Dr. Al Townshend
Urinary problems in cats are an all-too-common and costly condition. It has been estimated that once a veterinarian has diagnosed a feline, there is a 50% chance the condition will reoccur.
Doing all the Guardian can do to prevent the problem from initially occurring and warding off a reoccurrence is essential for the long-term health and happiness of the pet.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) goes by many other names; Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC), Idiopathic means the cause is unknown, and most recently, Pandora Syndrome; like the name implies, has no single cause.
Possible Signs of FLUTD
- Straining to urinate
- Urinating small amounts
- Frequent and/or prolonged attempts to urinate
- Crying out while urinating
- Excessive licking of the genital area
- Urinating outside the litter box
- Blood in the urine
Once signs begin, it is imperative that a veterinarian sees the pet immediately to achieve the best outcome. If allowed to continue, the condition can become life-threatening and require extensive surgery at significant cost, especially for male cats that have the risk of becoming unable to urinate due to obstruction.
Most agree the cause of FLUTD is complex and complicated. Infection, bladder stones, mucus plugs, crystals, and even cancer can all play a role in causing severe inflammation in the urinary tract. Emotional, physical, and environmental stress play a significant role. Reduced water consumption is another critical factor, and diet can also be a factor.
Urinary tract disease is typically diagnosed in inactive, overweight, middle-aged cats who have little to no access to outdoors, and eat an exclusively dry diet. Cats of any age can get the condition. Male cats are more susceptible to life-threatening obstructions.
- Competition for dominance plays a key role in producing stress. Surveys indicate the average feline family has slightly more than two cats. Any time there are two or more cats in the same home, there will be a struggle for dominance; it is the nature of most cats to establish a hierarchy in the home. Those on the lower end of the ladder can be constantly stressed both emotionally and physically.
- Competition for dominance frequently occurs at the food bowl, water bowl, and litter box.
- Primary diseases such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and kidney disease can increase the risk of FLUTD.
- Environmental factors that can cause significant stress include:
- An unsafe environment
- An overactive or aggressive canine family member
- Rough handling by a young family member
- Emotional stress in human family members
- Litter box location, number of litter boxes, and type of litter can play a role
The domestic house cat of today evolved in the desert, and they have an enhanced ability to concentrate their urine, which is great for a cat in the desert that gets almost all of its water from the animals they kill and consume.
Inactive cats on dry kibble are at an increased risk of not consuming enough water to keep the lower urinary tract flushed and free of inflammation.
Diet can play a significant role in assuring adequate water intake.
- Acid urine encourages a healthy environment in the lower urinary tract. Bacteria have a hard time surviving in an acid environment. One of the most common crystals that form in a cat’s urine and can cause problems, is more likely to increase in numbers in a more alkaline urine pH. Too many crystals increase the risk of bladder stones and obstruction.
- Magnesium levels in the diet can also play a role. Many years ago, higher levels of all of the minerals in a feline recipe were thought to increase the risk of FLUTD. As time passed, further research indicated that higher magnesium levels were the issue. Today, the level of magnesium in almost all feline recipes are within safe levels, and magnesium has become less of a concern.
Reducing the Risk
Controlling weight and encouraging regular physical and mental activity are essential in preventing many diseases, including urinary issues.
- Discouraging competition for dominance and redirecting those actions to more positive play can significantly reduce risk. A variety of toys, puzzles, and games can encourage positive play and exercise.
- Each cat should be fed in a separate bowl away from other cats, and there should be multiple water bowls in the home to reduce the risk of competition for dominance at any one location.
- Guardian family members of all ages should encourage a positive attitude with their feline companions that promotes positive mutual respect.
- One litter box per cat plus one extra in the home is recommended. Litter boxes should be in quiet, out-of-the-way locations. Trial and error are often necessary to determine the most appealing litter and litter box design for the home.
- Regular veterinary visits can encourage the early detection of primary diseases that can increase the risk of FLUTD.
- Fresh, clean water should always be available in several areas throughout the home.
- Wet foods such as canned foods, pouches, tubs, and raw foods as the total diet or a topper encourage more water intake.
- Cats that have had an episode of FLUTD may even benefit from adding more water to wet foods.
- Many cats love running water. Recirculating water fountains encourage water intake. Pet Planet carries and assortment of water bowls and fountains.
- Wet foods, treats, and toppers have a significant impact on water intake.
- Cats are considered true or obligate carnivores meaning they need animal protein in their diet. High animal protein recipes encourage an acid urine.
Reducing physical, emotional, and environmental stress, encouraging increased water intake, and feeding a high animal protein recipe that encourages an acid urine help to reduce the risk of FLUTD.