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How to treat and prevent bladder problems in cats

A cat with urinary problems will attempt to pass urine often but may pass only a few drops of urine or blood. Sometimes no urine at all can be passed. These problems in cats can be difficult to control because they have many different causes. The symptoms will often resolve for short periods of time but then come back frequently. The underlying causes are often not clear and the problems tend to come back.

The first step in treating or preventing any disease is to understand what may be going wrong in the bladder Once this is understood a variety of ways of prevention and treatment become clearer. The main causes of FLUTD or Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease can be summarized as

  • Feline idiopathic cystitis, FIC (unknown cause) This is the most common case
  • Bladder irritation by highly concentrated urine, bladder stones or crystals in the urine
  • Infections
  • Urethral Plugs
  • Cancer
  • Combinations

We often see FLUTD in young or middle age overweight cats that live indoors only and are fed on dry foods. This sounds like a typical Hong Kong cat! The symptoms of FLUTD usually start suddenly. The cat may be visiting the litter tray frequently and straining to pass urine. At this time it is necessary to visit our clinic. There are 2 common patterns

  • Your cat can not pass urine and has a large full bladder. He (and it is usually male cats) will be admitted to our clinic for urgent treatment to unblock the problem.
  • The bladder is small and tense, urine is still passing. The treatment will be medical as an out- patient.

To try to know what the cause is may require tests and observation. We will want to obtain a urine sample to check for signs of blood, crystals and infection in the urine. We will often treat your cat with some pain relief or anti-inflammatory. In any case the symptoms often resolve within a few days even if the cat is not treated. It is very important to consider how to prevent future episodes .

Prevention of FLUTD

FLUTD tends to recur frequently in some cats and is difficult to treat. It is very important to try to understand the possible causes in each case and then change how the cat is cared for so we can reduce the risk of further problems. There are several ways you can change how you look after your cat.

1. Help your cat to produce more dilute urine

Increasing water intake is one of the main steps to control FLUTD. A cat that takes in more water will pass more dilute urine. Dilute urine will help the cat pass out any problem material from the bladder and will be less irritating to the bladder.

Cats are not naturally big drinkers so only putting out a bowl of water and asking them to drink will not work well! Some cats prefer flowing water and a drinking fountain or running a tap will make them want to drink. Of course we must provide a fresh bowl of water at all times in case they do want it!

2. Diet

Many indoor cats in Hong Kong are fed on dry foods. By changing to wet foods, cans or pouches we will give much more water in the food. This is one of the biggest steps to control the problem.

The results of the urine test will help us to decide the best wet food to feed your cat. We usually advise Hills c/d or Royal Canin Urinary wet. These are designed to be fed to cats with FLUTD and can be fed long term. They help control urine acid levels, magnesium and concentration.

3. Stress reduction

An indoor cat can be stressed at home! It is important to make your cat feel as safe and secure as possible and remove or change anything that may be upsetting them.

  • Provide enough litter trays. One per cat AND one extra!
  • Avoid changing litter types.
  • Keep litter trays very clean. Cats will try not to use a dirty tray.
  • Keep the trays in a quiet place where the cat will not be disturbed or scared.
  • If there is more than one cat at home watch for bullying and provide safe quiet places.
  • Keep to the same daily routines and patterns.
  • Provide scratching posts and toys, play and interact with your cat.
  • Avoid obesity and provide regular health checks.
  • Plenty of tender, loving care!
  • Use a Feliway diffuser. This slowly releases a scent that cats can smell which makes them feel relaxed and secure.
4. GAG Supplements (Glcosaminoglycans)

These supplements may help to protect the bladder. They may have some pain killing effects. When a cat is treated for FLUTD at the clinic we may inject GAGs as part of the treatment. You can continue this with oral supplements using a product called “Cystaid”. However this treatment is controversial and may not be effective.

In Summary

FLUTD is a very distressing and frustrating problem because it appears to respond well to initial treatment but then the problem comes back. It is really important to understand that the initial treatment is a First Aid pain relief approach and that real control and prevention comes from long term changes in the way the cat is cared for. We see many cases because many cats are kept indoors and fed dry foods. We really believe from our experiences that the keys to prevention are

  • Feed a wet diet designed for this problem. Royal Canin Urinary or Hills c/d long term.
  • Ensure the litter tray facilities are as good as possible and clean. (Not to prevent infection but to keep the cats happy!)
  • Avoid sudden changes and stress if possible.

For more information on The Indoor Cat Project
For more information on Fact Sheet from the Feline Advisory Bureau
For information about Hills c/d and FLUTD

  • Feliway is available in HHVC
  • Cystaid is available in HHVC
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