Cats are curious creatures who are naturally exposed to bacteria that may sometimes lead to painful urinary tract infections. But, without proper guidance, how do we know if our cat has UTI? And if they do have it, what's the best treatment?
As responsible cat parents, it’s our job to understand cat UTI, and find out how to prevent it from happening altogether. Let's take a closer look.
Cats are a joy to have in our homes. Quirky and finicky yet fun and endearing, cat parents have a long list of reasons for why they fell in love with their feline family members. However, one of the most frustrating things about being a cat parent is trying to spot if they're in pain.
An inherent trait from their days in the wild, cats are very good at hiding pain. In the primeval rules of the wild - weakness usually makes an animal an easy target for predators. So, even as sheltered house pets, cats still exhibit these traits and will naturally do what they can to never openly display pain or discomfort. This makes it hard to tell if they’re fighting off an infection or just not in the mood for playtime.
But when it comes to cat urinary tract infections, it's crucial for cat parents to spot its signs and symptoms early. When left untreated, it may get worse and may lead to surgery.
Knowing what to look for and educating yourself in risk factors and treatment options can help you see beyond what your cat wants you to see and get them feeling better right away or, in the most ideal scenario, avoid cat UTI altogether.
What Is Cat UTI & What Causes It?
Cat urinary tract infections occur when the urinary tract becomes infected due to bacteria.
The most common cause of this infection is the presence of bacteria in the faeces of the cat, which then travels up to the urinary tract through the urethra, which is the tube where urine passes through to leave the body.
The bacteria that causes the infection is called feline uropathogenic E. coli, or FUEC. This bacteria is commonly found in the gastrointestinal tracts of cats. It can be spread from cat to cat by direct contact with urine, faeces or through the air when an infected cat sneezes.
There are certain factors that can make your cat more at risk for UTI:
- Cats diagnosed with UTI are more likely to be male or senior cats.
This is because male cats have a narrow urinary tract, which puts them more at risk for infections. As for older cats, they are also more likely to develop infections because of chronic illnesses and a compromised immune system. If your cat is older than 6 or 7 years old, part of their overall care should include regular visits to the vet at least 2 to 3 times a year to monitor any health issues and get immediate treatment.
- Overweight or obese cats are also more prone to bladder infections.
Because overweight cats have a little bit more difficulty reaching certain parts of their body when cleaning themselves, bacteria in their anus and vulva may not be cleaned properly and may ascend upwards into the bladder.
- Cat UTI is also found most commonly in kittens.
It's not clear why this happens, but it's thought to be due to a number of factors, including stress, diet or heredity. Kittens are also more likely to develop UTI than adult cats because their immune systems aren't fully developed yet.
- Sometimes, it’s in your cat’s DNA.
A cat with a genetic predisposition for UTI might also be more likely to develop it than other cats.
- Certain health conditions can also make your cat prone to UTI.
Has your cat been diagnosed with diabetes or thyroid issues? Does your cat have a history of bladder stones? Is your cat neutered yet? Then you can ask your veterinarian about how these make your cat prone to urinary tract infections. They will provide the correct advice and prescribe special dietary requirements to help keep UTI at bay.
Why Is It Important to Treat Cat UTI Early?
When treated early, most cases of cat UTI can easily be cured with a course of antibiotics which will clear out the infection in a week or two.
If UTI worsens, cats can sometimes develop painful urethral blockages which can cause kidney failure and become fatal within 2 - 3 days.
In another rare and extreme instance, some cats can develop cancerous tumours in the urinary tract as well.
💡Petz Park Alert
If your cat is straining, crying out in pain and unable to pass urine despite repeated efforts, it’s likely that they’re suffering from urethral blockage. Do not delay, take them to the vet clinic immediately.
These environmental and dietary factors are known to cause cat UTI:
- Being kept in an unclean, stressful environment
- Eating too much canned food
- Eating too much dried food
- Not being fed enough water
- Being kept in a dirty litter box
- Litter box aversion
Cat UTI Symptoms Checklist
Take your cat to the vet should you notice these common symptoms:
☑ Abnormal urinary habits; either too little urine, too frequently or outside of the litter box
☑ Licking the urinary opening more frequently than usual
☑ Traces of blood in their urine
☑ Straining or crying out in pain while passing urine
☑ Cloudy urine
☑ General signs of lethargy
☑ Strong ammonia odour in urine
☑ Litter box avoidance
☑ Abdomen is distended or hard to the touch
☑ Drinking more water than usual
Cat UTI Treatment
Treatment for cat UTI will usually involve antibiotics prescribed by the veterinarian along with some special dietary adjustments, depending on your cat's specific situation.
So, the first thing that you must do is get your cat to the veterinary clinic right away for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
To confirm if your cat has a urinary tract infection, a urinalysis will be ordered for the vet to determine the correct antibiotic that’s sensitive to the bacteria found in the urinalysis test result. The correct antibiotics will then be prescribed + drugs for pain management and a modified diet.
If the vet suspects a urethral obstruction, your cat will be sedated and more careful tests will be done by your vet to determine the site of the obstruction. A catheter will very carefully be inserted into the cat’s urethra and a sterile liquid will be used to flush out the obstruction. Depending on your cat’s specific case, the catheter might need to be kept in place for a few more days or it can be removed immediately. You’ll be sent home with prescriptions for pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs for pain management and to reduce inflammation as some swelling may occur.
Long-term management for cat UTI is focused mainly on prevention and making sure serious blockages will never happen again. Part of the long-term treatment will be a special diet that will help dissolve urinary crystals that naturally occur. If UTI re-occurs or blockages happen again, surgery may be required.
You might hear about home remedies for cat UTI but some of these may not work or may only aggravate your cat’s symptoms. To be safe, before trying cat UTI home remedies, always consult your veterinarian.
Petz Park Tip
Not sure how to collect urine for your cat's urine test?
If you have a litter box with a catching tray at the bottom, that should work well enough. With a pair of surgical gloves that you can easily buy at the chemist’s, you can scoop out a urine sample and place it inside a sterile container. Make sure you take it to the vet immediately. If you don’t have a litter box with a catching tray, there are other methods that may work better for your cat. Ask your vet to share their cat urine-catching tricks and tips.
How To Prevent Cat UTI
While it’s found that most cats at some point in their lives will develop UTI, there are plenty of practical ways for you to make sure that your cat’s urinary system stays healthy and bacteria-free:
- Keep your cat hydrated. This is the best and easiest way to ensure that any bad bacteria gets flushed out of their body.
- Try probiotic supplements for cats. Probiotics are known to help keep cats healthy and strengthen their immune system.
- Power up your cat’s diet with Urinary + Kidney Cat Supplements. With anti-inflammatory ingredients like Nettle Seed Extract and antibacterial Cranberry Extract that helps prevent E. coli bacteria from entering the urinary tract, the Petz Park Urinary + Kidney Supplement is packed with all the healthy goodness specially made to help keep your favourite feline friend UTI-free. For best results, make it part of your cat's regular diet!
- Try giving your cat slightly warm bone broth. As carnivores, they’re going to love the taste of it and, aside from being yummy, it’s filled with vitamins and nutrients like Vitamin A & K, collagen, Omega fatty acids, Iron, Manganese, Selenium and Zinc.
- Do not overfeed your cat. Aside from being prone to cat UTI, overweight cats are also at risk for other cat diseases like arthritis, diabetes, and cancer.
- Take your cat to regular vet check-ups. Regardless of age or health condition, part of making sure your cat lives the best and healthiest life possible is to take them to the vet clinic for regular check-ups even when they’re not visibly sick. This is especially more important for older cats or cats with compromised immune systems.
- Keep your cat's litter box clean. Litter box duty isn't everyone’s favourite thing to do but keeping it clean and changing it regularly is the best way to avoid bacterial infections.
- Give your cat a balanced diet of dry food + wet food and less canned/dried food. Just like any other pet, a balanced diet keeps animals healthy and strong.
What keeps your cat free from infections? A balanced diet, plenty of water, quality food supplements, a clean loving home and regular visits to the clinic.
Sound familiar? Of course! Because these are the basics of what we need to stay from infectious diseases, too, and your cats are no different. With the symptoms and treatment information listed above, you now have the valuable knowledge you need to give your cat a long, beautiful, UTI-free life.
*This information is intended as general information only. It was not written or intended as a substitute for medical advice. Please seek professional guidance from your pet’s veterinarian before taking any action that could affect your pet’s health.