Urinary tract infections (UTI) in cats are fairly uncommon; older female cats and cats with diabetes are the most susceptible to infection. Cat UTI is often caused by bacteria, but viruses, fungi, and parasites can also cause an infection. UTI in cats requires immediate and proper treatment as the condition can quickly become more serious. Read on to learn more about the symptoms of UTI and what you should do if your feline friend develops the condition.
How can you tell if your cat has UTI?
Cats with UTI show any of the following symptoms:
- Frequent urination
- Passing only small amounts of urine
- Straining when urinating
- Crying or whining when urinating
- Appearance of some blood in the urine
- Cloudy urine
- Strong urine odor
- Incontinence or dribbling of urine
- Urinating outside the litter box
- Frequent licking of the genitals
- Frequently visiting the litter box but not urinating
- Drinking more water than usual
- Poor appetite
- Behavioural changes, such as depression, increased irritability or lethargy
What are the causes of cat UTI?
Bacteria are the most common culprit in cat UTI. Escherichia coli (E. coli) is often the primary pathogen, but other prevalent bacterial agents include Staphylococcus, Proteus, Chlamydia, Enterococcus, Klebsiella, Streptococcus, Enterobacter and Pseudomonas. Other microorganisms that may cause feline UTI are mycoplasma, viruses, algae and fungi, although these are less common.
Infection typically occurs when bacteria find their way either from the skin and up the urethra (the tube that connects the outside of the body to the bladder) and the bladder, or from the gastrointestinal tract and into the urinary system. The collected urine in the bladder is supposed to be sterile; when bacteria enter the bladder and reproduce, they cause an infection.
Several factors contribute to cat UTI, including:
- Age, particularly older female cats (especially those over 10 years)
- Stress, which can lower a cat’s immune response
- Elevated urine pH which makes the bladder more susceptible to bacterial growth
- Presence of bladder stones, which also trigger chronic UTI
- Underlying conditions that compromise the immune system, such as:
- Renal failure
- Feline leukemia virus (FeLV
- Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
- Certain allergies
- Long-term administration of steroid medication which suppresses immune function
- Antibiotic-resistant bacteria
- Spending a lot of time free-roaming outdoors
How is cat UTI diagnosed and treated?
Cat UTI often go undiagnosed because symptoms of the infection are not normally easily observed. If you do notice any of the abovementioned symptoms, you should bring your cat to the vet immediately.
It is also important that your cat gets annual physical check-ups and urinalysis so that undiagnosed UTI can be detected and treated promptly. Diagnosing underlying conditions that predispose your feline companion to UTI is also critical to prevent infections. If your cat has a higher risk for UTI, additional tests will be done and required regularly.
Treatment of cat UTI helps relieve symptoms, kills the bacteria, and prevents complications. If there is an underlying condition, this is also addressed appropriately. Treatment can include:
- Antibiotics or antimicrobials
- Dietary changes, especially for overweight and/or diabetic cats; a special diet that supports the health of the lower urinary tract and prevents the formation of crystals in the bladder may also be prescribed by your vet.
- Preventive measures, which include the following:
- Regular check-ups and urinalysis
- Monitoring your cats urinary habits
- Keeping your cat’s litter box clean to prevent growth of bacteria
- Minimizing stress
- Making sure your cat is always well-hydrated
When the course of treatment has been completed, urinalysis is repeated in order to ensure that there are no more bacteria present. A simple bacterial UTI typically responds well to treatment, as long as the infection is diagnosed and addressed immediately. If there is an underlying condition, correct identification and treatment of the health problem determines your cat’s long-term prognosis.
Untreated cat UTI can result in serious complications, such as urinary tract tissue damage, infection of nearby areas, infection of the blood, and urethral blockage, which is a very serious condition in male cats and necessitates emergency treatment.
Cat UTI - Final Thoughts
Cat UTI can affect any part of the cat’s urinary tract; is typically caused by bacteria that manage to enter the urethra and lodge and reproduce in the bladder. UTIs are more common among older female cats, particularly those over 10 years of age; cats with diabetes; and cats with bladder stones.
Not all cats exhibit symptoms of UTI, so it’s important that your cat receive yearly physical check-ups and urinalysis because if left untreated, the condition can lead to more serious complications. Male cats with UTI are especially in danger of fatal complications if they develop urethral blockage and are not given emergency medical attention.
A simple bacterial UTI typically responds well to treatment, but prompt diagnosis is key. Diagnosing and appropriately treating any underlying condition is also critical to preventing the recurrence of infection.
Treatment of cat UTI often involves administering a course of oral antibiotics and, if necessary, dietary changes. In order to prevent the infection from recurring, you should always make sure that your cat is well-hydrated; that her litter box is kept scrupulously clean; and that she is not exposed to a lot of stress. You can also talk to your vet about changes to her diet that you can make and which will support her urinary system health.