means unknown cause. Stress, anxiety, other illnesses, urinary tract infections, bladder stones, urinary tract tumors, etc. may all play a role in the development of cystitis. Some studies have shown that cats with cystitis also have low levels of glycosaminoglycans in the cartilage of the bladder wall, but the underlying cause remains a mystery.
Diagnosing cystitis in cats
Cystitis symptoms in cats are usually obvious, but a veterinarian will usually perform some tests to make sure there is no underlying disease causing cystitis. X-rays, urine tests, ultrasounds, and even blood tests may be recommended for your cat.
Treatment of Feline Cystitis
Cystitis is treated symptomatically first to ensure your cat is able to urinate. If your cat is “obstructed” and unable to urinate, this is an emergency and requires immediate veterinary “unblocking” of your cat. This will involve a catheter, sedatives and/or anesthetics, and sometimes a procedure called cystocentesis, which involves the use of a needle and syringe to withdraw urine from the bladder. Pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, and other medications may be needed to help your cat stay comfortable. Close monitoring of the cat’s vital signs is necessary, and intravenous fluids may also be required. It may be hospitalized for a few days with or without a catheter to make sure it can urinate on its own before going home.
If your cat is not obstructed but has cystitis, various medications are usually used to help your cat urinate by reducing inflammation, pain, pressure, and cramping in the urethra. If crystals, stones, or bacteria are present in the urine, your veterinarian may recommend a special diet, antibiotics, and other recommendations to help support your cat’s urinary system.
How to Prevent Cystitis in Cats
Managing stress and anxiety is the most common way to help prevent cystitis. While no one fully understands what causes it, it is often noted that cystitis is closely associated with stressed kittens. All sorts of things can stress your cat, so the first thing you should do is figure out what your cat’s stress is. Stress can then be managed through the use of medications, special diets, supplements, pheromones, and sometimes changing things in the environment, such as litter box placement and litter type. Some veterinarians also recommend the use of cat drinkers to encourage water drinking and oral glycosaminoglycans (such as sodium chondroitin sulfate) to help keep your cat’s bladder healthy.