Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

FLUTD is a generalized term for any irritation or inflammation in the bladder or urethra of our feline friends. Cats can have several reasons and cause to have bladder issues ranging from bacterial infections, stress-induced cystitis to urinary crystals. FLUTD can happen to any cat at any age, typically mid-aged slightly overweight cats are affected.

Symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty urinating, straining to urinate
  • Painful urination-crying when urinating
  • Inappropriate urination- outside of litterbox, using the bathtub for a litterbox
  • Grooming genital region excessively
  • Hematuria- bloody urine

Most often owners will report seeing very small clumps of urine in the litterbox, and the cat will frequently try to urinate, or the will start to urinate on things around the house that they have never urinated on before. Inappropriate urination can be behavioural but a urinary tract infection must be ruled out first. Cats also have very small narrow urethras and can become blocked very easily, so it is always recommended to bring your cat to your Veterinarian right away at first sight of any of these symptoms. Urethral blockage if left untreated, is fatal.

What are some causes of FLUTD?

  • Idiopathic Cystitis – (probably around 60-70%) happens when there are no specific underlying diseases that can be identified- when this happens these cats are labelled as having ‘feline idiopathic cystitis’ This term simply means inflammation of the bladder without a known cause. A special diet may be prescribed for your Veterinarian to help reduce the bladder inflammation and limiting environmental stress is key.
  • Bladder infection– inflammation or infection of the bladder walls, this can be determined by performing a urinalysis to asses if there are white/red blood cells and bacteria present. Antibiotics will then be prescribed to eliminate the infection.
  • Urinary Crystals/Stones –as in dogs and humans, cats can develop stones in their bladder. These can be diagnosed by having urine crystals showing on the urinalysis or by taking an x-ray of the bladder to see the stones visually. A special ‘dissolution’ diet (dissolves some stones) may be used, or surgical removal is needed to remove the stones before there is a urethral blockage.

How can you prevent your cat from getting FLUTD?

There are no guaranteed ways to prevent your pet from getting FLUTD, but there are ways to help your
cat from maintaining a healthy bladder, some of which are:

  • Limit cats environmental Stress- this can cause idiopathic cystitis as cats are very particular about their surroundings and sensitive to change
  • Provide multiple litterboxes- ideally 2 per cat per household
  • Change litter boxes frequently and avoid over perfumed litter
  • Encourage wet food consumption- this allows for more moisture content and frequent urination to help flush the bladder
  • Feed them a well-balanced diet- diets such as Friskies or Whiskas alter urine pH which can lead to crystal development
  • Encourage water consumption- often running water sources; such as a fountain are great to encourage cats to drink more water
  • Avoid obesity- obese cats have difficulty grooming their ‘private’ areas and keeping them clean from potential infection as well as become less active

Written By: Carly Jeffery, RVT