Lower urinary tract, or bladder,  disesae is very common in cats. 

Signs of bladder disease in cats include:

Frequent trips to the litter box

Vocalizing while in the litter box

Urinating around the house outside of the box

Urinating in sinks, showers, bathtubs

Excessive grooming around the “privates”

Decreased appetite


Vocalizing when picked up

There are several cuases of Bladder Disease in cats:

  • Urinary Tract Obstruction .   Crystals can form in the urinary bladder that can accumulate in the tip of the urethra, particularly in the narrow urethra at the tip of the male cat’s penis, preventing urination.  This is LIFE THREATENING!  Any cat that is showing signs of urinary distress and is not urinating at least small drops of urine needs to be taken to a veterinarian immediately!  Urinary Tract Obstruction is first treated by your vet by relieving the obstruction.  Cats with this condition are usually in a state of metabolic shock and will require hospitalization and IV fluid therapy for at least 24 hours.  Then your veterinarian will make recommendations for home care to try to prevent the obstruction from recurring.  These may include very strict diet changes and medications.  This condition is most common in young to middle aged male cats.  Although female cats can also develop urinary crystals that require treatment, they don’t get urinary obstructions as often because their anatomy allows the passage of crystals more readily.  Learn More in this Video
  • Urinary Tract Infection.  This is the first thing most people assume their cat is suffering from when they see signs of urinary distress.  But, this is actually the LEAST common cause of lower urinary tract disease.  Actual bladder Infection is most common in cats over the age of 10.  Cats that are under the age of 10 are NOT likely to have infection.  But, your veteirnarian still needs to check for it whenever a cat shows signs of urinary pain as infections are actually the easiest cause of urinary tract pain to treat.
  • Inflammatory Cystitis (also called “Stress Cystitis”, “Interstitial Cystitis”, “Sterile Cystitis”, “Feline Urologic Syndrome”).  This is the cause of 80% of Lower Urinary Tract Disease in cats.  It is a condition of inflammation in the bladder that can be just as painful as bladder stones or bladder crystals or infection without any infection being present.  This condition is triggered, in part, by the “high stress” nature of the cat’s nervous sytem wiring.  Any stress, phsychological or physical, can be manifested by bladder inflammation.  This inflammation is often severe enough to cause bleeding in the bladder that is seen by owners as bloody urine, often somewhere around the house rather than in the litter box.  This condition is often intermittent.  A cat may show only mild signs of discomfort thatseem to go away on its own.  But don’t let your cat be in pain hoping that it will just “go away”.  It might, but it will be back unless you get help and take action to minimize recurrences.  The sooner you get kitty some help, the less painful she will be, the less cat urine you will have to clean up around the house (the honest-to-goodness reason this disease is so annoying to most owners), the healthier your kitty will be.  There is no single treatment for Inflammatory Cystitis, so it can be a frustrating condition to deal with. 

        Here are some recommendations for Home Care and Prevention of Inflammatory Cystitis in Cats:

  • Treat the Pain with medication from your veterinarian.   Otherwise, the pain just causes more stress which leads to more inflammation and more pain.  (DO NOT GIVE CATS HUMAN PAIN MEDICATION (TYLENOL, ASPIRIN, IBUPROFEN OR OTHER ANTI-INFLAMMATORIES OR PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS– THEY CAN BE DEADLY TO CATS!)
  • Increasing water intake is KEY to treatment.  Provide a running pet water fountain, kept clean and fresh.  Offer several fresh sources of water around the house daily.  Feed more canned food than dry (there is a trade off with oral health here, so discuss the relative aadvantages with your vet).  Add a teaspoon of chicken or beef broth or tuna juice to a quarter cup of water once of twice daily as an extra water “treat”.
  • Cosequin for cats helps some cats by suppporting the mucus layer that lines and protects the bladder from inflammatory factors in the urine
  • Feed a Low Carbohydrate diet.  Carbohydrates are pro-inflammatory in cats.  One of the target organs in cats for inflammatory mediators is the Urinary Bladder. 
  • Maintain a Lean Body Weight Fat cells actively release inflammatory factors into the blood stream all the time.  Since the urinary bladder is target organ of inflammatory factors, obesity contributes to urinary bladder inflammation/ cystitis.  Obese cats are significantly more likely to develop painful baldder disease than lean cats.  If your cat is overweight, work with your veterinarian to help your kitty lose weight to minimize the chance of recurrences.
  • Identify and remove psychological stressors for your cat:  is there intercat aggression?  Changes in the household routine?  Stranger cats outside?  Construction in the neighborhood?  Discuss this with your vet or seek a veterinarian who does Behavior Modification Therapy.  If you the physical signs of illness in cats was subtle, the signs of pshychological stress in cats can be even more difficult to identify without the help of someone trained in the “finer” aspects of cat psychology.
  • Psychoactive medications or supplements may be needed to help your kitty “tune down” his nervous system.  Your veterinarian can help you determine if this would be a good option and which might work best for your individual kitty.
  • Feliway- “happy kitty pheromones” from wall diffusers placed strategically around the home can significantly decrease anxiety in cats.  Read More                     
  • Role of Stress in Cat Cystitis video is a MUST SEE for owners whose cats suffer from cystitis pain.

Any cat showing signs of urinary disease should be seen right away.  Keep in mind that cats don’t show signs of pain (weakness) until they can’t cope any more.  So, if you are noticing it, you can be sure kitty is a lot more uncomfortable than you imagine!  Your vet will diagnose the cause of the urinary pain and guide you toward the right choices to treat your kitty best!