Bladder infection (UTI) in cats

Black cat on white backgound

Overview

A bladder infection is also sometimes called a ‘urinary tract infection (UTI)’ or ‘bacterial cystitis’.

A UTI is an infection inside the bladder caused by bacteria, it’s painful and causes problems peeing. If a UTI is left for too long serious illness can develop.

Cats don’t often develop a UTI for no reason – it’s usually because something has enabled it to develop (for example a bladder stone).

It is important to contact your vet as soon as you notice any symptoms of cystitis.

When to contact your vet

Contact your vet immediately if your cat has symptoms of cystitis. If cystitis is left for too long it can cause serious illness such as a blocked bladder, which can be life threatening.

Taking a urine sample to your vets can be very helpful, see our short video explaining how to collect a urine sample from your cat.

You know your cat best. If they don’t have the symptoms listed above but you are still concerned it’s always best to book an appointment with your vet.

Causes of bladder infections

Cats younger than 10 rarely suffer from a UTI for no reason - it’s usually because something has enabled bacteria to overgrow and an infection to develop, for example:

Treatment

Antibiotics

A short course of antibiotics will usually cure a UTI. However, because bacterial cystitis is rare your vet may decide to run a urine test before using antibiotics.

If your cat is given antibiotics it is very important to follow the instructions and complete the course. If you stop your cat’s antibiotics early this may result in the infection not being cleared properly and could make it more difficult to treat in the future.

If you can’t give your cat their antibiotics, it’s important to get in touch with your vet.

Anti-inflammatory medication

Anti-inflammatory medication is excellent at soothing bladder pain and inflammation.

Strong pain relief

If your cat is in severe pain even after having anti-inflammatory pain relief, your vet may decide to give stronger pain relief alongside it.

Bladder supplements

Bladder supplements are designed to sooth the lining of the bladder, although, there is no solid evidence to prove they work.

What if it doesn’t get better?

UTI’s (without an underlying cause) usually clear up very quickly, usually two to three days after a course of treatment from your vet.

If your cat doesn’t get better quickly or the symptoms come back quickly your vet may want to find out what is causing the problem.

Further investigation may include:

  • Urine tests
  • X-rays
  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasound scan
  • Exploratory surgery and biopsies.

Preventing bacterial cystitis

There isn’t anything you can do to specifically prevent bladder infections in cats. However, the tips below will help you keep your cat’s bladder as healthy as possible.

Food and drink

Encourage your cat to drink lots of water – this helps to keep the kidneys and bladder healthy. Some cats like fresh water, others prefer stale and many cats love running water and like drinking from cat water fountains. Feed your cat wet food to increase their water intake.

Weight

Keep your cat a healthy weight and make sure they get enough exercise. Overweight cats are more at risk of cystitis.

Reduce stress

Stress causes a specific type of cystitis called FIC – this is one of the most common causes of cystitis in cats. Ensure your cat's life is as stress-free as possible.

Regular checks

If your cat is at high risk of cystitis (i.e. if they are diabetic or have kidney disease), your vet might suggest regular urine tests to pick up infections before symptoms occur.

Published: October 2018

PetWise Pet Health Hub – brought to you thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery 

Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst