Pet Health
cat urinary infections

Cat Urinary Infections - Problems and Treatment

Written by Steph McCulloch


From causes and symptoms to prevention tips and treatment options, discover everything you need to know to keep your feline friend healthy and happy. Stay informed and safeguard your cat's wellbeing with expert advice on identifying, managing, and preventing urinary tract infections in cats.
ginger cat sniffing litter box


Did you know that feline urinary tract infections are pretty uncommon compared to urinary tract diseases? Urinary tract infections occur when a cat experiences inflammation, irritation, obstruction, or infection in their urinary tract including the bladder and urethra.

Understanding feline urinary issues is extremely important for any cat owner as this painful condition can have life-threatening consequences if left untreated.

In this expert blog post, we'll provide an in-depth overview of cat urinary infections covering causes, clinical signs, diagnosis, treatment options, and preventative care recommendations.

Monitoring urinary tract health and symptoms in our feline companions at home is challenging. Therefore, making use of quality veterinary care is essential for early intervention and positive outcomes in cats suffering from urinary conditions.

Whether this is a cat's first infection or a recurring chronic problem, identifying key information about feline urinary health is vital for pet parents and veterinary staff alike.

Understanding cat urinary tract infections

close up image of blue litter box

While they may present similar clinical signs, feline UTIs and feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) are two distinct conditions.

A urinary tract infection (UTI) in cats occurs when bacteria infiltrate the urinary tract system leading to infection whereas FLUTD is
inflammation of the bladder and/or urethra without the presence of bacteria.

Some common cat urinary infection symptoms seen in both UTIs and FLUTD cases include:

  • Frequent urination

  • Crying or signs of pain while trying to urinate

  • Excessive licking of the genital area

  • Urinating outside of the indoor litter box

  • Straining to urinate with little production

  • Blood in the urine (hematuria)

Additional symptoms more indicative of a cat urinary tract infection include:

  • Painful urination

  • Fever

  • Vomiting

  • Lethargy

  • Lack of appetite or not eating

  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine

With FLUTD cases, spasms of the urethra along with urinary crystals or stones blocking the flow of urine can cause a cat significant distress when trying to urinate.

Being able to recognise signs of cat urinary issues early allows veterinary intervention to manage pain, infection risk, and potential urethral obstructions in affected cats.

Ruling out the presence of bacteria with urinalysis and urine cultures is key to determining if true infection exists and proper treatment plans.

Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD)

cat laying next to litterbox

Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is a common condition in cats characterised by inflammation, irritation, obstruction, or infection of the bladder and urethra. Sometimes referred to as feline urologic syndrome (FUS), this condition can have multiple underlying causes leading to painful urinary signs.

Causes of FLUTD may include:

  • Bacterial infections - E. coli is a common bacteria causing cystitis (bladder inflammation)

  • Bladder/kidney stones - Crystals or stones obstruct the free flow of urine

  • Anatomical defects - Strictures or masses block or trap urine

  • Behavioural issues - Stress, litter box aversion/avoidance

  • Bladder inflammation (Cystitis) - Idiopathic or from medical conditions like diabetes or kidney disease

  • Bladder/urethral spasms - Leads to frequent urges to urinate

  • Crystals or grit forming in the urine - Blocks urine flow; types include struvite, calcium oxalate, urate

  • Tumours or polyps - Can develop in the bladder or urethra

  • Neurological disorders - Issues with nerves supplying the bladder

The clinical signs of cats with FLUTD vary based on the underlying cause but commonly includes inappropriate urination, blood in urine, frequent/prolonged efforts to urinate, vocalising while in the litter box, and excessive licking of genitals.

Identifying the inciting cause of lower urinary tract inflammation/irritation allows proper treatment to manage symptoms and hopefully prevent recurrences.

Diagnosing cat urinary tract issues

image of cat being held by vet

Getting prompt veterinary attention for suspected feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) or cat urinary infection is very important.

Cats can deteriorate rapidly when obstructed and unable to urinate properly. To correctly diagnose the underlying cause of inappropriate urination or straining, veterinarians will obtain a thorough history of symptoms, perform a physical exam, and run diagnostic lab work.

Urinalysis and urine cultures are crucial to evaluate for infection, crystals, stones, and other abnormalities. Imaging such as x-rays or ultrasound allows assessment of bladder/urethral abnormalities or stones.

Treatment and recovery

close up of ginger cat in crate

Based on test results, vets will choose appropriate cat urinary infection treatments or FLUTD management. Antibiotics like Amoxicillin or Cephalexin are prescribed for bacterial urinary tract infections, addressing concerns like antibiotic resistance and bacterial contamination.

Pain control is extremely important for cat urinary comfort and may involve medications like buprenorphine or meloxicam. Special prescription diets, sometimes including wet food and dry diet modifications, help control crystals and bladder stones, and are a common recommendation for cats with urinary issues.

Severe obstructions may require anaesthesia for urinary catheter insertion and bladder flushing.

In cases of chronic kidney disease or recurrent cystitis, long-duration treatment or if necessary, short, frequent periods of treatment as required is crucial.

Optimal treatment often includes urinary acidifiers and antimicrobial therapy when necessary.

Physical examination and regular blood tests are key to monitoring the health condition and its progress as is adjusting medical treatment as needed.

Follow-up care is imperative after a cat is diagnosed with any urinary tract condition.

Water consumption and water intake are vital, with water bowls or water fountains encouraged to ensure fresh water availability at all times.

Preventing recurrence involves modifying risk factors such as stress levels, maintaining a healthy weight, and following veterinary guidelines for nutrition, supplements, and litter box hygiene. Daily routine adjustments, including increased physical activity, can also be beneficial.


a cat in his living room looking into his litter box

Cat urinary infections are unfortunately very common in felines, causing symptoms like inappropriate urination, straining to urinate, blood in urine, and frequent licking of the genitals.

The various causes of cat urinary diseases and cat urinary tract infections lead to bladder inflammation, irritation, obstruction, and sometimes even life-threatening kidney damage if left untreated.

Catching even subtle symptoms of discomfort when a cat attempts to urinate warrants immediate veterinary assessment to determine the underlying urinary infection for cats.

State-of-the-art diagnostics like imaging and lab work are key for vets to pinpoint infection versus inflammation and choose appropriate treatment options for the individual patient. Positive urine cultures and evaluation of urine play a critical role in this process.

As cat owners ourselves, we encourage you to pay close attention to your cat's bathroom habits and litter box usage, and don't delay if abnormalities arise.

Seeking timely veterinary care is imperative to get to the root cause of inappropriate urination as well as manage pain and prevent further damage to the urinary tract.

By working with your vet, you can successfully overcome urinary tract infections in cats, considering even sporadic cystitis or urinary obstruction.

Since cats are masters at hiding illness, make the first move as soon as you notice any type of symptoms to prevent them from becoming severe.

Management of infection involves a partnership between pet owners and veterinarians, and catching issues early means that you and your veterinary team can get your cat feeling like their happy selves again in no time.

Additional resources

At Waggel, we want all pet owners to feel confident and knowledgeable about their pets. To help you get more from your insurance policy, we've added additional resources so you can get clued up on all things feline health.

  • Worms in cats - Worms can cause a variety of health problems in cats, including issues related to the urinary system. Understanding the symptoms and diagnosis can help in prevention.

  • Guide to cat eye problems - While not directly related to urinary infections, systemic health issues can sometimes manifest in multiple ways. If a cat has a urinary infection and eye problems, they might be related.

  • Heat stroke in cats - Heat stroke can lead to dehydration, which can exacerbate urinary issues. Prevention and understanding of heat stroke can be vital for cat owners.

Waggel Pet Insurance

Need more help? You're in luck if you're a Waggel Pet Insurance member. Along with our excellent coverage, we offer access to a 24/7 online vet to answer all your sticky questions, especially if you need grooming assistance.

Not a member? Why not get a quote now and cover your furry friend for a range of illnesses, all while enjoying our amazing perks and rewards.

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