Feline UTIs – Is it really a UTI?
By: Luke Viramontes, DVM
One common complaint of many cat owners is their cat is having a urinary tract infection (UTI). Cat owners will notice that when their cat urinates, they will show pain or discomfort, straining, blood or mucous in the urine, or urinating only little bits at a time. These signs are consistent with different urinary tract diseases, including your common lower UTI. But many times in our feline patients, a sterile process called “feline idiopathic cystitis”, or FIC, is actually the culprit, which mimics signs exactly that of a lower UTI. When a cat is diagnosed with FIC, it is important to note that they may be repeat offenders.
From what we know about this enigmatic disease, it describes a process that is brought on by stress (ie: moving into a new house, introduction to strangers, or other stressors). This complex process involves the brain, neural pathways, and the urinary system. FIC is sterile, meaning no infection is present. Anytime your cat shows signs related to this, a physical exam, urinalysis with a urine culture, and x-rays/bladder ultrasound are indicated to rule out a true UTI, bladder stones, tumors, or the emergency of a blocked cat (a majority of blocked cats are male). In FIC cases, antibiotics are not commonly necessary – if a urine sample is not able to be obtained, your veterinarian will make a decision in the best interest of your pet as to what the next steps will be. By using multimodal therapies aimed to relieve pain and discomfort, signs of FIC typically resolve in about one to two weeks.
Solutions to minimize stress in the household involve having the appropriate number of litter boxes in quiet, calm areas (1 litter box per cat, plus 1 more) throughout the house, environmental enrichment, feline calming pheromone products, and if needed, anti-anxiety medications that can lessen the chance of your cat developing this uncomfortable condition. If you notice your cat having any urinary signs, it is still important to consult your veterinarian to develop the best treatment plan.