Cystitis occurs when the cat’s bladder becomes inflamed or infected. Cystitis in cats is more common than it is in dogs because cats have a shorter urethra, making it easier for bacteria to travel up and into the bladder. Cystitis can be a chronic condition, meaning that it’s a long-term condition you and your cat must deal with; or it can be acute, meaning that it comes on suddenly and goes away fairly quickly as well. Urolithiasis, or stones in the urinary tract, is a condition that may follow or precede cystitis.
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Causes of Cystitis in Cats
Unfortunately, contracting cystitis is fairly easy for a cat and there are a number of different causes. Some of the most common are:
- A type of cystitis called Feline Idiopathic Cystitis, or FIC, is one of the most common types of cystitis, but the cause for it is unknown. Cats under the age of ten are most likely to contract this type of cystitis.
- Bacterial infection. This type of infection is the type that makes its way up the urethra and into the bladder. Once there it will reproduce and multiply and can cause a lot of pain and discomfort for your cat.
- Urinary stones and crystals aren’t only an indicator of the condition, they can also be the cause of it.
- Cats that are diabetic are especially prone to contracting cystitis because they have higher levels of glucose and protein in their system, as well as fewer white blood cells. Combined, these levels provide an environment that promotes bacterial growth.
- When cats have been on steroids for a long time, such as if they’ve been treated for asthma for an extended period of time, a cat’s immune system could be compromised and not as capable as warding off infection. This long term use of steroids could eventually lead to cystitis.
- When a cat is not urinating frequently, cystitis can also develop. This may be because they are stressed out, inclement weather prevents them from going to the bathroom outside, or their litter box is dirty. When cats won’t urinate when their bladder is full, the urine becomes stagnant and becomes an environment that promotes bacterial growth.
- Dehydration is another cause of cystitis, especially among older dogs that don’t drink as much water as they should. When this happens the urine becomes concentrated, once again creating an environment sustainable for bacterial growth.
Diagnosing Cystitis in Cats
After observing some of the different symptoms, you need to take your cat into the vet. They will ask you specific details about the symptoms, including how long they’ve been present. Your vet will also give the cat a full physical examination, which will include feeling the bladder through the abdomen and determining if it feels full or distended. However, bladders infected with cystitis can also feel small but thicker.
Once the vet highly suspects the presence of cystitis, they will perform further diagnostic testing. This may include urinalysis, which will look for red blood cells, white blood cells, bacteria and sediment. If bacteria is found in the urine after these tests, a bacterial culture will also be done to determine what type of bacteria is in the urine, and what type of treatment it will best respond to. Ultrasounds may also be done, which will show exactly what the bladder looks like, including whether it’s thick, if there are stones present, or if tumors can be seen.
Treating Cystitis in Cats
When cystitis is severe, there are procedures that can be done to treat the infection and get your cat back on the road to good health. These procedures will usually require that your cat is admitted to a veterinary hospital for at least one night, perhaps more, and some of them can be quite invasive.
- In most cases antibiotics can be prescribed and this will be enough to clear up the infection.
- Pain killers such as amitriptyline and analgesia can also be prescribed to help make a cat more comfortable until they are rid of the cystitis.
- To reduce the inflammation, which can also cause a great deal of pain, corticosteroids might be prescribed.
- Extracting urine through the abdomen. In this procedure, the vet might place a syringe into the cat’s abdomen in order to draw out the urine directly. This procedure is usually reserved for dire situations, but it will ease your cat’s discomfort quickly and easily. Even after this procedure is done, catheterisation might still be required.
- Fluid therapy is the process of giving the cat fluids so that their urinary tract, particularly their bladder, can be flushed out. This flushing out can also help dissolve stones that might be causing the infection. This process is also sometimes done right before catheterisation.
- Catheterisation is a procedure that can only be done when the cat is under anesthesia. During this surgery a catheter needle will be inserted into the cephalic vein, located in the front legs of the cat. Another catheter needle is placed in the urethra to help flush out the system again and to rehydrate the cat.
- Surgery is one form of treatment, but it’s one that’s usually used strictly as a last resort. Surgery is also only performed on male cats that have several bouts of recurring cystitis. During the surgery the opening of the urethra will be enlarged to prevent blockage in the future.
In addition to the treatments that your vet can provide, there are a few things that cat owners can do right at home to help their pet. These are:
- Provide a diet that is high in water content, such as wet canned food. It’s been shown that cats that eat a diet comprised of mainly soft food are less likely to contract cystitis.
- Avoid food that is fish-flavored. These foods often contain high amounts of magnesium, which can lead to the formation of stones in the urinary tract and then, cystitis.
- Provide lots of water. If your cat doesn’t want to drink from their regular bowl, make it fun for them such as letting them drink from a water fountain. Hydration is essential in keeping the urinary tract functioning properly and discouraging bacteria growth.
Preventing Cystitis in Cats
Because cystitis can be quite scary and can lead to serious consequences, prevention is important. These tips can help you in doing so:
- Don’t make your cat stressed. Big moves such as relocating to a different city and small moves, such as changing the furniture around, can cause your cat to become stressed, which can lead to cystitis.
- Find a type of cat litter that you and your cat both like and stick with it.
- Have plenty of litter boxes around your home. The general rule of thumb is to have one for each cat and one extra.
- Provide an indoor litter box at all times, even if your cat typically ventures outside to do their business. They need to have a place to go at night or when the weather is bad.
Cystitis in cats is really just a bladder infection, but it’s a condition that can become quite serious fairly quickly. Make sure you watch your cat for any signs that they might be suffering from a bladder infection, and take them into the vet as soon as you can if you suspect they do. There are treatment options available, but the quicker you catch the condition the easier it will be to treat it.