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From urinary infections and blockages to stress-related urinary conditions in cats. Find out more about urinary problems in cats or feline lower urinary tract disease, including symptoms, treatments and prevention tips in our guide.

What is feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD)?

Feline lower urinary tract disease refers to various common conditions affecting a cat’s lower urinary tract, including the bladder and urethra (the narrow tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body). Read more below about the signs and what could be causing your cat to experience FLUTD.

Symptoms of urinary tract problems in cats

One of the first and most common symptoms you may see if your cat has a urinary problem is peeing in inappropriate places outside the litter box or urinating more frequently.

It’s always good to check for any changes in your cat’s litter box behaviour, and if you notice any of the following signs you should book an appointment with a vet.

  • Difficulty, pain or vocalisation when passing urine
  • Straining before, during or after urination
  • Passing only small amounts of urine
  • Inability to pass any urine. This is an emergency and requires immediate veterinary attention
  • Passing bloody urine
  • Behavioural changes and aggression

Underlying causes of lower urinary tract disease in cats

Cats of any age can experience urinary tract problems, but it’s more often seen in middle-aged and overweight cats.

Potential causes of feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) can include:

  • feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC), where the bladder and urethral lining become inflamed without a known cause
  • bacterial and viral infections, the cause of urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • urinary crystals or bladder stones
  • blocked bladder as a result of urethral plugs
  • stress and behavioural issues
  • nerve problems, commonly occurring after injury
  • cancer of the bladder or urethra

Many cases of FLUTD are due to multiple factors. The concentration and makeup of urine, the cat’s individual ability to cope with stress, the stress the cat is exposed to, lifestyle, diet and any other health conditions can all play a part.

Diagnosing cat urinary tract problems

If your cat shows symptoms of a urinary tract disease or you suspect that something else is wrong, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Your vet will take a thorough history to establish all the signs your cat is showing, when they are displaying them and do a physical examination. They may collect a sample of your cat’s urine, and treatment is often started based on the test results. However, if symptoms don’t improve further examinations may be carried out.

Treatment for cat urinary tract problems

Depending on the urinary tract issue your cat has, a treatment may include:

  • pain relief medication
  • increasing water intake
  • prescribed diet (such as urinary care cat food)
  • antibiotics
  • supplements for bladder
  • bladder unblocking (for urethral obstruction)

Ways to help prevent urinary problems in cats

Whether your cat has a history of urinary troubles, or you want to know what you can do to help prevent disease development, try these tips:

  • increase water intake – always ensure there is free access to water. You could try placing a cat water fountain or supplying multiple bowls filled with water in different rooms in your home. Use ceramic bowls or glasses of water instead of plastic or metal as these may taint the water. Read more tips to encourage your cat to drink more
  • reduce stresscat stress often arises from changes in an environment, living with other cats, exposure to other cats outdoors and a lack of resources or poor placement of those resources. For example, unsuitable positioning or content of the litter tray can trigger your cat to experience urine-related issues. Addressing stressors at home and using a pheromone diffuser like Feliway may help
  • feed moisture-rich food – if you only feed your cat dry food, consider introducing wet food (tinned or in sachets) which has a much higher moisture content. If your cat will only eat dry food, you could add water to it if your cat would accept this
  • keep the litter box clean – try and scoop twice a day and clean the whole litter box at least once a week. Use a large tray and ensure it is in a quiet location and away from food and water bowls
  • maintain their healthy weight overweight cats are at higher risk of developing cystitis and infections. Make sure your cat gets enough exercise and provide them with environmental enrichment to reduce stress-related urinary conditions

What are the signs of a blocked cat?

Urethral obstruction otherwise also referred to as ‘blocked bladder’ or ‘blocked cat’ is a painful and life-threatening condition where your cat is unable to empty their bladder due to a blockage of the urethra. Both male and female cats can get it, but males are much more susceptible. 

Some of the signs your cat might be blocked are:

  • straining to urinate
  • peeing only small amounts or being unable to pass any urine at all
  • looking uncomfortable, in pain and yowling when trying to urinate

If you suspect that your cat has a blocked bladder, you should contact your vet for an emergency appointment. Left untreated, it can unfortunately lead to serious consequences such as bladder rupture, kidney failure and can be fatal.

Why is there blood in my cat’s pee?

Finding blood in your cat’s urine can certainly be alarming. While peeing blood (haematuria) is something that needs to be addressed with your vet as soon as possible, in most cases it is caused by a treatable condition. It’s not an uncommon disorder and while both female and male cats can develop it, female cats are more prone to some of the more common underlying causes. 

Potential causes of blood in urine can include:

  • feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC), inflammation of the bladder without a known cause
  • urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • urinary stones and crystals
  • bladder tumours
  • kidney disease (not as common)

Sometimes, the presence of blood in a cat’s pee might not be visible to the naked eye, or the colour of urine might vary from brown to orange and red indicating there is blood in their pee. If you notice your cat also showing other symptoms such as straining when urinating, peeing very little or being in pain, don’t delay booking a vet appointment.

Why does my cat keep peeing outside the litter box?

If your cat’s toileting habits have changed and they have started consistently peeing everywhere or outside the litter box, there may be several different causes. It’s important to consult your vet if you notice this happening so they can rule out any potential health concerns and explore other solutions. 

Some of the potential common causes include:

  • a medical issue such as feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) or a urinary tract infection or disease which can make it uncomfortable for your cat to use the litter box
  • stress, for example, a change in the environment, routine or not getting along with other pets
  • litter tray issues, such as: too shallow, unsuitable litter (for example, uncomfortable or perfumed), not clean enough, not enough litter trays per household, wrong location (too exposed, in sight of other cats)

If you want to change their litter tray, always add a new tray before removing the old one, allowing your cat to choose and get used to a new litter tray this way.

Find out more about cat toileting outside the litter tray
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