Bladder problems in cats
Feline lower urinary tract disease (known as FLUTD) affects up to 10% of cats worldwide and often doesn't have an identifiable underlying cause. It can have serious repercussions on your pet's health, so it's important you're able to recognize the symptoms and get appropriate help from your vet as soon as possible.
The causes of urinary issues in cats
A cat's urinary system can become infected, which causes inflammation, or suffer from a build-up of minerals which the body would normally process and flush out. These minerals eventually crystallize and then build and join to form "stones," which can irritate the urinary system and block the passage of urine. Older cats with frequent urination can also suffer from chronic kidney disease. This condition is irreversible but may be managed to help improve quality of life.
The symptoms of urinary problems in cats
When your cat is suffering from a urinary problem, its behavior when it urinates will change. It may try to urinate more often and only urinate a little, or fail to do so at all. It may look strained or show signs of pain when urinating, and stay in a urinating position for longer than normal. Its urine might have a pinkish color due to blood in the urine. At other times, it may excessively lick or groom its genital area, demonstrate a loss of appetite or show other behavioral changes.
Is my cat at risk of a urinary problem?
Overweight or obese cats and those living a sedentary lifestyle are more at risk of urinary problems than cats of a healthy weight and active lifestyle. Older cats are also more prone to chronic kidney disease.
There have been suggestions that cats under significant stress or strain are more likely to have urinary system issues. Stress can include new additions to the house, moving, changes in diet, a poorly placed litter tray or one that is difficult to access, and living in a multiple animal household. If a cat and its owner have a strong relationship, the cat can even pick up on an owner's stress, which can result in health problems.
Treatments for cats' urinary problems
It's crucial to take your cat to the vet if you notice any of the symptoms outlined above, as your vet will be able to accurately diagnose the issue and provide the best treatment possible.
However, you can also take action to maintain your cat's urinary health through its lifestyle and diet. Cats are naturally disinclined to drink lots of water—they're descended from desert-dwelling mammals who wouldn't be able to access water regularly—but this is important to keep their urinary system healthy by encouraging urination and diluting the urine to deter crystallization.
You can encourage your cat to drink more water by placing multiple bowls around the house, and avoiding placing it next to food, litter trays, or busy locations. Keep it at room temperature and fill the bowl to the brim so it's easy to access. Running water, like a dripping tap or water fountain, can also be very appealing.
Your cat's diet can also contribute to their urinary health; wet food contains more water than dry, and so can help them urinate more frequently. There are also food which balance their urine's pH and contain lower levels of the minerals which are most likely to form stones.
Urinary problems are unfortunately common in cats, but with the right treatment as recommended by your vet you'll be able to support their health through diet, lifestyle, and medication where necessary.