UTIs in Cats (Urinary Tract Infections in Cats)

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common health problem in cats. While they are relatively easy to diagnose, urinary infections can develop into a more serious condition, affecting young and adult felines if left untreated.

Typically, urinary infections appear due to harmful bacteria that enter the urethra through the GI tract or the skin. In this post, we will address common concerns and take a look at symptoms of UTIs in cats, general causes and treatment options.

What is a urinary tract infection in felines?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) in felines is a bacterial infection that can affect different parts of the urinary tract, including kidneys, urethra and bladder. Bacteria such as E. coli or Staphylococcus usually cause UTIs in cats. They enter the urinary tract and multiply, causing inflammation and discomfort. Female cats are more prone to UTIs than male cats and senior cats may be at a higher risk due to age-related changes in the urinary tract and demand special treatment. 

A UTI in cats can be diagnosed by a vet through a urine sample analysis and treated with antibiotics and supportive care. It is important to seek prompt veterinary care if you suspect your cat has a UTI, as untreated infections can lead to serious complications such as kidney damage.

Even though urinary tract infections are  uncomfortable and painful, they are not contagious and are often easily curable with antibiotics and proper care

Cats organ and urologic disease

Cat UTI symptoms       

The symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) in felines can vary significantly and depend on the severity and location of the infection. The most common UTI symptoms cats show include:

  • Frequent urination: The cat may urinate more often than usual or only pass small amounts of urine at a time.
  • Straining to urinate: The feline may appear to be in pain or discomfort when urinating and may take a long time to do so.
  • Cat pee blood: The urine may appear reddish or pinkish due to the presence of blood. If you notice blood in your pet’s urine, head to the veterinarian immediately. 
  • Urinating outside the litter box: The cat may start urinating in inappropriate places, such as on the carpet or furniture.
  • Licking the genital area excessively: The feline is excessively licking the genital area in an attempt to alleviate irritation or discomfort.
  • Crying out or meowing during urination: Your cat may vocalise or cry out when urinating, indicating discomfort or pain.
  • Urine has a strong odour: The urine may have a strong, foul smell due to the presence of bacteria.
  • Drinking an excessive amount of water: If your cat suddenly starts drinking a lot of water, it's a sign of concern and requires proper diagnosis. 

Cat UTI symptoms

What causes UTIs in cats?

The exact cause of a cat's UTI can be difficult to identify, particularly if your cat doesn't suffer from any type of kidney or bladder disease. UTI indicates that the bladder is inflamed, but the reason can't be easily identifiable.

Many felines suffering from UTI are diagnosed with FIC or Feline Idiopathic Cystitis. Causes of FIC may include a cat's abnormal reaction to stress, inflammation of neurogenic structure in the bladder wall, or defects that appear in the lining of the bladder.

Urinary tract infections are often linked with other bladder diseases, like neoplasia, bacterial infection, urethral obstruction and urolithiasis, among others. These conditions require veterinarian help. 

Urine concentration can contribute to feline UTIs. If cats aren't drinking enough water, their urine may be too concentrated, which is a breeding ground for bacteria.

Cats may suffer from anatomical abnormalities of the urinary tract, such as a narrowed urethra or a bladder stone. A weakened immune system is another thing to consider, since it can make your cat more susceptible to infections including UTIs or kidney disease.

How to treat a cat's urinary tract infection?

All UTIs can be treated in a veterinary clinic. Besides antibiotics, your vet may suggest a subcutaneous injection, which helps your pet rehydrate, or administer a short course of pain medications if the urinary tract infection is extremely uncomfortable.

In case the infection has spread to the kidneys, hospitalisation and special treatment is necessary. If your cat has been diagnosed with a UTI, it's crucial to give them drugs as instructed. Otherwise you only risk killing half of the bacteria, leaving them to reproduce.

How long can your cat be on antibiotics? It's best for your vet to determine that. Some pet owners may have trouble giving their cats drugs. Keep in mind that an unfinished round of cat antibiotics can cause bacteria to return.

If antibiotics aren't working, a veterinarian may suggest a different drug or recommend additional testing to see what's causing the problem in your pet.  Besides antibiotics, some felines may require fluid therapy and various medications to treat urinary tract infections. The cost depends on testing and the type of drugs the vet uses.

How to prevent urinary infections in cats?

Here is how you can prevent urinary infections in your feline friend:

  • Clean their letter box regularly: Minimise the exposure to urinary matter and faecal to prevent your cat from contaminating themselves.
  • Scatter litter boxes around the house: If you have several cats, make sure each cat has its own litter box. The general rule is to add one more, just in case, on top of the existing ones. A litter box for each cat will help you spot any health issues. For instance, if one litter box is fuller than others, you can assume that the feline is using it more, which could be a sign of concern and needs to be monitored closely.  
  • Fresh water every day: If not drinking enough water, your cat may increase the risk of developing problems with the bladder. You need to supply them with clean and fresh water every day. Consider washing their water bowl regularly or installing a water fountain to encourage your cat's curious nature.
  • Minimise stress: Stress at home can increase the hormone level in your pet's body, leading to an imbalance of bladder pH levels, which can cause recurring infections. Make sure that the litter box is placed in a calm and quiet area of the house.
  • Monitor high-risk factors: Older cats and those allowed to reproduce tend to suffer from urinary disease more often.
  • Start giving your cat supplements: It's a good idea to start giving your cat urinary and kidney supplements, regardless of age. By preventing infection from entering their urinary tract, you protect their kidneys from developing kidney disease  and ending up at the emergency vets.  

Urinary supplements should provide kidney support, increase circulation, decrease the likelihood of crystals in cat urine, bacterial infection and promote a healthy urinary tract.

When buying a urinary supplement for your cat, make sure it contains the following active ingredients:

  • Sodium citrate anhydrous (keeps urine alkaline)
  • Nettle seed extract (anti-inflammatory, slows down the spread of bacteria and reduces the swelling of the urinary tract)
  • Cranberry extract (it's known to stop infection caused by E Coli and makes it harder for bacteria to stick to the walls of a bladder)
  • D-Mannose (can collect bad bacteria out of the bladder)

How to maintain felines' urinary health?

Whether your cat has a history of urinary issues or you hope to prevent disease development, we have some useful tips to keep your cat healthy.

Increase water intake

We already mentioned how fresh water contributes to feline urinary health. The more your cat drinks water, the more it will dilute minerals, toxins and urinary irritants that cause problems. Concentrated urine tends to cause crystals and urinary stones, while irritants can lead to chronic bladder inflammation.

More water means your feline friend will stay hydrated and urinate more frequently while flushing out toxins and maintaining kidney function. You can find some water bowls that are trendy in 2023, to make water drinking more appealing to your pet. 

Change their diet

Urinary diets are designed to promote urinary tract health in cats, especially those prone to urinary tract issues such as urinary tract infections, bladder stones and feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD). These diets work by controlling the pH balance of the urine and reducing the mineral content in the diet.

Here are some key features of urinary diets for cats:

  • Low magnesium content: Magnesium is a mineral that can contribute to the formation of urinary crystals and stones. Urinary diets for cats typically contain lower magnesium levels than regular cat food.
  • Reduced protein: High protein levels can make the urine more alkaline, contributing to the formation of crystals and stones. Urinary diets may have slightly lower protein levels than regular cat food.
  • Acidifying agents: Some urinary diets contain acidifying agents, such as DL-methionine, which can help reduce the pH of the urine and prevent the formation of certain types of crystals.

Veterinarian trainee in uniform embraces adorable tabby cat

Environmental enrichment

While keeping your cat indoors is the safest option, bored cats are more likely to develop stress-related conditions. Being natural predators, cats need continuous stimulation to channel out their inner lioness.

Consider getting them perches because they love monitoring household activities from above. Your cat may also enjoy window perch, which lets them observe the backyard, nature and birds. While you are at work, you can play your cat videos of birds flying or mice scurrying to keep them entertained.

In the wild, felines hunt for food, so making your cat work for their food will provoke their primitive side. This activity will help your cat stay fit. You could purchase food puzzles or hide food around your home and let your feline friend hunt for it.

Cats love chasing battery-operated toys, so you could get insects and mice or even attach a feather to a sting to keep your cat moving.

Schedule regular veterinary checkups and care 

Your pet needs regular veterinary care and a veterinarian can detect signs of underlying urinary conditions. Felines over eight years should see vets more frequently to maintain good health. It's recommended to perform a urinalysis every time you see a vet to check for signs of kidney dysfunction, infection and inflammation. Blood work can detect kidney failure in its early stages, which is the number one cause of death in cats.

While urinary diseases in cats are common and pretty harmless, this condition can lead to bladder condition and kidney failure if not treated on time. If you suspect your cat suffers from UTI, seek veterinary care immediately, to get proper diagnosis.