Did you know bladder infections are the number one reason cats visit the veterinarian?
In fact, feline urinary tract infections (FUTIs) affect over 3% of the feline population just in the U.S. alone, not including all the cases that are left untreated. Whether your cat has experienced bladder infections in the past or not, your cat is at a constant risk.
What is a feline urinary bladder infection?
A urinary tract infection occurs when environmental bacteria enters the urinary system. Bacteria live and grow in warm, damp places, which explains why these bacteria thrive inside the hollow organ that is the bladder. Although commonly referred to as a bladder infection, the infection can take place inside any of the three parts that make up the urinary tract—the bladder, ureters, and urethra. Symptoms of a FUTI include:
- polyuria (excessive urination)
- pain during urination
- straining or inability to urinate
- vocalization during urination
- abdominal pain
- bloody urine
- increased water intake
Causes of cat bladder infections
A cat can develop an infection of the bladder for many reasons, including:
Improper hygiene – Cats often develop a urinary tract infection due to feces entering the reproductive organ. Close proximity between vagina and anus in female cats can cause fecal matter to enter the urinary system while defecating.
Decreased water intake – The process of urination allows the body to eliminate waste and toxic materials, but this process can only occur with the presence of water. The less water a feline drinks, the greater the chance of developing an infection.
Reproduction activities – Intact females often develop urinary tract infections because the breeding process moves bacteria into the body.
Medical ailments – Medical problems such as cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) often result in secondary bladder infections.
Stress – Stress triggers hormone levels in the body to rise and causes the bladder pH level to become imbalanced, which allows bacteria and yeast to form within the bladder.
How to prevent a feline urinary tract infection
There are several ways to help prevent FUTIs.
Clean your cat’s litter box daily – The less fecal and urinary matter your cat is exposed to, the lesser chance they have of contaminating themselves with bacteria.
Provide an appropriate number of litter boxes in the household – The general rule for litter boxes is having a box for each cat, plus one extra. Cats tend to assign themselves a litter box that they use regularly. A litter box for each cat can also make it easier for you, the owner, to identify health problems. For example, if one litter box is fuller than the other, you can assume that cat is using it more often and should be monitored.
Provide clean, fresh water every day and wash the water bowl – The probability of a cat developing problems within the bladder is increased when he or she is not drinking enough water. A cat is more likely to drink water when it is clean and fresh.
Decrease stress in the home – Stress triggers hormone levels in the body to rise and can cause imbalances in your cat’s bladder pH levels, which in turn can cause recurring infections.
Closely monitor for higher risk factors – Cats over the age of 10 and those allowed to reproduce are at higher risk for developing bladder infections.
To help prevent future infections, your vet may prescribe D-Mannose, a non-metabolizing sugar to which bacteria attaches for subsequent excretion in the urine. D-Mannose is not a drug, but is highly effective in cats with recurrent bladder infections.
If your cat has had a bladder infection in the past, or is showing any of the above symptoms, always consult your veterinarian. Only an animal medical professional can diagnose your cat’s condition and make an appropriate treatment plan.
Mary Beth Miller is a registered veterinary technician from southeast Iowa. She works in a large/small animal veterinary clinic and also volunteers at the local Humane Society, Emergency Animal Care Center, as well as the Iowa Parrot Rescue. Her passion lies in helping save the lives of animals.