Throughout my career as a veterinarian, I’ve frequently come across concerned owners searching for cat UTI home remedies.
While the desire to provide immediate relief is understandable, it’s crucial to have accurate information about this common issue.
That’s why in this blog post, I’ll be covering everything you need to know about UTIs in cats – from symptoms and causes, to home remedies and preventive measures.
So, come along on this informative journey as we equip you with the knowledge to ensure your cat’s optimal health and comfort.
But be sure to read the whole article before incorporating any of these home remedies into your cat’s life; their UTI might not actually be a UTI – more on that later.
1. Encourage Hydration
If your cat is suffering from a bacterial urinary tract infection or other lower urinary tract disease, encouraging generous water intake is advisable. Cats that drink more will be better hydrated and produce more dilute urine.
Cats are naturally drawn to drinking moving water. It’s an instinctive preference that has helped keep them safe throughout history, as rivers and streams are generally cleaner than puddles and ponds! You can take advantage of this preference by providing a friendly water fountain bowl.
Supplements to encourage water intake, like Purina Pro Plan Hydra Care can also be useful, but be sure to consult your vet before adding any supplements to ensure suitability for your cat.
2. Keep the Litter Box Spotless
Harmful bacteria can thrive in a dirty litter box, and your cat may be able to pick up a UTI from the litter box itself if it isn’t hygienically maintained. What’s more, many cats won’t use a dirty litter box and may hold their urine, exacerbating the discomfort of a UTI. Making your cat’s litter box look as attractive as possible is essential.
Your cat’s litter box should be checked throughout the day and any solid waste should be removed as quickly as possible. You should scoop out damp, urine-soaked litter at least once daily, but the sooner, the better!
You should completely empty and deep clean the litter box every 3-6 days; use common sense and clean sooner if it becomes visibly soiled. An enzymatic cleaner works well when used frequently (and as per the manufacturer’s instructions).
3. Switch to a Wet Diet
If your kitty is fed dry cat food, consider switching to wet, or at least mixing some wet food in to increase the water content of your cat’s meals. Hydration is helpful for many urinary tract diseases, including a feline UTI.
Specially formulated urinary care and bladder health diets can be beneficial for your cat, but it’s important to consult your cat’s veterinarian before starting them. This is because these diets may not be suitable for every cat, especially those with kidney disease or other health issues.
4. Reduce Stress at Home
Stress is known to compromise the immune system in cats, which in turn leaves our feline friends more vulnerable to bacterial infections, including the pathogens which can cause bladder infection. In fact, minimising stress is a crucially important part of looking after your cat’s urinary health.
For a detailed guide, I strongly recommend checking out iCatCare’s super helpful resource on making your home as calming and cat friendly as possible.
5. Consider Calming Aids
If your UTI-prone cat needs a little extra help to “keep calm and carry on”, consider trialling a pheromone diffuser or reputable, clinically proven anti-anxiety supplement. Steer clear of products that can’t provide research to support their claims.
Feliway’s pheromone diffuser range have a large number of reputable, published studies supporting their effects; arguably, more evidence than any other product currently marketed for stress relief in cats. Feliway Optimum Advanced Calming diffuser is a great place to start.
I routinely also recommend Zylkene dietary supplement for feline patients who are struggling with stress or anxiety. Unlike many brands of calming supplements, Zylkene’s anti-anxiety effects are upheld by a number of reputable studies, so you can be confident that this product has the potential to deliver on it’s claims.
6. Add Some “GAGs”
As we already briefly mentioned, the lining of your cat’s bladder wall is protected by a protective mucus layer, which contains proteins called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). Some cats have lower than normal levels of GAGs in their bladder mucus layer, meaning they are likely to experience increased inflammation and discomfort in the event of a UTI.
You can easily supplement GAGs orally with products like Cystophan. Luckily, many veterinary practices carry Cystophan or other GAG sources, and you can usually get them without needing a prescription.
7. Provide a Heat Pad
As anybody who’s ever experienced a UTI will be well aware, the value of a warm bath, or of clutching a hot water bottle, cannot be overestimated! Of course, bathing your cat is likely to result in extreme stress and is not recommended, but providing a safe source of warmth is definitely a great idea!
The warmth of a thermal kitty mat may help provide symptomatic relief for an uncomfortable bladder. As with any self-heating product, care should be taken not to allow the mat to become too hot, and it should be inspected regularly for any faults.
8. Consider Cranberry Supplements
Cranberries have natural anti inflammatory properties, and are generally reported to be safe for dogs and cats when given in moderation.
We all know that cranberry juice can be helpful in the case of human UTIs. Interestingly, studies have shown that cranberry extracts may also help reduce bacterial attachment to the bladder wall in our furry feline friends. If you’re interested, there are plenty of cranberry supplements for cats available online that might be worth a try.
Just remember to consult your cat’s own vet prior to adding any natural supplements to your cat’s diet, to ensure the product is suitable for your pet.
9. Apple Cider Vinegar May be Helpful
Apple cider vinegar taken by mouth may cause your cat’s urine to become more acidic, which might be helpful if your feline friend’s urine is abnormally alkaline (as is common with a cat UTI). Your vet can carry out urine tests to check the pH (acidity or alkalinity) of your pet’s urine.
If you and your vet agree that apple cider vinegar is an appropriate home remedy for your cat, you may wish to mix half a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with a small amount of dilute, low-sodium chicken or beef stock to make it more palatable for your cat, and feed this daily. If using stock, always ensure this does not contain onion, leek or garlic extracts as these are toxic to cats.
In cases where your cat’s urine is not excessively alkaline, apple cider vinegar is unlikely to be of any help.
10. Discuss D-Mannose with Your Vet
D-mannose may help prevent bacterial infection within the bladder in a similar manner to cranberry extract; that is, by making it harder for harmful bacteria to attach to the bladder wall. Handily, some supplements – like this one – combine cranberry and D-mannose, meaning you only have to worry about getting one capsule into your cat, rather than two!
What are the symptoms and signs of cat urinary tract infections?
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are actually a relatively uncommon cause of urinary symptoms in cats.
In fact, research suggests that only 3-19% of cats showing signs of a UTI actually have a bacterial urinary tract infection. The remaining 81-97% of cats are eventually found to have some other reason for the UTI signs.
Elderly and overweight cats, as well as those with diabetes, might have a higher chance of developing a urinary tract infection compared to other feline friends. It also seems that female cats tend to be more susceptible to bacterial urinary tract infections than their male counterparts.
Signs of a cat UTI overlap with the signs of many other urinary tract issues, and include the following:
At surface level, it can be very difficult to tell whether your cat has a urinary tract infection or one of many other urinary problems, so diagnostics are very important if your cat is showing any combination of these signs. Your vet will want to test a urine sample, and may also recommend that your cat has an ultrasound scan of their bladder. In some cases, radiographs (x-rays) of your cat’s abdomen, taken under sedation, will also be recommended. These tests allow your vet to confirm or rule out a UTI, and to check for other issues such as bladder and kidney stones.
Cat UTIs vs Other Urinary Disorders
The following urinary tract disorders share many presenting signs with urinary tract infections in cats. Your vet will need to examine your pet and carry out tests to determine exactly what’s going on.
What is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)?
Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is a fairly broad term which refers to a collection of urinary conditions and bladder problems in cats. Urinary crystals, bladder stones, UTIs and urethral obstruction all come under the general heading of FLUTD.
Whilst female cats are more prone to developing bacterial urinary tract infections specifically than males, the same is not true of FLUTD. In fact, castrated male cats are the most at-risk group for FLUTD.
What is Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC)?
FIC comes under the heading of FLUTD. The condition shares many similarities with human interstitial cystitis, and is a “diagnosis of exclusion”, meaning we can only confirm the presence of FIC by ruling out all other possible causes of your cat’s urinary signs.
As mentioned, cats with FIC have an abnormal response to emotional stress which results in bladder inflammation. This occurs due to communication between the brain and the bladder: the brain experiences stress, and sends nerve signals to the bladder resulting in inflammation. Cats affected by FIC may also have an abnormal bladder wall lining that is less well protected, due to a lower than normal level of proteins called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) in the mucus lining of the bladder.
When to See a Vet
Natural remedies are intended to ease the symptoms of a mild urinary tract problem and as an add-on to the veterinary treatment of your cat’s urinary tract infection. They should not be considered a substitute for seeking prompt veterinary attention for your pet.
In many cases, a cat UTI may require veterinary treatment, and in every case a timely veterinary examination is warranted. Because urinary tract infections are very uncomfortable, your vet will also need to see your cat without delay so that they can prescribe a safe pain relief option.
In a relatively small percentage of cases, urinary tract issues can result in the urethra (the tube which connects the bladder to the outside world) becoming blocked, resulting in the cat becoming suddenly unable to urinate. This is much more likely to happen to male cats than females, due to the male urethra being significantly longer and narrower.
Being unable to urinate (‘urinary obstruction’ or ‘urinary blockage’) is a medical emergency and will result in kidney damage within a matter of hours if not treated. This can be irreversible or even fatal in some cases. So, if your cat is struggling to pass urine, especially if they are straining frequently and unproductively, take them to the vet immediately.
What Cat UTI Home Remedies Should I Avoid?
The internet is unfortunately chock full of misinformation and conflicting information, especially when it comes to pet healthcare! If (like many pet parents) you are hunting for advice you can trust, it’s important to stay aware that not every source is created equal. It’s best to stick to sources authored by qualified veterinary professionals. At worst, acting on misinformation can be dangerous for your pet.
The following home remedies for cat UTIs are commonly recommended online, but in reality are questionable;
Don’t Jump for Juniper Berries
There is currently no documented safe, effective dose for juniper berry supplementation for cats. In fact juniper plants have the potential to be toxic to our feline family members, if incorrectly prepared or taken in excess. So, pending the confirmation of a safe, effective dose, juniper berries are best avoided.
Give Marshmallow Root a Miss
Vets and pet owners alike will agree that it’s best to take an evidence-based approach when it comes to treating and preventing your cat’s urinary tract infection. Whilst anecdotally marshmallow root has been touted as helpful, there is a lack of evidence to prove any effect on cat urinary tract infections.
Don’t Expect Too Much from Glucosamine
Glucosamine is very safe when given at an appropriate dose, and many pet parents will be familiar with this common joint support supplement. Recently the spotlight has turned on glucosamine in terms of an apparent role in treating UTIs, too. Several online sources advocate for the use of glucosamine as a cat UTI home remedy, however the research suggests it’s unlikely to help.