Unlike people and dogs, cats rarely get bladder infections. But their urinary tracts are susceptible to a number of other problems. Here’s what every cat owner absolutely needs to know.
Q: My cat stopped using her litter box, and the stain on the carpet where she peed looks pinkish. What’s going on?
A: A number of different diseases can affect the bladder or urethra of cats: cystitis (inflammation of the bladder), various types of bladder stones, the occasional bacterial bladder infection, and, rarely, parasites or tumors. Male cats may develop a urinary blockage, which is an emergency situation. The overall term for these conditions is feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD.
All of these conditions have different causes, but often the signs are similar. Cats may strain to urinate, urinate frequently but produce only small amounts of urine, have blood in the urine (that pinkish tinge you noticed on the carpet) or cry out in pain when they urinate. Like your cat, they may stop using the litter box, perhaps associating it with the pain of urination.
Your cat needs to see her veterinarian so he or she can determine the cause of the problem and treat it appropriately. The bad news is that because it has so many possible causes, diagnosing and treating FLUTD can be frustrating. In addition to a physical exam, your veterinarian may suggest other tests, including a urinalysis, urine culture, X-rays or blood work.
Sometimes, stress is a factor. Managing the cat’s environment and interactions with people and other pets may help. Pain relief is another important part of managing the condition and reducing stress.
Depending on the cause, your veterinarian may prescribe a different food or a switch to canned food from dry. Encouraging your cat to drink more water, by providing a fountain or dripping faucet, can help as well. Certain medications are beneficial, although you may be surprised to learn that antibiotics usually are not part of the program. Bacterial bladder infections are extremely rare.
There’s more – including what you need to know about pet rabbits – in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.