Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is a term used to describe conditions that can affect either the bladder or urethra (tube from the bladder to the outside) of cats. It is thought to affect around 1-3% of cats each year, so is one of the more common reasons for them being taken to the vets.
Common signs cats may show include:
• Difficulty urinating (straining) or painful urination
• Increased frequency of urination, often producing small amounts and visiting the litter tray frequently.
• Blood in the urine.
• Urinating in strange places in the house.
• Over-grooming due to pain and irritation.
If your cat is straining to urinate and not producing urine, is distressed or unwell you should contact your vet immediately. We see this condition more commonly in cats that are young to middle-aged, neutered, overweight, mostly stay indoors, and who are fed predominantly on a dry diet, however any cat can be at risk. There are many different causes of FLUTD, but by far the most common cause accounting for around 60-70% of cases is Idiopathic cystitis.
Idiopathic cystitis is essentially inflammation of the bladder without a known cause. In order to reach a diagnosis your vet may need to perform some tests such as looking at a urine sample or performing x-rays or an ultrasound.
For most cats it can be addressed by making some simple changes to their environment. Increasing water intake is very important to reduce the risk of this condition. Cats are incredibly efficient at absorbing water from their food, which is why many owners don’t really seem to see their cats drinking very much. Changing to a wet diet can increase water intake. Drinking water is also important, but cats can be incredibly fussy about how it is presented to them! Ceramic water bowls are often favoured over metallic, and also wide and shallow bowls so their whiskers aren’t repeatedly brushing on the sides. To cater to those who prefer a running water source you could invest in a cat water fountain, which provides water as a constant stream.
For some cats, living with other pets can be stressful, but they are good at hiding their true feelings and recurrent cystitis may be the only clue. Stress is now thought to be a big factor in many cases of idiopathic cystitis. If you have more than one cat in the house, it is important that each cat has its own food and water bowl, plus at least one extra bowl spare around the house. This also goes for litter trays, one per cat plus one extra is the recommendation, in quiet locations away from the hustle and bustle of the home. That way there is less competition for important resources, helping with harmonious feline living, after all we wouldn’t like to all eat off the same plate and use a dirty bathroom! Pheromone products are available which have shown to be very useful for helping cats feel relaxed in their environment. Feliway is a synthetic cat appeasing pheromone, available as a plug-in diffuser. The natural pheromone and this synthetic version has shown to help create a happy cat environment.
Happy cats = happy and healthy bladders!