Cat Urinary Tract Infection: Signs and Treatment
Cats Can Get Urinary Tract Infections
Your cat has started to display some odd behavior lately. Your previously house-trained cat is now urinating in your bathtub or on your bed. Also, your cat strains as if constipated, just sitting there in the litter box waiting and repeatedly scratching.
Not all owners can recognize these key signs of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Having worked at a veterinary hospital, I have come across many cats that were thought by their owners to be constipated, or worse, just simply displaying behavioral issues.
Cats that pee in the bathtub or on the bed are doing so for a very specific reason: their trip to the litter box has turned unpleasant. Your cat has tried to urinate in the litter box, but it turned out to be too painful, and therefore, he has started associating the litter box with something negative. To a cat, avoidance is the best solution, so he will try any other place to see if it will, in any way, ease the discomfort.
Another common sign of UTI in a cat is insistently licking the genital area. Cats tend to lick their wounds, so licking their genital area is the way they try to "heal" the burning sensation they are feeling.
If you have happened to find some occult blood around the home, it is very likely coming from the cat. Blood may appear as normal red drops, or it may have a pinkish tint if it is mixed with the urine.
Veterinarian Discusses Urinary Tract Infections in Cats
Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
Common signs of a cat with a urinary tract infection are:
- Persistent straining in the litter box
- More frequent trips to urinate, but urine often limited to just a few drops
- Inappropriate urination in other areas
- Crying while straining
- Licking the genital area
- Bloody urine
A urinary tract infection in a female cat may seem like a minor issue, though annoying and needing treatment. But in male cats, a urinary tract problem can easily become life-threatening due to the narrowness of their urethra, which can easily become blocked. A urinary blockage can turn out to be deadly if veterinary attention is not sought immediately. A cat with a urinary blockage will produce no urine and become poisoned by a buildup of toxins.
Vomiting, nausea, lethargy, and loss of appetite in a male cat should never be ignored. A male cat urinating a few drops is slightly better off than one not producing any urine at all, but still requires immediate intervention.
Diagnosis of a Urinary Infection in Cats
Diagnosis of a U.T.I. is usually confirmed by a urinalysis. Collecting urine from a cat may be challenging. Owners can try replacing the normal litter with lentils, beans, or Styrofoam packaging peanuts; these materials will not absorb the urine, which makes it easier to collect. In some cases the vet may need to perform a cystocentesis, which consists of inserting a needle directly into the bladder to collect some urine.
Treatment of a Urinary Infection in Cats
Treatment is based on findings. Bladder stones or crystals in the urinary tract may cause symptoms like those of a U.T.I. If this is the case, surgery or a diet change may solve the problem. If a U.T.I is confirmed, a round of antibiotics will help fight the infection. When a urinary blockage is present, a catheter may be inserted in the male cat's urethra and flushed to unblock it. Special diets may be prescribed if necessary.
So next time your cat is urinating in odd places, don't assume it's a behavioral issue; have him checked to rule out this dangerous condition. Many times it turns out to be just a moment of stress or a dirty litter box, but the saying "better safe than sorry" becomes a savvy one when dealing with your feline companion's health.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Will my cat stop peeing or trying to pee all over the house after the vet has given a shot of antibiotics to clear up a UTI?
If the cat's urinary tract infection is indeed causing accidents around the house, then there are very good chances the accidents will subside. When my cat had a UTI she was always going to pee in the bathtub, after a week of antibiotics, she went back to using the litter box. Now, that is the best case. Problems may be encountered at times if the cat started associating the litter box with the pain of the UTI and therefore still practices litter box avoidance even after healing.Helpful 29
My cat is vomiting and covered in urine. What's happening to him?
This is not at all normal. If your cat is vomiting and covered in urine, I would assume something serious may be going on. Please see your vet.Helpful 21
Is a cat licking their privates and meowing signs of a UTI?
They sure can be. Just as it happens in humans, UTI's can burn and be painful. Cats as other animals, tend to use their tongues to try to alleviate any pain. They may think there's something down there irritating. Please have your cat see the vet. And bring a urine sample if you can. When you call your vet, ask for directions on how to collect that.Helpful 19
My cat is lethargic. He is licking and scratching his belly, and we found a hard white substance on the tip of his penis. What is going on?
What you are seeing can be either crystals or a urethral plug which is preventing him from urinating. This is an emergency considering that being unable to urinate means that the bladder is very distended and can lead to a bladder rupture or kidney failure. Please take him to the vet as soon as possible. As the article outlines, it's important for male cats to be seen ASAP due to the narrowness of their urethra. The vet will likely need to insert a catheter to help him empty the bladder and help him urinate.Helpful 15