People search for a home remedy for a cat with cystitis. I have first-hand experience. Many years ago my cat had cystitis. It was caused primarily by stress compounded by a full-time dry food diet. She was stressed because I was away all day. I tackled the problem by doing my best to reduce her stress and by providing her with wet cat food and home prepared cat food (primarily fish) with added water. This resolved the matter.
What it is
For those who are unsure, cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder which can be caused by stones, tumours, bacterial infections or sometimes it is idiopathic meaning no apparent cause. The symptoms are frequent urination and straining producing small drops of blood in urine sometimes on the carpet or in a bath – outside the litter box.
Stress appears to be a major factor in acquiring this disease, which is similar to interstitial cystitis in humans. You will need a proper diagnosis by a veterinarian to find out what is causing it but as a major factor is stress together with dry cat food, both of these aspects of the disease can be tackled at home.
Some cats with cystitis retain urine forming uroliths or urethral plugs. They need to be treated by a veterinarian. The good news is that most cases of cystitis resolve without medical treatment and reducing stress can speed up the healing process together with decreasing the likelihood of a relapse.
Some veterinarians might encourage cat owners to work with a cat behaviourist in order to find out the reasons why a cat with cystitis is stressed. This may be a good idea but common sense can go a long way as well. I’ve said it many times before and most people realise that stress can be caused by what I would describe as a hostile environment. When the environment is calm, with routines and gentleness together with lots of play and if there is nothing occurring outside which might stress the cat, the cat should be reasonably calm. Arguably it is easier to create calmness when the cat is full time indoors or confined to the indoors and an outside garden enclosure provided there is plenty of play and the owner is around a lot. This is because the environment is controlled by the owner.
Pheromones and drugs
Feliway, a commercial product you can buy online, is an antianxiety pheromone. It is often recommended by cat behaviourist and some veterinarians. This may help to calm the cat. Sometimes veterinarians might recommend an antianxiety drug such as amitriptyline but that of course requires the intervention a veterinarian and cannot be regarded as a home treatment. It should be a last resort.
Feeding canned foods (wet cat food) as opposed to dry foods will help to prevent recurrences because the cat is likely to urinate more often which flushes bacteria and crystals out of the bladder. The cat should be encouraged to drink more water. Obviously wet cat food contains more water compared to dry cat food. In addition, as mentioned above, water can be added to, for example, boiled fish.
Years ago I discussed how the appearance of water bowl might affect a cat’s desire to drink. A cat owner might explore this. Cats often prefer to drink water out of dirty puddles rather than tapwater. This is probably because of chlorine in tap water. Cat owners might consider this.
A well-known book on home veterinary treatment recommends canned Hill’s c/d which tends to provide a near neutral pH.
Cystitis is part of what is described by veterinarians as Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). There are other steps that the cat owner might do to reduce the likelihood of their cat developing too much urinary sediment or an infection.
They should keep their cat’s litter box clean in scooping it at least twice a day and the litter changed whenever it smells. This is because some cats refuse to use a dirty litter and can voluntarily retain their urine.
As mentioned, cat owners should encourage their cat to increase consumption of water by keeping the supply fresh and clean at all times. Some cat owners might advocate a water fountain or simply leaving a faucet dripping.
Preventing obesity can help as well. I’ve already mentioned minimizing the stress levels in the household and in addition glucosamine supplements can be beneficial in preventing a recurrence because it is said that they protect the lining of the bladder.
A well-known veterinarian and author who wrote the book Your Cat says that bladder disease a.k.a. cystitis is a nutritionally caused problem in the adult cat. What she is saying, in other words, is that it is caused by the cat’s diet. According to Elizabeth M Hodgkins DVM, veterinarians saw an increase in cystitis in the 1970s and 80s. She argues that the rise in cystitis coincided exactly with the increased use of dry kibble to feed cats.
In times past cats consumed meat-based foods either bought commercially or provided home-made by the owner; cats did not develop cystitis.
The commercial solution to the problem was to reduce the amount of magnesium in commercially manufactured pet food. The experts thought at that time that high magnesium levels in the bladder caused stones to form but they were wrong.
Hodgkins firmly believes that plant-based cat foods (and she’s specifically referring to dry cat food with their high amounts of processed cereal and low moisture content) cause urinary tract infections. She firmly recommends that cats should eat meat-based wet foods because they do not develop cystitis and that the problem is not related to magnesium levels in cat food.
In short, the problem of cystitis is “the extremely low-moisture, alkaline-urine-producing, high-process-carbohydrate formulas of dry cat foods”.
She says that a cat fed on dry cat food exclusively becomes “clinically dehydrated”. The cat’s urine becomes very concentrated. The high concentration of minerals and other constituents in the urine leads to an infection. In contrast, when a cat eats a wet, meat-based diet the urine has a natural acid pH and is dilute. The conditions created are not favourable to the formation of crystals and stones and therefore the diet eliminates inflammation. She cites many examples of curing cystitis by a conversion to high-quality wet cat food.
An example: Roger
For example, she recites the story of a cat called Roger. At the time he was six years old. His cystitis started when he was three years old. He had been fed a diet of “grocery store dry cat food exclusively”. Roger’s veterinarian had prescribed a special acidifying diet. It didn’t work. For a while fluid therapy and antibiotics resolved Roger’s
urinary tract infection.
Roger was overweight. Elizabeth Hodgkins treated Roger with fluids and antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory drug. The key treatment was to feed Roger a wet-meat-based commercial food without high-carbohydrate ingredients from plants. It took a while for Roger to adapt to a wet diet and he resisted initially. Different foods were tried and within a week Roger was eating 7-8 ounces of wet cat food daily and his urinary tract infection was gone. He also lost weight and his urine was less acidic and had a good specific gravity of 1.035. After six months he had lost 4 pounds and “looked like a new cat”. Roger’s owners were delighted. Roger had no new occurrences of cystitis.