Although our domestic cats physically and psychologically resemble their wild ancestors, their living situation has transformed after cohabiting with humans. A diet of ready food, targeted breeding selection and infections lead to domestic cats suffering from many diseases not known to affect wildcats. These include urinary tract diseases.
Urinary Tract Diseases Amongst Cats
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There are many different causes for urinary tract infections, but the symptoms are often similar. What particularly draws attention is that urinating is painful for cats and that they grimace or meow when they visit their litter box. Perhaps they avoid the litter box entirely and then have to quickly relieve themselves away from it. Urinary tract diseases can soon become a chronic problem affecting cats and animal lovers – for this reason, you should seek out a vet as soon as the first signs are evident. The vet can carry out a top-to-toe examination of your cat and narrow down the cause of the pain. A urine test often provides certainty.
Causes of urinary tract diseases
Bacterial infections are probably the most common cause of urinary tract diseases and are often a recurring problem. With chronic courses, crystals can form in the bladder and can join together to form bladder stones or gravel, which irritate the wall of the bladder. This is a painful disease for all cats, but can be life-threatening for males, since their inherently narrow urethra can be completely sealed by these crystals. Low fluid consumption when solely eating dry food can speed up crystal formation.
The vet will use a special test strip to determine the pH value of your cat’s urine. This plays an important role in the formation of bladder stones – if it is too alkaline, the risk of urinary stones and gravel drastically increases.
A microscopic examination of the urine also helps to identify or rule out the presence of crystals. Should crystals be present, a further ultrasound examination should be carried out in order to clarify whether there are urinary stones in the bladder. Infections can be ruled out with the aid of a bacteriological laboratory examination. Such infections are rare amongst young cats but can be encouraged by diseases like diabetes, chronic renal insufficiency or hyperthyreosis. In addition, a blood test can help to examine the general function of the kidneys.
Treatment for a urinary tract infection depends on the exact diagnosis. If it’s a bacterial infection, antibiotics are often the only solution. Anticonvulsant remedies can help tackle an increased urge to urinate.
If crystals are already present in the urine, a species-appropriate diet is essential. The pH value of the urine needs to fall, which can occur with the help of a special food for urinary tract diseases. However, many cat lovers have also had good experiences with raw food. Sufficient fluid intake is particularly important. As desert animals, our cats only rarely seek out their water bowl and consume a large proportion of their required water intake through their food. With dry food in particular, the amount of urine is reduced, the urine becomes alkaline and the risk of bladder stones and gravel increases. Drinking fountains and water bowls distributed throughout the home can help encourage your cat to drink more.
If no physical cause of the symptoms can be found, the diagnosis is often “idiopathic cystitis”. If your cat has an optimal diet and no infections, bladder or kidney stones are present, you should consider stress as a possible cause. Cats are sensitive animals and particularly vulnerable to changes in their living situation – be it a new cat in the family, a new partner or moving home. Chronic stress has a negative effect of the immune system and can result in apparently unfounded illness symptoms.
It can help to examine the position of the litter box, particularly if there are hygiene problems. Cats have to feel absolutely safe in their litter box. For this reason, many prefer open litter boxes to covered ones. A safe location can help to give your cat a sense of security. If there are several cats in your family, the number of litter boxes should be the same as the number of cats with one extra. So, three litter boxes are needed for two cats and four for three cats. This means that every cat can go to the toilet at any time without feeling threatened.
We wish you and your cat all the best!
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