Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) – watch for stress as the primary cause

Here are some tips or thoughts on the causes, treatment and prevention of feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC). Feline idiopathic cystitis means cystitis of an unknown cause. Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder and is one of those disease which is part of the feline lower urinary tract disease complex. When cystitis is not idiopathic it might be caused by stones which are called uroliths, bacterial infections or tumours. When it is idiopathic it might be caused by stress. Stress is directly linked to feline idiopathic cystitis. This is very similar to interstitial cystitis conditioning humans which is also exacerbated by stress.

Feline idiopathic cystitis can force a cat to urinate on the carpet near the wall
Feline idiopathic cystitis can force a cat to urinate on the carpet near the wall. Image: The Veterinary Nurse.
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Although most cats resolve cystitis without medical treatment, some cats with the disease will retain urine and form uroliths or urethral plugs. They need to be treated for a urethral obstruction. Reducing stress is an important part of the treatment process and a preventative. It will need some self-analysis on how you are coping with cat caretaking duties. A classic form of stress is separation anxiety caused by the cat caregiver being away from the home all day long and the cat being confined to the home for the same period of time.

In my honest view that doesn’t work. What I mean is you have a full-time indoor cat and you work long hours in the office. That’s not satisfactory. Although Covid has provided a great launch platform for hybrid working allowing cat owners to be in the home for part of the week and then popping into the office for two days within the five-day work period. I’m going to suggest that a lot of cats have resolved their cystitis because the Covid 👍.

Sometimes, in extreme cases I would suggest anti-anxiety drugs such as amitriptyline can help (last resort?). An anti-anxiety pheromone such as Feliway can also help. They can both calm a stressed cat. You might even work with a feline behaviourist to try and figure out why your cat is stressed. But it will be something fairly obvious such as the one suggested or another cat in the home or even outside the home which is bullying the cat, as an example.

Canned wet food can help as does a diet which encourages frequent voiding flushes of the bacteria and crystals that form in the bladder when the cat has cystitis. I would suggest adding water to boiled fish for example. Domestic cats are poor drinkers and cat caregivers need to encourage the cat to drink to help flush out the crystals and bacteria.

The experts say that diets such as Hill’s c/d which tend to provide near-neutral urine pH can also help.

The section below was written around 10 years ago

I have left this section in without amendment. This page has been upgraded as at the date of the post and republished.

Once a cat has the condition, see a vet who will prescribe antibiotics. My cat (25 years ago or more) had cystitis. The vet said it was due to stress. It was also due to eating dry cat food only, which was recommended by another vet who happened to sell it as well. It was Hills l/d.

The first tip then is to not feed exclusively dry cat food. Mix in some canned (wet food) and some raw homemade food ideally although this requires some skill (see Home-made cat food) or treats. Also see cat food recipe.

Secondly provide plenty of fresh water. This can be tap water. Bottled water is no good really (see Best Water for Cats). The best is pure “energized”, alkaline and toxin-free. It is best supplies with one of those automatic fountains. See also Cats drinking water.

Third minimise stress for your cat. Stress will usually come about as a result of things that we do; arguments, introducing new cats, messy conditions, away too much, poor litter cleaning etc.

Fourthly play with your cat at least for 10 minutes a day. This will stimulate your cat. This will help to create a more natural and therefore a calmer environment. Also provide a stimulating environment, climbing trees etc. and places to watch outside.

FIC has been researched extensively without yet being sure what causes the condition. It is an inflammation of the urinary bladder. Another name for the disease is feline idiopathic lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) or feline urologic syndrome (FUS). It is thought to affect up to 1% of the cat population. There may be an underlying cause and that is vet’s work obviously.

Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) causes excessive uncontrolled urination of small drops of concentrated urine. Even the best-behaved cat will urinate outside the litter. Please do not punish cats that do that. First it won’t stop it and second it will cause more stress and make things worse.

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