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Urinary Tract Problems in Cats

Problems that affect a cat's lower urinary system often prevent the bladder from emptying correctly or may even cause fatal blockage of the urethra, the tube connecting the bladder to the outside of the body. Very often the culprit is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). Once called Feline Urologic Syndrome (FUS), FLUTD is not merely one problem, but a collection of clinical symptoms that may have more than one possible cause. Symptoms of FLUTD include frequent or painful urination, bloody urine and frequent licking of the urinary opening. One key to treating FLUTD is to determine the root cause, which may include bladder stones, urinary tract blockage, infection or cancer. If the cause of these symptoms cannot be determined, the cat is considered to have bladder inflammation (cystitis).

For upper urinary tract issues in cats, please see our article on Kidney Problems.

What Causes Lower Urinary Tract Problems in Cats?

  • Stones, crystals or debris accumulation in the bladder or urethra
  • Urethral plug (accumulation of debris from urine)
  • Bladder inflammation or infection
  • Incontinence from excessive water drinking or weak bladder
  • Injury to, or tumor in, the urinary tract
  • Stress
  • Spinal cord problems
  • Congenital abnormality

What Health Conditions Might Lead to Lower Urinary Tract Problems?

Endocrine diseases such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus can cause lower urinary tract problems in cats.

Which Cats Are Prone to Lower Urinary Tract Problems?

FLUTD is rarely diagnosed in animals younger than one year; the average age is typically four years. Male cats are generally more prone to urethral blockages because of their narrower urethras.

How Can I Tell if My Cat Has Lower Urinary Tract Problems?

The following signs may indicate that your cat is having trouble with his urinary tract:

  • Inability to urinate or only passing a small amount of urine
  • Bloody or cloudy urine
  • Loss of bladder control, dribbling urine
  • Increased frequency of urination or visits to the litter box
  • Straining and/or crying out in pain when trying to pass urine
  • Prolonged squatting in litter box
  • Fear/avoidance of litter box and soiling in inappropriate places
  • Constant licking of urinary opening
  • Strong odor of ammonia in urine
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Increased water consumption
  • Hard, distended abdomen