Cat Urinary Infection Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Urinary tract infections in cats, or cat UTIs, are quite common and troublesome for your cat. Symptoms can include frequent urination, pain during urination, blood in the urine, or even behavioral changes like urinating outside the litter box.

UTIs in cats are often caused by bacteria migrating into the bladder. They are particularly common in cats over 10 years old, and needless to say, the sooner you catch them, the better it is.

Note: this comprehensive article by Sebastiano is in four parts for search engine optimisation reasons. There are links at the base of each part taking you to the next section.

My personal experience with feline urinary problems

Cat Urinary Infection Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Cat Urinary Infection Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Image: Sebastiano Battaglia.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

More than a decade ago, my cat Ginger picked me as a pet parent. He was, and still is, my buddy, and a lively short-haired ginger domestic cat. A few months ago, we noticed that he did not behave as usual. He started being more reclusive, he wasn’t using the litter properly, and was having accidents on the couch. Within 24 hours, he also looked hunched and showed clear signs of being in pain.

Needless to say, I brought him immediately to a Veterinary Emergency Hospital. There, they did

X-rays, blood work and a fleet of other tests to reveal an intestinal and bladder blockage. His bladder was roughly 5 times bigger than it should have been.

He spent four more days in the hospital, and I spent countless hours visiting and cuddling him trying to give him some comfort. Finally, after more blood work, more IV meds, antibiotics, imaging, and a bill close to $6,000, he recovered well enough to come back home. 

Here, Ginger took his meds for another week and started finally returning to his normal self: spunky, active…and just being my buddy!

It was a very stressful period. He was sick, in pain, I was stressed, and I cried for him (I’m not ashamed to admit it!). So, I wanted to write this article to offer a general overview of what common urinary issues in cats are, and how to recognize and address them. 

Hopefully, your cat will be a health monster, and never have an UTI. But if it happens, you may be better prepared by reading below. 

Understanding Cat Urinary Infections

Cat urinary infections can show up unexpectedly, or creep in over time. They can quickly change your cat’s behavior, or go unnoticed for a long time. Let’s take a deeper look at what they are and what to look for.

How to tell if your cat has a bladder infection – video on YouTube. Click to see it.

Types of Urinary Tract Problems

UTIs in cats typically result from bacteria infiltrating the urinary tract. However, not all urinary issues stem from infections.

For example, feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) is an inflammation of a cat’s bladder without a clear cause. It affects many cats, and the symptoms are similar to those from a bacterial infections, yet there are no bacteria involved.

On the other hand, some cats also have urethral obstruction caused by stones or crystals, and this is a life-threatening emergency. This can cause a complete blockage, preventing your cat from urinating, and requires immediate veterinary attention.

Common Causes and Risk Factors

Several factors contribute to the likelihood of a cat developing urinary tract problems. Cats older than 10 years, especially females, are more prone to UTIs, which, as mentioned before, are caused by bacteria’s ascent through the urethra to the bladder.

Lower urinary tract diseases can have various triggers, from stress to inadequate water intake, and can even be related to the cat’s diet. Obese cats, or those with chronic health conditions like diabetes, may have an increased risk of urinary issues.

What Are the Symptoms and Diagnosis of Feline UTIs?

Video: Cat UTI Infection Symptoms.

Cats are very good in hiding pain, but there are clear signs to look for that can suggest that an UTI may be there.

What Are the Signs of a Urinary Infection?
What Are the Signs of a Urinary Infection?
What Are the Signs of a Urinary Infection? Image: Photo by Erik-Jan Leusink on Unsplash

Cats with UTIs may urinate outside their litter box, or around the house. They may display discomfort, often manifested by straining (or meowing) during urination and frequent attempts to urinate. You might notice blood in their urine, a condition known as hematuria, which signals a potential infection. Additionally, cats might lick their genital area excessively due to irritation, itchiness, and potential pain in the area.

On that note, some other signs to watch for, beside signs of painful urination, are signs of discomfort, and possibly symptoms like vomiting or excessive thirst.

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