Bladder infection in cats

One of the most frustrating conditions that vets see in small animal practice is probably cystitis (bladder inflammation) in our feline patients.

Signs of cystitis include difficulty urinating or sometimes urinating in odd places around the house. Afflicted cats often have repeat episodes several times a year. This of course is very frustrating for the poor cat and owner too!

Although any cat can be affected, the typical cat is neutered, overweight, uses a litter tray and has limited access to the outdoors and takes limited exercise. Often the cat is in a multi cat household.

The really frustrating thing is that there is no clear reason why cystitis occurs. In fact, in the vast majority (over two thirds) the condition is called “idiopathic” which means “of unknown cause”. Even more puzzling is that in only 2% of these cats is there any sign of an actual urine infection.

So what is going on in these cats to account for these signs?

Well, there is increasing evidence that this condition is in fact something that affects the whole of the body in that it appears to be a stress response. The appearance of this stress response is expressed as signs of cystitis.

Many cats also show a ‘”displacement” activity as part of this syndrome e.g. increased eating, drinking or grooming as well as increased urination.

So can this condition be treated? Well the bottom line is that the cause remains unknown in the vast majority of cases and it is unclear whether any other treatment really is that beneficial. This is because many cats will “self-cure” after a period of days if not treatment.

Current diagnostic approaches include checking the specific gravity (density) of urine as well as perhaps a culture of the urine to check for bacteria.

Generally, cats whose urine is dilute (i.e. low specific gravity) are less likely to get this type of cystitis. This can be facilitated by for example feeding a wet (tinned) diet as opposed to a dry diet.

Other beneficial treatments include the use of pheromone (feline scent) markers, to help the cat feel more secure as well as natural calming sedatives such as Zylkene. Providing adequate litter trays in multi cat households is also vital, as it trying to reduce the source of stress wherever possible.

As you can no doubt see by now, this is a condition for which we have more questions than answers!