Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease – FLUTD

Cat cystitis is a common and sometimes problematic issue that is frequently encountered. Recently I had to perform a very complex operation on a male cat that had had repeated blockages of his bladder due to bladder stones lodging in the tip of his urethra (the urethra is the tube that runs out from the bladder through which urine exits the body). The only longterm solution for this male cat was to create a type of stoma (an opening higher up in his urethra) where he could pee through that was at a much wider point of his urethra that wouldn’t get blocked by small stones. As you can imagine operating on such tiny structures and in such a delicate area is fraught with risks and difficulties.

Fortunately this type of operation is only performed very rarely as most cases of cystitis can be managed without surgery. Cystitis is essentially inflammation of the bladder, in humans it is often caused by an infection but in cats the story is often a lot more complex. In cats, cystitis is often triggered by multiple issues such as anxiety and stress, diet, activity levels, weight and other health problems. You might think that cats don’t have much to get stressed about, but there are actually lots of things that make cats anxious. Living with other pets upsets a lot of cats, they are often much happier as solitary creatures so having multiple cats or introducing a puppy into a cat’s household can cause quite a lot of anxiety. Other illnesses can trigger cystitis, if a cat is unwell it will become stressed, there is a strong link between diabetes and thyroid disease with cystitis. If your cat gets harassed by the local tom cat or bullied by the new neighbours moggy it may get very agitated! Cats do like things just so and any significant change to their normal comfortable lifestyle can increase their stress levels.

If you or I had cystitis it is likely we would be advised to drink as much water as possible to dilute the urine and flush out the bladder. That’s not easy advice to give a cat, but if they have cystitis we can encourage them by switching from dry food to wet food which will, by default, mean they are consuming more fluid. I also often encourage owners to get a cat drinking fountain (basically a water bowl that creates a tap-like trickle of water) as cats often like to drink from running water (taps/baths etc).

Medication wise there are nutritional supplements that can help both with stress and bladder health. We may also prescribe anti-inflammatories for pain relief and antibiotics if an infection is definitely present. Sometimes we need to look at the bigger picture to work out why a cat has had a bout of cystitis and how to prevent recurrent episodes. The most common cat that gets cystitis is overweight, sedentary and fed mostly dry food.

If you have had a cat with cystitis it is worth discussing with your vet what can be done to prevent longterm problems.