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Feline Cystitis

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Feline Cystitis

Cystitis is a common complaint affecting cats. The term cystitis roughly translates to “inflammation of the bladder” and is sometimes referred to as Feline Urologic Syndrome (FUS) or Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). While most cases of human cystitis are a result of infection, cats are more prone to stress-induced cystitis.

Cystitis occurs when the urinary tract becomes inflamed and blocked. Urethral blockage can be the result of a bladder stone (urolithiasis), bacterial infection or a build up of struvite crystals. Most cats affected by cystitis suffer from ‘idiopathic interstitial cystitis’ or ‘sterile cystitis,’ meaning the cause of the complaint is unknown. If your cat has been experiencing stress for whatever reason (i.e. you have recently moved house, had building work carried out, or introduced a new addition to the household), alleviating the cause of the stress is the best starting point in addressing the problem.

Idiopathic interstitial cystitis affects 60-70% of cats suffering from the complaint. Abnormalities rarely show up on x-rays or ultrasounds, and urinalysis usually comes back clear of infection.

In general, cystitis is a symptomatic illness. Most cats affected will exhibit one or a combination of symptoms, with the most common being frequent urination. Other symptoms include straining to urinate – often accompanied by ‘crying’ vocalisation – blood in urine, concentrated, odorous urine, and passing very little urine at a time. A cat with cystitis may also urinate in strange places having previously only urinated in the litter box, and may excessively lick its genitals. Clumping litter offers a good indication of how much urine your cat is passing as smaller clumps (and more of them) can suggest a problem. Regularly changing the type of cat litter you use is not recommended.

While all cats are susceptible to cystitis, certain cats are more prone to it than others. Predisposing factors include age, weight and diet. Cats that are neutered/spayed at an early age are thought to be more at risk from developing cystitis, just as cats that are overweight, under-exercised and regularly fed a dry diet are.

Unlike dogs which are often described as omnivores, cats are obligate carnivores that struggle to digest vegetable protein. This means they need a high proportion of meat muscle protein in their diet to thrive. Moreover, the prey of cats in the wild consists of roughly 70% water, something that most wet canned foods provide (78%). This is compared to the 10% water that makes up dry kibble. Because of this, many cat owners believe that wet food is the best option for cats, especially those prone to recurrent urinary health problems. Wet food has also been claimed to reduce obesity when fed as a staple diet.

Cats are also notoriously bad at drinking water and therefore need to get all their hydration from their food. If a cat doesn't get enough water, it is more susceptible to struvite crystal formation. These crystals may be small but they can be uncomfortable, with sharp edges that often cause internal bleeding.

The location of your cat's water bowl is an important factor in encouraging water intake and minimising stress as, in the wild, cats are most vulnerable to predators when they are eating, drinking and going to the toilet. If the feeding area and/or litter tray is in a particularly busy or noisy part of the house, your cat may feel threatened and eventually stop visiting it altogether. It is important that you provide enough litter trays to cater for all the cats in your household as this ensures that everyone has their own special place to use.

Some cats are encouraged to drink with the use of a water fountain as this is something novel that captures the cat's interest and promotes regular visits.

So, what can be done to prevent feline cystitis?

Because most cases of cystitis are idiopathic (unknown cause), preventing it is difficult. The best advice is to take note of your cat's stress level and try to minimise upheaval and stressful situations as much as possible. Obviously, routine is always subject to change and holidays, furniture re-adjustments and domestic DIY cannot be avoided indefinitely.

As there is a strong correlation between stress and urinary health, VioVet has specially developed a supplement to treat both cause and effect; on one hand helping to reduce stress and related behaviours, and on the other, working to support and maintain normal urinary tract function and relieve discomfort.

FortiFlow contains a careful blend of ingredients chosen for their gentle but effective properties, such as N-acetyle glucosamine (not to be confused with other forms of glucosamine) which is often used to treat inflammatory conditions and may help protect the lining of the stomach and intestines. D-Mannose is a sugar thought to help prevent recurrent cystitis by binding to bacteria, and is found in cranberries and other berries, peaches, apples and some plants. Finally, the inclusion of L-Tryptophan - an amino acid precursor to neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin - will help keep your cat calm, happy and contented.

To help relieve stress and promote a calm disposition, SettleMe chews contains a blend of ingredients believed to help support calm behaviours and reduce stress-related behaviours and over-activity.

Feliway is an effective, pheromone-based product that helps to reduce stress and nervousness in cats and promotes confidence and calm instead. Available from VioVet as a diffuser, spray and non-prescription tablet, you can rely on Feliway to calm your feline in times of unavoidable disruption and stress.

Pain management is essential when dealing with feline cystitis. Antibiotics may be prescribed if a bacterial infection is suspected, although this is rarely the case in cats. Corticosteroids are sometimes given to reduce inflammation, along with pain killers to lower discomfort and pain. In severe cases, your veterinarian may conduct fluid therapy or catheterisation to relieve a blockage, while surgery is often performed on male cats to reduce the chance of blockage recurrence.

If you have had any experiences of caring for a cat with cystitis or would like to share advice with our other readers, please comment below! Email me directly with any further questions and/or suggestions for future blog posts: [email protected]

Written by:


28th Aug 2014
Customer Since: August 2013
From: County Down, United Kingdom

My cat is 13 abd I've had her from aged 4. From day one she appeared to be 'missing' the litter tray but was mostly outside. It wasn't until we moved to a small town house and she was house bound that she became really bad and was pering minute amounts with blood. After lots of tests lower urinary tract infection and the development of struvite crystals which were blocking her urinary tract. Since then I have kept her on hills prescription cd wet food,

29th Aug 2014
Customer Since: September 2009
From: Surrey, United Kingdom

Stress and cystitis in one cats was clearly associated with people staying with us. Something you can't avoid.
The advice I received that has worked really well is to add extra water to wet food. The water takes on the flavour of the food and the cats naturally lap it up as they eat.
Start with just a teaspoonful and gradually increase if the cat accepts it. My cats now take on much more water (more then they voluntarily drank) and eat what we call Soup because it is so wet. Plus they can still have a mixed wet/dry diet as a result.
No more random puddles in the house and the cats can still be seen visiting the water bowl from time to time.
Happy cats, happy owner. Perhaps this will help someone else.

30th Aug 2014
Customer Since: April 2014
From: United Kingdom

Completely agree with Sharon with the way to handle this difficult problem. Our cat developed this condition at the age of 10 after some huge changes in his environment and life which were unavoidable. After his 2nd bout of cystitis, the vet put him on Cystophan for the rest of his life, as well as the Hills c/d stress diet. He also told me to add as much warmed water to his wet food as the cat would take. The combination of food, Cystophan and a lot of water seem to be keeping his cystitis at bay.

11th Sep 2014
Customer Since: June 2010
From: Norfolk, United Kingdom

Cystophan has worked wonders with my nervy little rescue cat. It not only strengthens the bladder lining but contains some of the ingredient that is in Zylkene, an anti stress drug. A win-win solution. No problems since she was on this. She had a capsule emptied into her food (she is very fussy eater, but this didn't faze her at all) every day for a few months. Now she has one every other day.

26th Aug 2015

I have an elderly, tubby, grumpy ex-pet rescue who has adopted me but does not get on with the other ex-feral rescue in residence. She suffered from frequent attacks of cystitis and using Feliway plugins did not appear to help. She dislikes wet food and I can only get her to eat small amounts, but since getting her onto a dried food which contains cranberry extract - Ultima Urinary Tract from Wilkies - she has definitely improved. In fact no attacks of cystitis at all for several months now, so I'd recommend any other owners with the same problem to give it a go.

27th Aug 2015

a simple change in food from commercial man made biscuits to a natural healthy diet of fresh meats made all the different no more problems

24th May 2016
Customer Since: February 2015
From: Derbyshire, United Kingdom

When my cat was 3 years old, he is slightly overweight and doesn't really go out so gets little exercise. One day I noticed him frequently visiting the litter tray (up to 10 times in one hour) and not really urinating or only a very tiny amount, each time he got out of the litter tray he spent up to 5 minutes cleaning his genitals. It was when he "cried" at me that I realised he needs the vet. He spent 3 days in the vet surgery after being catheterised. When he came home we took the vets advice of:
Hills c/d urinary stress food adding filtered water, feliway, water fountain using filtered water, cystophan, ice cubes made of chicken broth added to a bowl of water.
He had a couple of flare ups within the next 8 months but so far he has been free of symptoms for 18 months now. It was scary but blogs like this really helped. Thanks viovet

19th Jun 2016

Thanks for the article and the comments, especially Michelle's. My 2.5 year old cat is currently catherterised at the vet after suffering these symptoms. He does drink a lot of water and has a small amount of wet food twice a day but he has also eaten Royal Canin biscuits daily since he was a kitten. He's obviously prone to crystals so I expect I will need to change his diet to Hills. I'll post an update in a few weeks.

23rd Feb 2017

Well it's been more than a few weeks but I'm happy to say that my now 3 year old cat has had no reoccurrence of cystitis. He has a small amount of Royal Canin Urinary biscuits a day and wet food morning and night. He drinks water all the time from the many bowls I have around the house and passes good amounts of urine in his tray. Hopefully his good urinary health will continue.

8th Feb 2018

My vet says special urinary food is not good for my 17 year old cat with cystitis as he has kidney disease, and there is too much/ too little of something in the urinary diets.

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