8 Symptoms of a Feline Urinary Infection

Cats, just like humans, can experience a range of health issues, and urinary tract infections are among the more common ailments affecting our feline companions. Understanding the symptoms of a feline urinary tract infection (UTI) is essential for every cat owner. Early detection and treatment are key to ensuring your cat’s health and comfort. If you’re concerned about your cat’s health or suspect a urinary tract infection, don’t hesitate to contact Frontier Veterinary Urgent Care in Greenfield, WI, at (262) 226-2055. Our team is here to provide the necessary care and support! 

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Understanding Feline Urinary Tract Infections 

What is a feline UTI? A feline urinary tract infection, commonly referred to as a UTI, is a medical condition that affects the feline urinary system. This system comprises the kidneys, ureters,  bladder, and urethra. A UTI can involve any of these parts, but most commonly, it affects the lower urinary tract—the bladder and the urethra. 

Causes of Feline UTIs 

The primary cause of UTIs in cats is bacteria that enter the urinary tract, often from the external environment. These bacteria can ascend the urethra and reach the bladder, causing inflammation and infection. In some cases, the infection may even travel up to the kidneys, leading to more severe conditions such as pyelonephritis (infection within the kidneys)

Besides bacterial infections, other factors contributing to the development of UTIs in cats  include: 

  • Bladder Stones or Crystals: These can irritate the bladder lining and urethra, making cats more susceptible to infections. 
  • Stress: Stress can affect a cat’s immune system, increasing their risk of UTIs.
  • Age and Gender: Older cats and female cats are more prone to UTIs.
  • Underlying Medical Conditions: Diabetes, kidney disease, or abnormalities in the urinary tract structure can predispose cats to UTIs.

Symptoms vs. Idiopathic Cystitis 

It’s important to distinguish between a true bacterial UTI and a condition called feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC). FIC, often mistaken for a UTI, is an inflammation of the bladder without any evidence of an infection. It shares many symptoms with bacterial UTIs but requires a different treatment approach. 

The Role of the Urinary Tract 

The urinary tract plays a crucial role in maintaining a cat’s health by eliminating waste products and maintaining a balance of electrolytes and water. When this system is infected or inflamed, it can lead to a range of symptoms that are not only uncomfortable for the cat but can also indicate more serious underlying health issues. 

Recognizing the signs of a feline UTI and understanding its implications is vital for cat owners. A  UTI can be more than just a simple infection; it can signal other health problems that require immediate attention. Regular veterinary check-ups and prompt attention to changes in your cat’s urinary habits can go a long way in maintaining their urinary (and overall) health. 

Recognizing the Symptoms of a Feline UTI 

Knowing the signs of a UTI in cats is crucial for early intervention. The most common symptoms include: 

  • Frequent Attempts to Urinate: Cats with UTIs often try to urinate more frequently but usually pass only a small amount of urine at a time
  • Painful Urination: You may notice your cat straining or crying out in pain during urination.
  • Blood in Urine: Hematuria, or blood in the urine, is a telltale sign of a UTI.
  • Licking the Urinary Opening: Cats with urinary discomfort may excessively lick their genital area. 
  • Urinating Outside the Litter Box: A change in bathroom habits, such as urinating outside the litter box, can indicate a UTI. This is because your cat may associate the litter box with pain and difficulty when urinating. 
  • Strong Urine Odor: An unusually strong or foul-smelling urine is another symptom to watch for. 
  • Lethargy or Behavioral Changes: Cats suffering from a UTI may become lethargic or exhibit changes in their normal behavior. 
  • Loss of Appetite: A decrease in appetite can also accompany a UTI. 

Diagnosing and Treating Feline Urinary Infections 

There are several steps involved in the process of diagnosing and treating feline urinary infections. 

Diagnostic Procedures 

Diagnosing a UTI starts with a thorough examination by a veterinarian. The diagnostic process may include: 

  • Urinalysis: A laboratory analysis of your cat’s urine. 
  • Urine Culture: This test identifies the specific type of bacteria causing the infection and helps with selecting the most effective antibiotic. 
  • Imaging Tests: Ultrasounds or X-rays can detect any abnormalities in the urinary tract such as bladder stones, bladder debris, and bladder masses

Treatment Options for UTI 

The treatment for a feline UTI depends on the severity and underlying cause. Common treatment options may include: 

  • Antibiotics: The primary treatment for bacterial UTIs. Cats who suffer from Feline Idiopathic Cystitis are not prescribed antibiotics as there is not a bacterial component to the cause of their clinical signs.
  • Pain Relief Medication: To ease discomfort and inflammation. 
  • Dietary Changes: Special diets can help manage symptoms and prevent recurrence.
  • Increased Water Intake: Ensuring your cat drinks enough water is essential for flushing out the urinary system. 
  • Surgery: In cases where cats are suffering from recurrent UTIs secondary to bladder stones, surgery may be required for long-term relief.

When to Seek Urgent Care for Your Cat 

Feline urinary tract infections, while common, can cause significant discomfort and health issues for your cat. If your cat shows any signs of a UTI, immediate veterinary care is crucial. Delayed treatment can lead to more severe complications and more intensive treatment. Frontier Veterinary Urgent Care excels in providing timely and effective urgent care for a variety of conditions, including feline urinary tract infections. For assistance, please call us at (262) 226-2055. If it’s outside of our operating hours, contact your regular vet or an emergency veterinary clinic.