Cystitis in cats is a fairly common problem, and fortunately also easily treated.
It is an infection and inflammation of the cat’s bladder, which causes them pain when urinating and is often easily detected because blood is present in the cat’s urine.
Also called hemorrhagic cystitis, precisely because of the presence of blood in the urine, it seems to be more common in neutered male cats, as they have a longer urethra, thus more susceptible to bacteria.
But cystitis actually can occur in either unneutered or spayed male cats or female cats, for that matter, and even during heat.
In addition, cystitis in the male cat is also more dangerous, in case of stones for example, as the obstruction of the urethra would prevent the cat from peeing, and in this situation it is better to immediately go to the vet.
People often wonder how long cystitis lasts in cats, it is clear that if left untreated it can only worsen, while if treatment with an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory is administered, in about 7 days, that is, the course of the antibiotic, it can be resolved.
Symptoms of cat cystitis
The symptoms of cystitis in cats are often very obvious:
- pain when urinating
- meowing when the cat pees, due to pain
- difficulty urinating (dysuria)
- presence of blood in the cat’s urine (hematuria)
- the cat urinates in unusual places and not in the litter box
- the cat frequently licks its private parts and abdomen
Cat cystitis is very similar to human cystitis, and the symptoms are also the same: the cat feels burning and pain when it pees, it would like not to urinate often because it hurts, but it cannot hold back the urge; in fact, the need to urinate is more frequent than usual.
Often the cat changes the place where she/he relieves himself/herself: he/she avoids the litter box, because he/she associates it with pain, and relieves himself/herself in unusual places, a box, in the shower, even in the sink.
Often we humans notice the cat’s disorder precisely because it urinates in unusual places, and thus we get to see the blood in the cat’s urine, because the pee is pinkish to bright red in color. Needless to say, if the cat urinates only blood, it is time to go to the veterinarian.
It is not uncommon for the cat, even if they pee in the litter box, experiencing pain by urinating, to make meowing sounds while relieving themselves, this is a very obvious sign that peeing is causing them pain.
When the cat has cystitis, he also spends a lot of time licking his abdomen, as if to give himself pain relief.
The situation becomes serious when the cat does not urinate at all. In this case you have to rush to the vet, who will empty the bladder and determine the real cause of the cystitis, which can also be a blockage in the urethra due to ureteral stones or kidney stones.
In this case, the cat is visibly ill: not licking himself/herself, trying to sit to reduce pressure on the bladder, may even have a fever due to the secondary inflammation and infection that arises.
The veterinarian, in the case of suspected cat cystitis, will perform an ultrasound to make sure that there are no obstructions, and a urinalysis, in which the bacteria are easily exposed (and in any case they are “cultured” and grown in the laboratory, to know precisely what bacteria it is).
Cat cystitis: causes
Cystitis is caused by an inflammation of the bladder and abnormal bacterial development in the bladder.
The bladder is an environment that tends to be hostile to bacterial development because there are few nutrients and it frequently gets emptied anyway.
However, sometimes some dietary causes (such as too much food, or poor quality food) cause the urinary pH, or acidity of the urine, to change and become higher, which creates a favorable environment for bacterial development.
Often a cat’s diet of poor quality cat food can therefore cause cystitis and kidney problems in cats, such as kidney stones.
In addition, cystitis can also be caused by intestinal problems (intestinal dysbiosis), by altered intestinal bacterial flora that goes on to cause damage in the urinary system as well.
However, it is not necessarily the case that cystitis is caused solely by diet, it can also be caused by other factors such as stress and environmental discomforts for the cat, which likewise have an influence in changing the urinary pH, just as it does for us humans.
Also, the fact that when you give too much food to the cat, there are more nutrients because there are more in the bloodstream, and therefore more ends up in the urine, gives the bacteria the nourishment they need to develop, and this creates damage to the bladder wall. Damage that, as some of you have probably experienced, feels like burning.
What do we naturally do when we have cystitis? We try to pee as much as possible, because in this way we reduce the pressure present in our bladder.
Hence, the cat does the same.
In this case the cat tries to relieve his/her pain, but peeing hurts him/her.
Hemorrhagic cystitis can also be caused by urinary stones or kidney stones, which as we have seen block the urethra, preventing the proper passage of urine, and thus the proliferation of bacteria.
Blockage of the urethra can also be caused by trauma or tumors, but it will be the Veterinarian, by means of ultrasound, who will figure out the true causes of cystitis, which much more often are simply causes due to poor nutrition.
Cat cystitis: how to treat it
If we go to the Veterinarian with our cat suffering from cystitis, as we have already mentioned, an ultrasound will be used to check for obstructive elements of the urethra, and a urine test will be done.
If the cat does not urinate, the bladder will be emptied and the underlying cause of the cat’s urination problems will be found.
Fortunately, treatments for cystitis exist: antibiotics are given that can reach the bladder and kill the bacteria, as well as cat anti-inflammatories to reduce inflammation and thus pain.
Your veterinarian must be the one to identify the appropriate antibiotic for your cat’s cystitis, and which anti-inflammatory drugs to administer. Baytril is often given, but please check with your veterinarian.
So the treatment for cystitis is pharmacological, but other precautions must also be put in place so that cystitis does not recur.
Sometimes a change in diet is also made, to modify the urinary acidity and make sure that it is the urine itself that is somehow disinfecting the bladder.
There is a tendency to eliminate poor quality kibble from the diet in favor of wet food, which also rehydrates the kidneys.
It is important for the treatment of cystitis to keep the litter box clean to avoid bacteria.
Cystitis is thus an easily treatable problem, perhaps the simplest (unless there is a concomitant infectious disease such as IVF or very old age) of those affecting the bladder.
If the cystitis seems to be caused by stress in the cat, it is necessary to understand what stress factors are in the house, at best consult a Veterinary Behaviorist.
Cat cystitis: natural remedies and homeopathy
In addition to keeping the litter box very clean and going to address the cat’s stress issues, perhaps with Bach Flower or Feliway, we can implement natural cures to help our cat with cystitis.
Many recommend having the cat take a multi-day decoction of mallow leaves, which has the ability to flush the urinary tract; bearberry and cornstalks in herbal tea are also useful.
Since cystitis is often related to altered intestinal flora, milk enzymes may also be useful.
Of course, clean water should always be left available and have the cat drink plenty to dilute the urine.
What is feline idiopathic cystitis?
This write-up of feline idiopathic cystitis is by Dr. Elena Borrione, a veterinary behavioral physician.
The term idiopathic is used when the primary cause that generated the clinical problem leading the cat to have cystitis cannot be discovered.
Thus, idiopathic cystitis is an ‘infection in the bladder or, more generally, in the lower urinary tract in which a cause or etiologic agent (virus, bacteria, neoformation, etc.) cannot be identified.
Idiopathic cystitis in the cat: symptoms
The signs and symptoms that can be seen in the cat are the same as those that would be observed in the case of any other cystitis, the causes of which, unlike idiopathic cystitis, are well identifiable, for example, in the case of an elevated presence of pathogenic bacteria (bacterial cystitis) or urinary crystals (crystalluria)or even a neoformation in the bladder wall.
The cat may access the litter box numerous times and deposit a few drops of urine at a time and exhibit repeated behaviors before being able to find the right position (turning in circles or scratching the litter).
There may be episodes of “household accidents” represented by urine deposits in inappropriate places (on carpets, armchairs, sofas, etc.) around the house.
The cat may complain both when going to the litter box and when walking around the house.
He/she may appear more nervous than usual and even seem more active but, usually, it is an activity that leaves the owner with the impression that their kitty cannot “find peace” in the house.
Or we may find a marked decrease in daily activities and a general apathy of the cat even in the face of stimuli that usually catch his/her interest (the opening of the can of tuna or the moment in the evening when we let him/her out on the terrace).
Finally, we may also find a tendency for the cat to lick itself insistently in the genital or belly area, even to the point of removing all the hair and creating real skin wounds.
Feline idiopathic cystitis: causes and risk factors?
The factors that are considered risk factors can be several.
Overweight or obesity are among the causes that are often underestimated by owners.
Stress, both environmental and social, is of enormous importance.
In the former case (environmental stress of the cat) stress factors may include, for example, moving house, housework, frequent furniture changes, or excessive house cleaning.
Social stress factors in the cat can be the adoption of a new cat or the recent adoption of the cat itself, the removal of a family member, the presence of foreign animals in one’s territory (the neighbor’s cat coming for a walk in our yard), the frequent presence of guests in the house.
The cat’s temperament also matters. More “sensitive” subjects may be poorly able to handle even small alterations both environmentally and socially.
Complications of idiopathic cystitis in the cat
Although idiopathic cystitis is by definition, as mentioned in the introduction, a cystitis in which no specific underlying cause can be identified, it is not certain that over time complications may not arise as a result of it.
Over time, more or less, the level of inflammation may become more pronounced and traces of blood (hematuria) may be found in the urine. Growth of bacteria within the bladder lumen (pyuria) may also be found.
Crystals can form and, over time, be deposited, which can in some cases become arranged into actual stones, causing a consequent obstruction of the urinary tract and thus preventing the cat from urinating. This condition is much more common in male cats than in females.
The kidneys can also become damaged and thus compromise the cat’s health far more dramatically.
Feline idiopathic cystitis: treatment and therapy
The first thing to do is always to consult your veterinarian of choice. He or she, after examining the cat and possibly suggesting further diagnostic tests (blood test, urine test, ultrasound, X-ray, etc.) will tell us the best therapy, if necessary, to follow.
We can also put additional steps in place both if our cat is diagnosed with idiopathic cystitis and as a preventive measure so that this possibility does not occur.
Increasing water consumption helps keep the urinary system in good balance. We could opt for wet food in the diet and pay close attention to the water bowl, so that it is always clean and the water inside it always fresh, even changing it several times a day. It might be useful to place a water fountain in the house which is generally much appreciated by our beloved cats.
Ensure good environmental enhancement (games, paths, hiding places, etc…) and decrease, as much as we can, stress factors.
In case of need, remember that contacting a veterinarian experienced in animal behavior could be helpful in helping your cat overcome his or her problems.
The cat’s urinary system
Urine, even in cats, is produced by the kidneys, which are essentially blood filters that retain useful substances in the bloodstream and release harmful ones outside.
Blood always has a high pressure when it is in the kidney, and this allows filtering.
The harmful substances, after reabsorption of the good ones, are then expelled outside the organ, collecting first at the entrance to the kidney, in a part called the renal pelvis, then passing through a long tube called the ureter (there are two, one per kidney) that flow into a common organ called the bladder.
From here they exit into a final channel, short in the female and long in the male, which is the urethra, through which urine is expelled.
In the ureters, the flow of urine is slow, but continuous, a bit like the water hose in the garden that we always leave a little bit open, to let little water pass through constantly. This is because the kidneys do not filter at intervals, but do so all the time.
The urine accumulates in the bladder, which fills up until it puts too much pressure on it, at which time the urge to urinate arises.
The control of the urethral meatuses (of the valves at the top and bottom of the urethra) is voluntary, which is why the cat is able to “hold” the urine, and let it out when it wants to.
But there are cases when this will is lost, and that is when we get urinary incontinence.
The cat is no longer in control of the situation, urinating wherever it happens to be.
Note that this behavior is normal in newborn kittens, because they learn to control their sphincters, both bladder and anal sphincters, only after a few weeks.
Other problems of the cat’s urinary system
In addition to cystitis, there are also other problems that can afflict the cat’s urinary system.
If the cat has a confrontational attitude with the litter box, there may be, in addition to behavioral problems such as marking, other problems such as:
- spinal cord injuries leading to a lack of bladder control
- incontinence or pollakiuria in an elderly cat
- congenital abnormality
- bladder stones (small even very large solid formations in the bladder)
- tumor lesions
- renal failure
As we have seen in the article, in all cases where the cat does not urinate or is in great pain in doing so, you need to go to the Veterinarian immediately.
If you have questions or want clarification on cat cystitis problems, or want to tell me about your experience, please write in the comments to the article.