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how do you know if your cat has a UTI

How Do You Know If Your Cat Has a UTI? Recognizing Signs and Symptoms

Learn clear signs and symptoms to watch for, alongside expert advice for treatment and prevention.

As a veterinarian with years of experience treating furry friends, I have encountered numerous cases of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in cats. Feline urinary tract disease is not only common, but can also cause significant discomfort to our cats. So, how can you, as a dedicated cat parent, know if your furry friend is struggling with a urinary tract infection?

The key is to be vigilant in identifying the symptoms your cat might show if they have a urinary tract infection and to know when to seek prompt professional medical care. In this article, we will guide you through the signs to watch out for, when to seek veterinary help, and the steps to take in caring for a cat with a UTI. Let’s dive into the world of feline urinary health together.

How do you know if your cat has a UTI?

Common symptoms of a UTI in cats include more frequent urination, pain urinating, blood in the urine, and accidents outside of the litter box.

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Common Symptoms of a Cat Urinary tract infection

Why is My Cat Peeing Outside the Litter Box but Pooping in It

If you’re concerned that your cat might have a urinary tract infection (UTI), here are some common symptoms to watch for:

Symptoms Of A Urinary Tract Infection In Cats:

  • Frequent urination

    Cats with UTIs may urinate more frequently and strain or vocalize while doing so.

  • Accidents outside the litter box

    When in pain or struggling to urinate, your cat might avoid the litter box or have accidents elsewhere.

  • Blood in the urine

    Hematuria, or blood in the urine, is a common symptom of a urinary tract infection.

  • Cloudy or strong-smelling urine

    Instead of the usual clear, pale-yellow color, infected feline urine might appear cloudy or have an unusually strong odor.

  • Excessive licking or grooming of the genital area

    This behavior is often a direct response to the discomfort caused by cat’s urinary symptoms.

  • Vocalization or restlessness

    In response to pain while urinating, your cat may vocalize or exhibit general restlessness.

  • Increased water consumption

    Cat’s with feline urinary tract disease might drink more water to try and replace fluids lost due to more frequent urination.

  • Painful abdomen

    A tender or painful abdomen upon palpation could indicate a cat urinary tract infection.

It’s important to note that certain cats, especially those with underlying conditions like diabetes mellitus, are more likely to develop urinary tract infections.

Other Possible Causes of UTI-Like Symptoms

Keep in mind that these symptoms are not exclusive to a UTI, and might also suggest conditions such as:

  • Kidney stones or kidney disease

  • Bladder stones (often go hand in hand with UTIs)

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

  • Bladder Cancer

Since the symptoms listed above are not specific to urinary tract infections, tests must be carried out to properly confirm a feline UTI. After all, the treatment for a bladder infection is very different to bladder stones or kidney disease and so it’s important that a proper diagnosis is made.


How do you check a cat for a urinary tract infection?

cat being tested for a urinary tract infection
  • Physical Examination

If your vet suspects that your cat might have a UTI, they will start by performing a thorough physical examination. This includes:

  • Feeling their abdomen for any tenderness or pain
  • Examining their genital area closely, with particular attention given to the lower urinary tract, especially in male cats, due to their narrower urethra and higher risk of blockages.
  • Observing their behavior for signs of discomfort or distress
  • Urine Sample Collection

After the physical exam, collecting a urine sample is essential. There are two methods that vet’s will typically use:

  • Clean-catch urine sample: This involves catching a urine sample mid stream into a container. This can be challenging and also doesn’t provide a sterile sample.
  • Catheterization: If necessary, a small tube (called a catheter) can be inserted into the cat’s urethra to collect urine directly from the bladder. Don’t worry, it’s a quick and safe procedure and has the benefits of providing a sterile urine sample, meaning that any tests performed are more reliable.
  • Urinalysis

With the urine sample in hand, urinalysis can be performed to check for signs of infection. This involves examining the sample under and microscope and with urinary dip stick which tests for the presence of different substances within the urine, such as:

  • Bacteria: Are there any harmful bacteria causing the infection?
  • White blood cells: Is there an increased number of white blood cells in the urine, indicating an immune response?
  • Blood: Is there any blood present in the urine? This could indicate inflammation of your cat’s bladder.
  • Urine Culture (if necessary)

If the urinalysis results point to a UTI, I may perform a urine culture to:

  • Identify the specific bacteria causing the infection: By growing the bacteria in a special dish, I can figure out which type it is. This helps me select the most effective medicine to treat the infection.
  • A culture and sensitivity test helps to identify which antibiotics can effectively treat the bacterial infection.

Treating and Preventing Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in Cats

cat in litter box

Treatment

A combination of treatments might be required for cats diagnosed with cat urinary tract infections, these include:

Treatment of a Cat UTI

  • Antibiotics

    Antibiotics might be needed to clear the infection and help the cat recover.

  • Pain Relief

    Medication is provided to alleviate discomfort and pain associated with the infection.

  • Increased Hydration

    Owners should try to boost their cat’s water intake as this will help flush out bacteria and support recovery.

  • Dietary Changes

    A balanced, nutrient-rich diet that supports urinary health is advised to help the cat recover and prevent future infections. This is especially important if bladder stones are present.

Prevention

To reduce the risk of your cat getting another UTI, I recommend the following steps:

Preventing Future UTIs

  • Feed an Urinary Health-Focused Diet

    Choose a diet specifically formulated to support urinary health and prevent UTIs.

  • Encourage Adequate Water Intake

    Ensure your cat always has access to fresh, clean water to help flush out bacteria and maintain urinary health.

  • Maintain a Clean Litter Box

    Scoop the litter box daily and change the litter completely every 7-10 days to prevent bacterial growth.

  • Monitor Your Cat’s Health

    Keep an eye out for any changes in behavior or physical condition, and seek veterinary attention if you notice any signs of a UTI.

Getting Help from Your Vet

If you suspect your cat has a UTI, take them to the vet right away. Untreated urinary tract issues can lead to severe outcomes, including kidney failure, so prompt veterinary care is essential. The sooner your cat receives treatment, the faster they’ll recover and the less likely they’ll experience complications.

Can I treat my cat’s UTI at my home?

No, you should not attempt to treat your cat’s UTI at home. Delaying the treatment of a UTI can lead to severe complications, such as kidney damage or sepsis. Cats with UTIs often require antibiotics, which must be prescribed by a veterinarian.

There are however some changes you can implement at home to help prevent feline urinary tract disease or to help them recover from an infection. See our full guide below for more information.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can a dirty litter box cause UTI?

Yes, a dirty litter box can indeed contribute to the development of a UTI in cats. Here’s how:

  • Bacteria from the dirty litter box can enter your cat’s urethra and cause an infection.
  • Dirty litter boxes lead to urine retention and stress, weakening your cat’s immune system.

Do cats smell when they have a UTI?

Yes, cats with UTIs may have a strong ammonia odor in their urine. Normally, cat urine doesn’t have a strong smell. However, a UTI can cause changes in the urine, making it smell stronger and more like ammonia. This is because the infection can irritate the bladder and prevent the urine from being properly concentrated.

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