Feline urinary health is a very important topic. Most of the sick feline cases we see on a daily basis have to do with the urinary system. Cystitis is among the most common problem we face. Younger cats typically do not get urinary tract infections, but commonly get cystitis. Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder wall. Stress is the number one instigator of cystitis. Has your schedule changed? Have you gotten new items in your household? Is there construction in or outside your home? Any of these and more can cause stress to your cat and cause them to urinate outside the box. Many of these cats present for just urination outside the box, urinating frequently, and some also have blood in their urine. The mainstay of treatment for these cats is to relieve the stress in the home. The biggest are more play and more vertical space. Having cat trees or just shelves for them to get away to is very helpful. Play should be individual, one-on-one time with your cat for at least 20 minutes a day. Play fetch, feather toys, bags etc. Whatever your cat goes nuts for, get them active. It will show your kitty that you care for them and keep their mind off the stress around them. Another idea that can help with stress is Feliway Cat Diffusers which emit pheromones to alleviate stress and help with behavior modification if needed. Medications are very rarely prescribed. Below we’ll talk about how diet has a role in stress relief as well.
The second component of cystitis is diet. Diet and the cat’s own physiology can cause crystal formation which in turn causes irritation of the bladder wall. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with your cat’s diet, if the cat is predisposed to forming crystals (which unfortunately you won’t know until it happens), it can cause major issues. The biggest issue, of course, is urinary obstruction for our male cats. These crystals get lodged in the penis causing urine to back up into the bladder and causing the kidneys to fail. This can occur in just hours after obstruction. This is a life threatening condition. If you see your cat straining with minimal to no urine production, please call us ASAP as this is a true emergency. The other consequence of urinary crystal formation is bladder stones. Depending on the type, some can be dissolved (Magnesium Ammonium Phosphate aka Struvite) with diet, but others (Calcium Oxalate, Cysteine, Urate) cannot be dissolved and need to be surgically removed.
Diet is the number one treatment in our arsenal. We recommend Hills Prescription Diet C/d and C/d Stress. Both of these diets help maintain a neutral pH in the bladder to prevent both Calcium Oxalate and Struvite formation (the 2 most common crystals formed). They have a balanced amount of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus to prevent crystal formation. They both have Omega 3 Fatty Acids, EPA, DHA that help protect the bladder wall from inflammation, and the Stress formula has L-tryptophan and Hydrolyzed Casein to manage stress and stress related behaviors (1). Most of the cats we put on C/d thrive and very rarely, if ever, do they get urinary tract issues again when kept on the food long term. We also institute pain relief for these kitties in the form of anti-inflammatories if their kidneys are working sufficiently or other modes of pain relief if they are not.
Some cats that are middle aged and older can show urinary signs that aren’t related to cystitis. These can be a true urinary tract infection, bladder stones, bladder tumors, or kidney failure. Because we don’t always know the cause of your cat’s urinary tract symptoms, it’s imperative that we do a good physical exam, urinalysis, radiographs, and sometimes bloodwork to determine the cause of your cat’s symptoms. We at River Hills Pet Care Hospital and New Ulm Regional Veterinary Center are very well trained in this issue and are always happy to help. Please call and make an appointment if you feel your cat is having urinary symptoms like urinating outside the box, squatting frequently, urinating larger amounts, or not urinating at all.
Dr. Jessica Woodrow
River Hills Pet Care Hospital