Bladder infection (UTI) in cats
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.
Symptoms of cystitis in cats
- Peeing more often than usual
- Peeing little and often
- Spending more time than usual in their litter tray
- Straining to urinate
- Blood in urine
- Pain (crying) when peeing
- Visiting the litter tray without weeing
- Weeing outside of the litter tray (commonly in the bath/on the bathroom floor)
- Over grooming their bottom area – this can cause loss of hair
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.
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 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 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
- 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.
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.
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
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Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only.
Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst