Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, Why Do You Make My Cat Pee?

Feline cystitis

I believe that stress is a major factor in feline cystitis and I certainly see an increase of these cases around the holidays. Feline cystitis is the most common form of feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).  Feline cystitis is due to inflammation of the bladder from an unknown cause.

Diseases of the lower urinary tract account for almost 10% of feline visits to the veterinarian.  Male and female cats appear to be affected equally but it is more prevalent in overweight, indoor cats.  The first occurrence usually occurs between the age of 2 and 6 and unfortunately, 50% of these cats will experience reoccurring episodes.  Feline cystitis accounts for 66% of cats diagnosed with FLUTD.

Symptoms of feline cystitis and other causes of FLUTD include straining to urinate, difficulty urinating, bloody urine, and increased urination.  I believe that stress is a major factor in feline cystitis and I certainly see an increase in these cases around the holidays. Boarding, traveling, visitors or new family member in the home, change of weather, and inter-cat aggression are the most common stressors for cats that develop this syndrome.

Diagnosis of feline cystitis is made by ruling out all other causes of feline lower urinary tract disease.  Other causes of FLUTD include urinary tract infection, urinary bladder stones, urethral obstruction, and tumor of the bladder.  Cats with feline cystitis have sterile urine, which means that no bacteria has been grown from the urine sample.  Since their urine is sterile, these cats do not need antibiotics.  In fact, clinical signs of feline cystitis typically resolve within a few days without any treatment.  However, this is a painful condition and I recommend and prescribe pain medication to help these cats.  It’s debatable if diagnostic workup is even needed in young cats that present for the first time with these symptoms.    Further diagnostic testing is definitely recommended if symptoms do not resolve in 3 to 5 days or a cat develops multiple episodes.

Environmental enrichment has been shown to reduce the severity of symptoms and the reoccurrence of feline cystitis.    Litter box cleanliness is one of the most important aspects, but litter box size, shape, and open versus hooded also can affect a cat’s willingness to use the litter box.  Human contact with the cat such as petting, grooming, feeding and playing games that simulate hunting behavior will also help reduce stress in your cat.  It is important to make sure that food, water and access to litter boxes are available in multiple areas of the home, especially in multi-cat households.  Prescription diets from Science Diet, Purina, Iams and Royal Canin are also available to help decrease reoccurrence of feline cystitis or other causes of feline lower urinary tract disease.


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