Why does stress exacerbate cystitis in domestic cats?

How does stress exacerbate feline cystitis
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

How does stress exacerbate feline cystitis. Image: MikeB

Well, I wanted to find out more about this topic because although like many others I know that a lot of cases of feline cystitis (bladder inflammation) are idiopathic (unknown cause) it is often made worse by stress. But it is hard to see a connection between stress and a bacterial infection of the bladder or making it worse.

The conclusion of my research using the best sources is that you won’t find a good and complete answer because the exact mechanism by which stress causes cystitis in cats is not fully understood at the moment.

Stress is known to be a contributing factor in the development of feline cystitis, also known as feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), an umbrella term actually.

Here are some theories regarding the link between stress and cystitis:

Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important
  1. One theory is that stress can cause changes in a cat’s behavior, such as decreased water intake and increased urine concentration, which can lead to bladder irritation and inflammation. Additionally, stress may cause changes in the cat’s immune system (see below), making them more susceptible to urinary tract infections or other urinary tract issues.
  2. Stress can also trigger the release of certain hormones, such as cortisol, which can affect the cat’s bladder and urinary tract. Chronic stress can lead to chronic inflammation, which can contribute to the development of cystitis.
  3. It is important to note that not all cases of cystitis in cats are caused by stress. Other factors, such as diet, genetics, and environmental factors, can also play a role in the development of this condition.
  4. Dr Bruce Fogle DVM (Complete Cat Care) states that the nerves in the bladder wall are stimulated by bladder inflammation caused by stones, crystals, tumors or bacteria. The brain’s response to stress may stimulate these nerves. The stimulated nerves release ‘certain chemicals that increase local pain and inflammation’.
  5. There is a relationship between stress causing the production of cortisol and the immune system. Cortisol depresses the immune system which can lead to infection which in turn to lead to more stress which in turn depresses the immune system. It is a circular health problem which indicates how stress can exacerbate cystitis.
  6. A study of cats with feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) found “increased bladder permeability has been reported in cats with FIC as well as in other animal models of cystitis”. And “cats with FIC appeared to have altered bladder permeability, most notably during the period of initial stress”. Now for the hard science: “there may be [a] stress-induced increase in the activity of tyrosine hydroxylase, which catalyzes the rate-limiting step in catecholamine synthesis.”

Bladder permeability

Bladder permeability refers to the ability of substances to pass through the lining of the bladder and enter the bloodstream or urine. The bladder is a hollow organ that stores urine before it is eliminated from the body. The bladder lining is made up of several layers of cells that form a barrier between the urine and the underlying tissues.

In some cases, the bladder lining can become permeable or more porous, which can allow substances such as toxins, bacteria, or chemicals to pass through and enter the bloodstream. This can lead to inflammation, infection, or other health problems.

Bladder permeability can be influenced by a variety of factors, including infections, inflammation, radiation therapy, certain medications, and autoimmune disorders. It can also be affected by lifestyle factors such as diet, hydration, and exposure to environmental toxins.

Treatment for bladder permeability will depend on the underlying cause, but may include medications to reduce inflammation, antibiotics to treat infections, or lifestyle changes to promote bladder health.

I hope this page gives some insights into the link between stress and FIC.

Note: If you suspect that your cat may have cystitis, it is important to consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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