What is feline cystitis?

Cystitis is an irritation or aggravation of the bladder. This is a general phrase for something causing problems with the cat's bladder - the cause is unclear. Cystitis in cats is not as well understood as in dogs. With dogs, it's usually caused by bacteria. With cats, present thinking is that it might be a virus. Two former suggested sources are neutering (disproven) and dry foods (it makes it worse, but does not cause it).


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The symptoms are frequent urination, usually outside the litter box. It will usually just be a few drops of urine. Sometimes blood may be seen in the urine. This is not the same thing as bad behavior, and it will happen with cats who used to be litterbox trained. Don't yell at your cat or try to train it again - that's not going to work. The cat is not misbehaving, it is in pain, and it associates the litterbox with that pain.

Sometimes cystitis will cause stones in the cat's urinary tract, and they can clog up the flow of urine and sometimes stop the cat from urinating entirely. If that happens, the cat will die within a few days from kidney failure. Urination is necessary to get rid of toxins and other gunk that will overwhelm the kidneys otherwise.

In cats it is often also called feline urologic syndrome or feline lower urinary tract disease.

How is it treated?

Feline cystitis is treated by giving the cat more water and taking away its dry food in favor of wet food. The dry food has a higher level of minerals and aggravates the problem. Your vet will determine whether or not there is a stone in the bladder or urinary tract. Usually instead of surgery, they put the cat under anesthesia and run a little tube through the urinary tract to dislodge the crystals. Your vet also needs to do a urine analysis, because that will tell them what kind of medication to use on the cat to relieve the discomfort and help it urinate. You'll probably have to return once or twice for additional urine tests to make sure the cat has improved and that the stones are gone.

You should also be aware that in cats this condition has a tendency to recur. Keep the cat on a wet food diet if you can, or at least reduce dry food in favor of wet food. Watch closely for the return of symptoms. You can get your cat tested periodically, and you can also try to reduce stress in the cat's environment (stress reduce the acidity of urine, which is one of the things that lets stones form).

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