Urinary Tract Infections in Cats

Urinary tract infections are just one of the types of urinary tract problems that can affect cats. Infections can cause a variety of symptoms that cat owners should learn to recognize in order to give their cats the help they need and prevent bigger problems.

What is a urinary tract infection in cats?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria enter the bladder, grow and multiply. This can lead to infection because urine is usually sterile in the bladder. Cats don’t get UTIs as often as some other urinary problems, but that doesn’t mean they never happen.

Signs of UTI in Cats

  • straining to urinate
  • crying or complaining when urinating
  • blood in urine
  • urinating outside the litter box
  • licking the urethra
  • increased urination frequency

Cats with UTIs may experience discomfort when urinating. This discomfort or pain can sometimes cause them to cry or whine as well as nervous when trying to urinate in the litter box. A cat with a UTI may also lick its genitals to try to ease the discomfort and try to urinate more often than usual. Some cats with UTIs also have blood in their urine, which may be seen in the litter box or on the ground the cat is lying on.

Finally, many cats with urinary problems, including urinary tract infections, will urinate outside the litter box. This could mean urinating directly next to the litter box or somewhere completely unusual. This is done to communicate with its owner that something is not right. However, if cat owners use special color-changing silicone cat litter, they may be warned about UTIs before they develop this unwanted symptom.

Causes of Urinary Tract Infections in Cats

UTIs occur when bacteria enter a cat’s bladder. Typically, bacteria enter the bladder through a cat’s urethra, which is the path urine takes from the bladder to exit the body. Once in the bladder, bacteria grow and multiply, producing more bacteria and infiltrating this once sterile space. Simple things like a dirty litter box, a dirty bed, or the overall dirty environment in which your cat lives can allow bacteria to enter the urethra and cause a UTI.

Diagnosing Urinary Tract Infections in Cats

If cat owners observe symptoms of a UTI in their cat, they should schedule a checkup with the cat’s veterinarian. Urine samples need to be collected by the owner at home using special, non-absorbent garbage, or by a veterinarian. The veterinarian may temporarily leave the cat in the animal hospital until it urinates on its own in some non-absorbable litter, or urine can be obtained through a cystocentesis. Cystocentesis is a quick and non-invasive technique to obtain a urine sample by using a needle and syringe. Some veterinarians prefer to obtain urine via cystocentesis, while others prefer to have the cat provide the sample naturally.

Once urine is obtained, a urinalysis will be performed. This type of test checks the urine for bacteria, crystals, blood, parasites, abnormal pH levels, abnormal specific gravity levels, glucose, and other things that help a veterinarian make a diagnosis. UTI is diagnosed if bacteria are present in the urine analysis. A urine culture is also sometimes necessary to know exactly what type of bacteria is in the infection so that specific antibiotics can be selected.

Treatment of Urinary Tract Infections in Cats

Antibiotics will be prescribed to kill bacteria in the bladder, and symptomatic treatment may also be required to relieve the cat’s symptoms. This usually includes pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs. Probiotics may also be recommended to counteract the negative effects of antibiotics.

How to Prevent UTIs in Cats

The best way to prevent urinary tract infections in cats is to make sure the opening of the urinary tract is kept clean at all times. Regular cleaning of litter boxes and cleaning of cat beds will help with this task. Overweight cats may have difficulty cleaning themselves and may need help keeping their urinary tract openings clean with damp cloths or wipes. Adequate water intake also helps flush the bladder regularly.

Other Types of Urinary Tract Problems in Cats

UTIs aren’t the only urinary tract problems in cats. More commonly, cats will develop inflammation or stones.

  • Urine crystals – Crystals can be problematic as they can develop into troublesome bladder stones. There are several different types of urine crystals.
  • Bladder stones – There are many different types of bladder stones (uroliths), and sometimes bacteria contribute to their formation. Small stones can cause cats to become blocked and unable to urinate, which is why they are life-threatening.
  • Urinary tract inflammation – Also known as cystitis, the inflammation can be dangerous for cats. The urethra can swell and prevent the cat from urinating, which can be fatal.

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Urinary Tract Infections in Cats
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