UTI stands for urinary tract infection. But strictly speaking a UTI refers to an infection, caused by bacteria. However, in young cats urinary infections are rare (less than 3% of cats with symptoms such as difficulty peeing.) In fact, many cats labelled as having a UTI, often have sterile urine and suffering from feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) wrongly labelled as having a cat UTI.
Why does this difference matter?
How to cure a UTI is different from how to cure FLUTD.For argument's sake, let's say you're reading an article on how to cure a UTI because your cat has signs of discomfort or blood in their pee. With this in mind, this article covers cat urinary tract infection treatment and hints on improving your cat's urinary health:
Signs of a UTI
Fair enough, the signs of a cat UTI are vague and similar to those of FLUTD.
- Repeated trips to the litter box
- Straining to urinate
- Crying and discomfort when they pee
- Small puddles or just a few drops of urine in the tray
- Blood in the urine
- Excessive licking of their purrsonal areas
How are Lower Urinary Tract Infection Treated?How to cure a UTI?
Simple: antibiotics...BUT wait. Antibiotics are a small part of how to treat a cats UTI. Also important is creating a healthy bladder and a hostile environment for bacteria.Top tips for how to cure a UTI include:
- Encourage the cat to drink more water: When a cat drinks more water, they pee more often. This washes debris out of the bladder, which might otherwise damage the bladder lining. A simple way to increase water intake is to switch from dry to wet food.
- Think about what they eat: Food plays an important role in urine health. Food influences how acid or alkaline the urine is giving it natural disinfectant properties) and helps dissolve crystals which weaken the bladder lining. As part of cat uti medicine look for a diet based on animal protein or speak to your vet about a prescription urinary health diet.
- Give supplements that strengthen the bladder's defences: Supplements containing glucosamine, hyaluronic acid, and tryptophan help the bladder protect itself. They encourage a 'bandage' layer which stops bacteria and crystals invading the bladder wall. Many vets prescribe these as a preventative cat uti medicine.
- Make the litter box a nice place to be: The cat that holds on and doesn't pee, gives bacteria a helping paw to breed. A clean tray in a private spot encourages Kitty to empty their bladder and void bothersome bacteria.
- Culture the urine to work out which antibiotic works best kills the bacteria
- Examine a urine sample under the microscope to check for crystals
- An ultrasound scan of the bladder to check for stones or polyps
What Happens if a Cat's Lower Urinary Tract Infection Goes Untreated?An untreated UTI is dangerous. The bacteria may track upward toward the kidney. This causes a serious condition called pyelonephritis, which can lead to kidney failure.
Another worry is bladder infections create blood clots and debris in the bladder. If a clump of debris is pushed into the urethra (the tube through which urine passes when voided) it could form a plug. This is a big worry for male cats as their urethra is narrow and bendy. If a blockage occurs, this needs emergency veterinary treatment. Untreated, a urinary blockage is fatal.
Preventing Future UTIs in your CatSenior cats are a special case when it comes to UTIs. Their urine has less natural disinfectant properties and is more prone to UTIs. However, these cats don't always show symptoms. Your vet may suggest regular (every 3 - 6 months) screening of a urine sample, to check for tell-tale signs. This allows subclinical infections to be treated, before they do harm.
Stress plays a part in FLUTD and UTIs in the cat. Simple things such as several cats using one litter box are stressful to your fur-friend. So providing extra trays and keeping them clean can go a long way to preventing UTIs. And oh yes, play with your cat and give them lots of attention as this lowers their stress.
And lastly, many cats with a bladder weakness benefit from giving a urinary health supplement. These help keep the bladder in tip-top condition so its natural defences are better able to ward off the bacteria that cause infection. Remember, cat UTI treatment requires a holistic approach, treating FLUTD is not just about cat UTI medicine.
Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVSVeterinary surgeon, Linkedin
Dr. Elliott graduated from the University of Glasgow, UK, with a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery. She has over three decades of experience working in companion animal practice and is the designated veterinarian for the Cats Protection rescue center, Harrow.
In addition to hands-on work in the clinic, Dr. Elliott is a veterinary copywriter, which includes a role as a developmental editor for small animal, veterinary textbooks from Improve International (a major provider of veterinary continuing professional development). She also writes a regular newsletter piece for the Webinar Vet and contributed to The Veterinary Times.
Dr. Elliott is also qualified as an Official Veterinarian to oversee the export of animal products abroad, and her personal motto for life is “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”