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Cystitis in Cats

Bladder inflammation (cystitis) in common in young adult to middle-aged cats and is often termed as feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).

It is not a specific disease and can have various causes.

Causes

Bladder infections are not common in cats and account for less than 3% of cases in young animals.

Bladder stones account for about 15% of cases

Structural abnormalities such as cancer and polyps account for fewer than 10%

Behavioural problems account for less than 10%

In more than half of cats with signs of cystitis no underlying cause can be found, and if tests to exclude all other causes are performed and found to be negative, the term feline idiopathic cystitis is used.

Clinical Signs

Common signs include increased frequency of urination, tiny volumes of urine, blood in urine and straining or pain during urination. Often the owner will notice the cat using the litter tray many times.

In male cats there is a risk of obstruction, leading to life-threatening kidney failure if left untreated.

Diagnosis

Testing a fresh urine sample is vital, and may show red blood cells, white blood cells or crystals.

Urine may be cultured although, as previously stated, infection is rare.

Lab tests may be advised to check kidney function and other medical conditions such as diabetes.

Radiographs are taken of the abdomen to rule out stones both in the kidneys and the bladder. Some stones may not show up on X-ray due to lack of calcium in their composition, and may require more complicated radiographic contrast procedures, or ultrasound scan in order to be seen. These procedures can also effectively visualise the surface of the bladder wall.

Treatment

Any cause found such as infection or stones is treated.

If an underlying reason is not found certain general treatments are tried

-       Diluting the urine by feeding foods with higher water content (canned or moist) and encouraging further drinking with water fountains and continual access to fresh water

-       Daily cleaning of the litter tray (and multiple trays in multi-cat households) to encourage frequent urination

-       Enriching environment with toys and active playtime

Medications are reserved for more serious cases

-       pain medications and muscle relaxants can help

-       Feline pheromone spray (Feliway) may help in some cats

-       Anti-inflammatory medications may be tried

Follow Up and Prognosis

Because stress plays a large part in idiopathic cystitis, once diagnosis has been made, frequent vet checks may be counterproductive.

However if you suspect your cat of a urinary blockage, or signs of cystitis are severe, then urgent veterinary attention should be sought.

Preventative measures such as increased water intake and environmental enrichment are important.

At least half of affected cats will have recurrences, often exacerbated by stressful incidents. The frequency, severity and duration of signs seem to decrease as the cat gets older.