Get an instant quote now and take the first step to protect your furry best friend.

» See My Rates

Retrieve Saved Quote

Pet Care. Pet Training. Pet Stories.
Refer a Friend & We'll Donate $25 Refer a Friend Now!
Pet Care. Pet Training. Pet Stories.
Refer a Friend & We'll Donate $25 Refer a Friend Now!

Cat Urinary Tract Infections

10/10/2018 by Colleen Williams
October 10th, 2018 by Colleen Williams

cat urinary tract infection

As many pet parents know, cats suffer from urinary tract infections (UTIs) fairly often. In fact, it’s one of their most common ailments! What you may not know is that this illness can be quite serious and needs to be treated by a vet as soon as possible.

What is a UTI?

A UTI is an infection of your cat’s urethra, most commonly found in kitties between the ages of one and four. It is not as prevalent in cats less than one year old and cats greater than 10 years old.

What are the symptoms of UTIs in cats?

Your cat may exhibit the following:

  • Abnormal, frequent passage of urine
  • Inability to urinate or only passing a small amount of urine
  • Urinating in inappropriate locations (like the bathtub or maybe the closet) and litter box avoidance
  • Difficult or painful urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Loss of bladder control, dribbling urine
  • Straining and/or crying out in pain when trying to pass urine
  • Prolonged squatting in litter box
  • Constant licking of genital area
  • Strong odor of ammonia in urine
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Drinking a noticeably larger amount of water

Your vet will also look for:

  • Hard, distended abdomen
  • Blockage of urine flow through the urethra to outside the body
  • Thickened, firm, contracted bladder wall, felt during physical examination

Is it a UTI or a UTB (Urinary Tract Blockage)?

Nope, a “UTB” isn’t code for “under the bed” when it comes to veterinary practices. A UTB is a urinary tract blockage (sometimes called an obstruction); it’s where the urethra may be inflamed or compressed, or there is another reason for blockage. 

Colin, Fully Recovered

When pet parent Karen noticed that Colin wasn’t feeling well, she brought him into her regular vet not once, but twice, and they still didn’t diagnose him accurately. It wasn’t until she took him to the emergency hospital that Colin was diagnosed with UTB, which were likely formed by crystals in his bladder. UTB is serious and life-threatening – the symptoms begin much like a UTI however, with a blockage, it can cause death within a week.

After diagnostic tests and x-rays, vets could see that Colin needed emergency surgery to remove the blockage, which totaled $3,800, of which Karen was reimbursed $3,100. “He’s doing great now!” says Karen. “He was still groggy and in some pain for a few days after he got home, but now he has more energy than ever. Always running around and playing with his brother. Singing at the top of his lungs at 5am. All that good stuff.”

Why do cats get UTIs and UTBs?

While sometimes cats simply contract bacteria in the area, there are diseases that can lead to a UTI, such as noninfectious diseases like interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome) and certain viruses. Most commonly, however, cats will have urinary tract health issues from a variety of sources:

  • Congenital abnormality
  • Stones or accumulated debris in the bladder or urethra
  • Kidney stones
  • Bladder crystals
  • Poor diet
  • Incontinence or weak bladder
  • Injured urinary tract or spinal cord
  • Stress
  • Endocrine diseases (hyperthyroidism and diabetes specifically) can also increase the likelihood of UTIs

Diagnosis and treatment

To diagnose your cat’s UTI, the vet will complete a physical exam, a urinalysis and urine culture, and, if necessary, further blood work, x-rays (for blockages or stones), and an ultrasound. They will be looking for bacterial, fungal, or parasitic sources, as well as any physical complications, injuries, or more serious diseases behind the UTI have caused the infection.

Once the source of the UTI has been identified, your vet can prescribe antibiotics, request dietary changes or, if it’s very serious, schedule surgery.

UTBs can be detected with a thorough physical exam, including feeling the cat’s abdomen, and a full blood panel to monitor levels of increased waste products. If there is a blockage, usually the kidneys cannot filter waste adequately, and the blood will reflect increased levels of potassium. Next, your kitty may undergo x-rays and imaging to see if a blockage is present. If there is an obstruction, surgery is necessary as soon as possible, but is fairly routine and most kitties come out just fine. Your vet will then provide a lifelong treatment plan, as crystals and stones are usually repeat-offenders.

Want to know more information on common cat illnesses? We break down cat health, treatments and veterinary innovation in our Cost of Pet Care report, so you can be prepared to take care of your furry friend every step of the way (and yep, Healthy Paws covers UTI treatment).