Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works with dogs, cats, exotics, and livestock.
Signs of Cystitis in Cats
When a cat has cystitis (inflammation of the bladder and lower urinary tract), the normal signs are:
- Urinating outside the litter box
- Urinating more often
- Trying to urinate more often but only producing a few drops
- Blood in the urine
In this article, we'll cover how to tell if your cat has a UTI and what to do about it (including why home remedies are not appropriate for infection but can be helpful for reducing inflammation and preventing further urinary tract issues).
How to Tell If Your Cat Has a UTI
If you do notice your cat has cystitis, the only way to figure out for sure if there is a urinary tract infection is to take a urine sample to your veterinarian. They will look at it under the microscope and figure out how many bacteria are present and sometimes what kind.
If you do not have a veterinarian available, some human laboratories will also do this test, but it is usually more expensive. About one-fifth of cats with urinary problems will end up having a bacterial infection of the urinary tract. (1)
Feline UTIs Cannot Be Treated at Home
Most cats with a bacterial infection need to be treated with antibiotics to get rid of that infection.
If you do not get rid of the infection that is causing the problem, the things you can do at home are not going to help, and the infection can end up moving to the kidneys and eventually killing your pet.
That said, there are things you can do to help ease your cat's cystitis if there is no infection present.
Home Remedies for Cystitis Without an Infection
Cranberries Pills or Powder
This fruit contains chemicals (flavonoids and phenolic acids) that can reduce or even stop the signs of cystitis, or inflammation of the bladder (2). It does not get rid of an infection, but it may stop it from coming back.
Do Not Use Cranberry Supplements Without Getting a Urinalysis Done
Don't use the juice, though, as it is better to buy the pills or powder. I would not recommend using this for your cat before you have a urinalysis done.
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If your cat is not concentrating their urine, that might be caused by kidney disease; cranberries are contraindicated in these cats because it is acidic and contains benzoic acid, which can be toxic for a sick cat.
The best home remedy for your cat long-term—after any infection is treated—is to change the diet. It is best to go back and take another urinalysis to be sure the infection is treated and then note the pH. If the pH is very low, your cat may be forming oxalate crystals which are irritating the bladder and leading to reinfection. If the pH is too high, your cat may be forming struvite crystals.
Several good cat foods that change the pH and make it acidic are available without a prescription. If the pH is too low, however, your cat will need to be on a prescription diet.
Increased Water Consumption
This is a simple home remedy and not something you need to get from a pharmacy. Any remedies that work as diuretics cause mild dehydration, and mild dehydration is going to aggravate cystitis.
You can encourage your cat to drink more by:
- providing a second water bowl
- putting an ice cube in one of the bowls several times a day
- using a water bowl that does not irritate their whiskers
- using a water fountain
What Not to Give a Cat With Cystitis or a UTI
Juniper Berry Essential Oil
Although this has been studied in humans, there is no evidence this works in cats. (3) They are a diuretic, which means that they cause the kidneys to produce more urine. There is something else to think about, though.
Cats can be sensitive to essential oils, and this is the only form that juniper berries are available. This is a product that I would not use on a sick cat. Juniper berries are reported to work because of the phenols (4), but cats cannot metabolize phenols, so so this essential oil can become toxic.
Other Herbal Medications
There are other herbal medications (marshmallow root, parsley leaf, etc.). Some of them are just anti-inflammatory, and some of them are diuretic (more fluid will flow out of the kidneys), but none of them will help if your cat has a bacterial infection.
All of the information on these cures are in humans, and none of them have been studied in cats. (Not all things used in humans are safe in cats.)
The numerous remedies sold for cat urinary tract infections do not work. Cats with cystitis and a urinary tract infection do not respond to a placebo, and numerous studies show that there is no evidence that any of the "remedies" sold by homeopathic companies even do any good. (5)
None of these home remedies are going to heal your cat if they have an infection. Before starting treatment at home be sure to find out if there is an infection going on that can lead to even more serious disease down the road.
- Teichmann-Knorrn S, Dorsch R. Signifikante Bakteriurie der Katze: bakterielle Harnwegsinfektion und subklinische Bakteriurie [Significant bacteriuria in cats: urinary tract infection and subclinical bacteriuria - A current review]. Tierarztl Prax Ausg K Kleintiere Heimtiere. 2018 Aug;46(4):247-259. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30149407/
- Colombino E, Cavana P, Martello E, Devalle V, Miniscalco B, Ravera N, Zanatta R, Capucchio MT, Biasibetti E. A new diet supplement formulation containing cranberry extract for the treatment of feline idiopathic cystitis. Nat Prod Res. 2022 Jun;36(11):2884-2887. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34039227/
- Raina R, Verma PK, Peshin R, Kour H. Potential of Juniperus communis L as a nutraceutical in human and veterinary medicine. Heliyon. 2019 Aug 31;5(8):e02376. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6726717/
- Elboughdiri N, Ghernaout D, Kriaa K, Jamoussi B. Enhancing the Extraction of Phenolic Compounds from Juniper Berries Using the Box-Behnken Design. ACS Omega. 2020 Oct 21;5(43):27990-28000. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7643166/
- Ernst E. A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2002 Dec;54(6):577-82. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1874503/
This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2022 Dr Mark