Urinary Tract Disease in Cats

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The urinary tract consists of the kidneys, the bladder, the urethra, which is the tube that drains the bladder to the outside world, and the ureters that connect the kidneys to the bladder. Unfortunately, urinary tract disease is an all too common problem for both cats and their owners.

"If your cat is trying to urinate but either cannot or can only get a small amount of urine out, take him to the veterinarian immediately."

Typical Symptoms of Urinary Tract Disease in Cats

The ureters, bladder and urethra are collectively referred to as the lower urinary tract. Cats that suffer from lower urinary tract disease may:

  • Urinate outside the litter box
  • Strain to urinate or become unable to urinate at all (particularly neutered males)
  • Urinate small amounts more frequently than normal
  • Have blood in their urine

Disease that only affects the lower urinary tract usually does not produce more generalized symptoms like loss of appetite, lethargy, a fever, etc.


The most common symptoms of kidney disease and failure are increased thirst and urination.

Causes of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

Following is a brief description of diseases that commonly affect the lower urinary tract of cats. They can all produce very similar clinical signs so a trip to the veterinarian is necessary to reach an accurate diagnosis and plan appropriate treatment.

Urinary Tract Infection

(UTI): an infection of the bladder and/or urethra is not very common in cats under 10 years of age, but the incidence does increase after this point. A urinalysis and urine culture is usually necessary to diagnose an infection and to determine what antibiotic should be used to treat it.

Bladder Stones

(uroliths): an abdominal x-ray and/or ultrasound usually reveals the presence of stones or grit in the bladder or urethra. Your veterinarian may be able identify crystals in the urine under the microscope, which will help determine what the stone is composed of. Some types of stones can be dissolved with pet medications like or special diets but others need to be surgically removed.

Feline Idiopathic Cystitis

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Feline Idiopathic Cystitis goes by many names, including feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) and feline urologic syndrome (FUS). The cause of this disease is not known, but for some reason, the bladder and/or urethra becomes inflamed causing the typical symptoms of lower urinary tract disease. The inflammation tends to resolve over a week or so no matter what treatment is instituted, but the symptoms can return just as mysteriously. To try to prevent these flare-ups your veterinarian may recommend canned food to increase the amount of water your cat consumes and dietary supplements.


If infection, inflammation and crystal/stone formation become bad enough, the flow of urine through the urethra can be completely blocked. This potentially life threatening condition is seen most often in neutered male cats.

If your cat is in pain and is trying to urinate but either cannot or can only get a small amount of urine out, take him to the veterinarian immediately. He will probably need fluid therapy, procedures to drain urine and unblock his urethra, close monitoring, and diagnosis and treatment for the underlying cause of his urinary obstruction.

Kidney Failure

Kidney or renal failure can be divided into two big categories. Acute kidney failure develops rapidly as a result of infection, toxin ingestion (e.g., antifreeze), etc., and cats can recover with fluid therapy, dialysis and other treatments if the damage to their kidneys is not too severe.

Chronic kidney failure is caused by the more gradual loss of kidney function. It cannot be reversed but can often be managed for a period of time with fluid therapy, prescription diets, and pet medications. A kidney transplant may also be an option in some cases.

The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not be considered complete. Certain products or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of your pet. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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