Cats, just like people, can be prone to having urinary tract infections. In most cases even mild infections can be uncomfortable for the feline, however if left untreated it can result in a very painful death for the animal. It is important to keep an eye open for the tell tale signs of a urinary tract infection in your little fur ball. Naturally, if cat owners suspect their cat is acting oddly the first step should be to take a visit to the veterinarian. However, urinary infections can be difficult to diagnose so it is helpful to animal professionals if cat owners can help by giving the symptoms.
Feline urinary tract infections are caused by a few different stimuli, but ultimately are usually caused by bacteria entering the urethra and causing irritation, many times this bacteria is coming from a dirty litter box. However, if a cat is getting urinary tract infections frequently, they can also be caused by some ingredients in commercial cat food. Cats that have had catheters inserted into the urinary tract for surgery or other medical issues are also more prone to urinary tract infections. Not because the veterinarian used a dirty catheter, but because bacteria on the outside of the cat can get stuck on the tube as it is going it. Diabetic cats are also more susceptible to developing UTI infections due to the glucose and protein in their urine as well as a lowered immune system creating a thriving environment for bacterial growth.
The biggest sign of a urinary tract infection in cats is frequent urination. If cat owners notice their cat going to the litter box or urinating elsewhere in small amounts, it is the sign of a mild infection of the urinary tract. Many cat owners confuse frequent trips to the litter box as constipation especially since as the infection gets worse crystals may form and stop urination completely, causing the cat to strain. It is usually only male cats that have crystals forming in the urethra that blocks urination, however both females and males can have a buildup of mucus or stones that do the same thing. If your cat is meowing or whining more frequently, especially when they are using the litter box, this is a pretty good sign that something is wrong. It is essentially their way of saying ‘ouch!’ and something needs to be done. Regardless of whether cat owners suspect a urinary tract infection or constipation, if the cat is whining at the litter box it is definitely time to take them for a vet visit as soon as possible.
Cat owners who suspect their cats are going more frequently should check around the litter box. Not always, but sometimes a cat with a urinary tract infection will have blood in their urine. This discomfort will ultimately lead to increased licking of the cat’s genitals. This is how they clean themselves and is all around soothing to the animal. So even if there is no blood, be sure to keep a closer eye on your cat if you suspect something is wrong. However, many cats will seek comforting places if they are not feeling well, so this cannot always be easy to do.
For cat owners who miss the frequent urination, another sign as the infection gets worse is agitation. UTIs in felines are especially painful and frustrating to the animal so they may start to act out their frustration on their owners. If you begin to notice that your cat has decreased interest in food and water as well as becoming aggressive it is important to take action quickly.
The final symptom of a UTI in cats is depression. This only happens in the most severe stages of a urinary tract infection. If your cat has become depressed or unresponsive, emergency veterinary care may not be enough to save them. These cats will be suffering from dangerously imbalanced electrolytes, heart arrhythmias due to the high level of potassium, and extreme pain from a full bladder. The key to UTIs in cats is to catch them quickly, preferably when they are experiencing increased urination. As soon as you notice any of these symptoms, the cat should be taken to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
In mild cases of urinary tract infections, veterinarians will be able to provide medication for pain relief and recommend either a dietary modification or a change of environment. However, for cats that have stones, crystals or other blockages in their urinary tract, surgery may be needed to help remove those blocks. After a cat has had a urinary tract infection, they are much more likely to relapse within a year. Cat owners should be vigilant of this as well as consider changing foods, cleaning a litter box more often, or investing in multiple litter boxes if they have several cats.