A black and white cat sitting on a green grass

Cat UTI: Urinary Tract Infections Explained

Katelyn Son
By Katelyn Son
Medically reviewed by Ivana Crnec, DVM
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What Are Cat Urinary Tract Infections?

Urinary Tract Infection: Cat UTI Explained

A cat UTI is an infection of the cat’s urinary tract. Infections affecting the lower portion of the urinary tract (bladder and urethra) are known as feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).

Most urinary tract infections in cats occur when the bacteria Escherichia coli enters through the cat’s urethra and settles into the cat’s bladder (cystitis). If left untreated, it leads to incontinence, painful urination, and other urinary tract issues.

What is Feline Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)?

Feline lower urinary tract disease is an umbrella term describing bladder and urethra conditions caused by urinary crystals, urethral obstructions, stones, and bacterial infections.

Urethral blockages that build up over time can cause symptoms of FLUTD. These symptoms include bloody urine, painful urination, excessive licking of the genital area, and increased thirst and dehydration.

If left untreated, FLUTD can cause kidney disease, a ruptured bladder, and complete blockage of a cat’s urinary tract. Sadly, nearly 2/3 of cases are idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown. FLUTD is more common in male cats compared to female cats, and it can be life-threatening.

Vets Preferred Cat Urinary Tract Chews
  • Safe quality ingredients – Lab tested and GMP certified. Active ingredients include Licorice root, astragalus root, cranberry fruit and nettle leaf.
  • How much to use – Administer the following: Up to 5 lbs – 1 soft chew/ day, 5-10 lbs 2 soft chews/ day, 11-19 lbs – 3 soft chews/ day, Over 20 lbs – 4 soft chews/ day.
  • Supports a healthy urinary tract – Nettle Leaf helps your cat and dog get rid of waste from the body while Cranberry fruit helps prevent urinary tract infections caused by certain strains of E. coli.

How do Cats Get UTI Infections?

Bladder infections and general cat UTI infections can be caused by bacteria, systemic or endocrine conditions, and abnormal urine pH levels. Here is a closer look at the causes of UTIs in cats:

  • E. coli. One of the most common causes of cat UTI is E. coli which has traveled through the urethra and into the cat’s bladder. This occurs when the litter box is not cleaned regularly, or the cat is dirty for an extended period.
  • Endocrine Diseases. Diabetes mellitus suppresses the immune system, which makes cats with this disease more susceptible to bacterial infections. Hyperthyroidism is another cat UTI causes. It leads to an increase in thirst, increased urination, and increased urgency for urination.
  • Neutral Urine. When urine is more acidic, it kills bacteria inside the bladder. There are urine acidifiers available to help make a cat’s urine less hospitable to bacteria by making it more acidic.

What Are the Symptoms of a UTI in a Cat?

The symptoms of cat UTI are:

  • Bloody Urine. This is a urinary issue that should be evaluated by a DVM. It is a common symptom of a UTI, but it is not a telltale symptom. Bloody urine can be caused by bladder stones and
  • Frequent Urination. Frequent urination is a common symptom of a UTI, especially when accompanied by small amounts of urine. These two together are a sign that cat owners should seek veterinary care immediately as clinical symptoms could continue to worsen.
  • Peeing Outside the Litter Box. When a cat urinates outside of the litter box, it might be trying to tell you something. The cat may be doing this because it feels the litter box is dirty or because the bacterial infection in the bladder increases the urgency with which the cat needs to urinate, and they may not make it in time to the litter box.
  • Painful Urination. One of the more obvious symptoms of a urinary tract infection is painful urination. Cats will sometimes whimper or make noise when urinating due to pain incurred while peeing. This is caused by crystals or stones that block the urinary tract that is brought on by a UTI.

How do Veterinarians Diagnose a Cat UTI?

Urinary Tract Infection: Cat UTI Explained

To diagnose a cat UTI, the vet will start with a general physical exam and then focus on the cat’s symptoms. The vet will ask questions to gather as much information as possible.

Once it is suspected that a cat may have a UTI, the vet will collect a urine sample for a urinalysis and urine culture. Other diagnostic tests the vet may recommend are abdominal ultrasound and x-rays.

What Should a Cat Owner do if Their Cat Has a UTI?

If your cat is exhibiting symptoms of a urinary tract infection, take it to the vet’s office. In addition to the vet’s recommendations, here are some at-home cat UTI treatment options:

  • Diet Modifications. Introducing foods like cranberries and apple cider vinegar can increase the acidity of a cat’s urine. Lowering the pH value of a cat’s urine will make it more acidic and more hostile toward bacteria, which is the underlying cause of UTIs.
    With this method, the cat’s urine is made inhospitable to bacteria and, over time, can kill them and cure the infection. Introducing prebiotics and probiotics helps by promoting the growth of helpful bacteria that keeps the bacteria that cause UTIs at bay.
    Trying urinary cat food can help because it is formulated to support urinary tract health.
  • Increased Water Intake. Increasing a cat’s water intake will help hydrate them, and this will help to increase their urination frequency. As they pee more often, they expel more and more of the bacteria that caused the infection in the first place.
    Convincing a cat to drink more water may be tricky, however. If this is the case for your cat, then wet canned food can be helpful. Wet foods contain more moisture and hydrate cats while they eat.
  • Urinary Health Supplements. Using supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can help replenish the lining of the bladder called glycosaminoglycans.
    This helps to prevent bacteria from settling into the wall of the bladder and, therefore, prevents infection. Juniper berries and marshmallow root are also great options for their antibacterial and antifungal properties.
  • Decreased Carbohydrate Intake. Cats are obligate carnivores which means they have no physiological need for carbohydrates. This means a cat’s blood glucose level can quickly rise, and this causes sugar in the urine to rise as well.
    The sugar in the urine gives infectious bacteria a great place to grow inside the bladder. Making the cat’s urine less sugary and more acidic through the use of decreased carbs and increased acidifiers is a great way to treat a cat’s UTI.

How do You Treat a UTI in a Cat?

Urinary Tract Infection: Cat UTI Explained

There are many cat UTI treatment options. It is most often recommended to seek the advice of a DVM. Going to the vet will ensure your feline friend is being treated appropriately.

The vet will give your cat the medication it needs to restore and maintain urinary tract health and prevent other urinary tract problems and possible health issues using properly prescribed medication.

When treating a cat’s UTI at home, you can use something like Vets Preferred Cat Urinary Tract Chews, which supports healthy urinary tract function with the use of licorice root, astragalus root, cranberry, and nettle leaf.

All these ingredients are safe and effective treatments for urinary tract infections in cats. Introducing other things like cranberries, apple cider vinegar, and juniper berries help to increase the body’s hostility toward infectious bacteria.

How can I Prevent My Cat From Getting a UTI?

There are many ways to prevent a cat UTI. We have listed some of them below:

  • Increase water intake
  • Introduce acidic foods like cranberries and apple cider vinegar
  • Make sure their litter box is clean
  • Avoid high carbohydrate foods
  • Schedule regular physical exams
  • Provide environmental enrichment
  • Feed them urinary tract pet food
  • Keep your cat at a healthy weight