When New York City account executive Ingrid Fulmont noticed a small amount of blood in the litter box of her 3-year-old cat, Simon, she rushed him to the veterinarian. “Was he eating and playing normally?” the veterinarian asked. “Was he urinating more often?” Fulmont said she’d noticed more frequent trips to the litter box. She also suspected he might have soiled the rug once or twice, but otherwise, he was his happy, hungry self.
The veterinarian took a urine sample before diagnosing Simon with FLUTD, or feline lower urinary tract disease, a common condition in otherwise healthy adult cats. Simon was prescribed increased water intake, a low stress lifestyle and a veterinary formula diet.
FLUTD can develop when a cat has a lot of crystals in its urine, which are irritating to the bladder. Veterinary formulas that treat FLUTD balance urinary pH to minimize crystal formation, says Tricia Joyce, DVM, of New York City Veterinary Specialists. Below, Dr. Joyce elaborates on FLUTD and other common feline urinary health issues.
Blood in the urine is one sign that something has gone awry in your cat’s urinary tract. Other signs include frequent and prolonged attempts at urination, urination outside the litter box, excessive licking of the genital area and even crying out during urination. These symptoms may indicate a serious condition that warrants a trip to the veterinarian.
The Three Most Common Urinary Tract Issues
No. 1: FLUTD The most common urinary tract health problem in cats is FLUTD. This painful, yet benign, problem can clear up with treatment but may recur throughout the cat’s life span. The initial episode usually happens in healthy cats between 2 and 6 years of age, often due to the presence of bladder-irritating crystals that most frequently form in carnivores. For cats with clinical signs of having a lot of crystals, put them on diet therapy that adjusts the pH of their diet. A diet that promotes more urine acidity can help to ward off crystal formation.
No. 2: UTI The second most common cat urinary tract problem is infection, the all-too-familiar (to human females, anyway) UTI. These infections are common in older cats with underlying health issues, such as diabetes and kidney problems. The symptoms are the same as FLUTD, but treatment is different, requiring antibiotics. Healthy or younger cats rarely get UTIs, because they make more concentrated urine that isn’t hospitable to bacteria.
No. 3: Urinary Tract Obstruction Third on the list is urinary tract obstruction. Particularly in male cats, the urethra is very narrow, which makes it prone to obstruction. A bladder stone moves from the bladder to the urethra, and he’s plugged up. A cat with a stone will have the same symptoms as a cat with FLUTD but will also become progressively sicker, vomiting and refusing food. In this case, an immediate trip to the veterinarian is crucial, as urinary obstruction can be life-threatening. If a blockage is found, catheterization will be the first step. Surgery may ultimately be required to remove the stone.
Urinary Tract Health Maintenance
Below are steps you can take now to prevent urinary tract health problems in your cat.
- Diet Ask your veterinarian if a pH-balancing diet would be good preventive medicine for your healthy adult cat. These foods may help stop the formation of crystals that are irritating Fluffy’s bladder.
- Weight Overweight cats are more likely to develop urinary tract issues. Keep your furry friend at a healthy weight to minimize the chance of many health problems.
- Water Ensure your cat is drinking its water. Make water tempting by flavoring it with clam or tuna juice. Leave a dripping faucet for cats that like to drink from the sink, or glasses of water around your home for cats that prefer that.
- Stress Monitor your cat’s stress level. Crystal formation may be related to anxiety — the sort that cats experience after a move — or when a new animal or person comes to live in the home. Consult your veterinarian about feeding pH-balancing kibble as a preventive measure if your cat is facing one of these transitions.
As for Simon, his new diet and increased water intake solved his potty problems, which have yet to recur. Fulmont reports that he is back to his litter box using ways, and that both of them are truly relieved.
Darcy Lockman is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to The Daily Cat. Her work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times and Rolling Stone.