Urinary tract infections (UTIs) in cats, although less common than in dogs, can be a significant health concern. They occur when bacteria infiltrate the urinary tract, which consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. UTIs can cause discomfort and lead to serious complications if not promptly diagnosed and treated.
This guide aims to provide a thorough understanding of the causes, symptoms, types, and treatments for UTIs in cats.
Causes of UTIs in Cats
UTIs in cats are typically triggered by bacteria, most commonly E. coli, which ascend the urethra into the bladder. Occasionally, fungi, viruses, or parasites can cause infections. Factors contributing to the development of UTIs include:
- Advanced age: Older cats often have weaker immune systems and are more susceptible.
- Medical conditions: Diabetes, kidney disease, or any condition causing a compromised immune system can increase the risk of UTIs.
- Bladder stones: These can irritate the bladder lining, making it easier for bacteria to take hold.
- Obstruction: Any blockage in the urinary tract, such as crystalluria or a urethral plug, can prevent complete emptying of the bladder, facilitating bacterial growth.
Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections in Cats
It's essential to recognize the signs of a UTI in your cat so you can seek veterinary care promptly. Symptoms may include:
- Straining to urinate or frequent attempts to urinate
- Producing only a small amount of urine
- Blood in the urine (hematuria)
- Urinating outside the litter box
- Excessive licking of the genital area
- Vocalization or signs of pain while urinating
- Changes in behavior, such as increased aggression or decreased appetite
Types of Feline Urinary Tract Infections
While any part of the urinary tract can be infected, two types of UTIs are most common in cats:
Lower UTI: This affects the bladder and/or urethra. It is often associated with feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), a term that covers several conditions affecting the bladder and urethra.
Upper UTI: This type involves the kidneys and/or ureters. It's less common but more serious, as it can lead to kidney damage or sepsis, a life-threatening infection that can spread throughout the body.
The primary treatment for UTIs in cats is antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria causing the infection. The choice of antibiotic and length of treatment will depend on the specific bacteria involved and the severity of the infection.
In cases where an underlying condition is contributing to the UTI, such as bladder stones or diabetes, additional treatment will be needed to manage these issues. If a cat is suffering from severe discomfort, pain relief may also be provided.
For cats with recurring UTIs, preventive measures may be recommended. These can include dietary changes to promote urinary health, increasing water intake to dilute urine and flush out bacteria, and minimizing stress, which can contribute to urinary issues. There are also effect ways of treating a cat UTI naturally at home. See our list of cat urinary tract infection home remedies.
Urinary tract infections in cats can be distressing for both the pet and owner, but with early detection and appropriate treatment, they are usually straightforward to manage. A key part of managing UTIs involves observing your cat for signs of urinary discomfort and seeking veterinary care promptly if symptoms are noticed. With your vigilance and the help of your vet, your cat can overcome a UTI and return to its usual, healthy self.