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February 3, 2023 |9 min read |Veterinarian Reviewed

How to Tell if Your Cat Has a UTI

Updated January 3, 2024

Urinary tract disorders are fairly common in both male cats and female cats. It’s important to recognize the warning signs as soon as possible because in some cases, a urinary tract problem can be deadly. Here, we will talk a bit about UTIs in cats, how to tell if your cat has a UTI, and what you should do if you suspect that this is the case. As a cat parent, know what to look for to keep your kitty happy and healthy!

What is a UTI in Cats?

A cat UTI (urinary tract infection) is just what it sounds like - an infection in the urinary tract. Generally, a bacteria such as E.Coli (the most common bacteria that causes cat urinary tract infections) will find its way up the urinary tract and make it hard for your kitty to urinate. UTIs can cause inflammation of the urinary tract, which makes it painful for your cat to urinate. If not caught early, this can cause a urinary blockage, which can be fatal.

While you may often hear people talk about UTIs in cats, they are often using this as a catch-all phrase to describe other, more common forms of urinary tract disorders. UTIs are relatively uncommon, but there are far more than one urinary problem or urinary tract issue to keep on your radar.

Other Urinary Tract Disorders

In addition to UTIs in cats, we must also spotlight some of the more common urinary tract disorders because they present themselves in the same way but have different causes.

The first is urinary crystals. When the pH of a cat’s urine is too high or too low, it can cause microscopic crystals to form in the urinary tract.

Struvite crystals in cats urine are the most common urinary crystals, which are caused by too much alkaline in a cat’s urine (the pH is too high). These crystals irritate the urinary tract, making it painful and difficult for a cat to urinate.

The other type of urinary crystals is calcium oxalate crystals, which can be caused when a cat’s urine is too acidic (the pH is too low).

Another relatively common urinary tract disorder is feline idiopathic cystitis or FIC. Unlike urinary crystals, FIC isn’t caused by a physical irritation of the urinary tract, but it does cause similar inflammation and symptoms. Vets aren’t entirely sure what causes FIC, but some contributing factors can be stress, genetics, dehydration, and diet.


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How to Tell if Your Cat Has a UTI: 6 Signs to Look Out For

Now that we understand what a cat urinary tract infection is, along with some other urinary disorders to look out for, let’s look at the clinical signs and cat UTI symptoms to help you determine if your cat might have a UTI.

1. Urinating Small Amounts More Frequently

The first thing you might notice if your cat has a UTI is them going in and out of the litter box constantly but only producing small amounts of urine. A UTI or other lower urinary tract disease makes your kitty feel like they have to constantly urinate because of the irritation they’re experiencing. If your cat stops producing urine completely, take them to the vet right away as this could be a sign of a urinary blockage.

2. Straining to Urinate

Another sign of a UTI in cats is straining to urinate. The irritation and infection can make it hard for the urine to come out, therefore some cats will strain in the litter box.

3. Excessively Licking Their Genitals

Having a feline UTI is no fun for your kitty and it will likely irritate their area down there. If you notice them licking their genitals excessively, contact your vet.

4. Urinating Outside of the Litter box

One of the most common ways to tell if your cat has a feline urinary tract infection is if they suddenly start urinating outside of the litter box. Cats are extremely clean animals and once they’re potty trained for their litter box, they never forget about it unless something is wrong. If your kitty is doing their business in your laundry or bed, don’t get upset! Instead, look for these other warning signs and contact your vet if the behavior continues.

5. Crying While Urinating

Unfortunately, one of the main symptoms of a cat UTI is a painful urinary. If you notice your kitty howling or crying while trying to urinate, contact your vet right away.

6. Blood in the Urine

Lastly, you can tell if your cat has a UTI by examining their urine and seeing if there is any blood present. If there is, this could be a sign that you need to get them checked out. Can’t tell if you see blood in their urine with your clay litter Pretty Litter’s health-monitoring crystal litter will alert you to the presence of blood in your cat’s urine (as well as detect unhealthy pH levels).

How to Diagnose a UTI

Now that you know how to tell if your cat has a UTI by looking out for these common symptoms, let’s look at how your vet can tell if your cat has a UTI and what to expect when you take your kitty in.

The first thing your vet will do is take a urinalysis to determine a few key metrics, such as whether there is blood present and its pH level. If your vet does suspect that it is an infection, they will likely do a urine culture and send the test to a lab for a few days to wait to see if a culture develops. This is testing whether or not there is a bacteria like E.Coli present. If nothing develops, something else may be causing your kitty’s bathroom woes.

In addition to doing a urinalysis and culture, your vet may also recommend a blood test to check your cat’s kidney values. This is super important because these urinary issues can lead to kidney infection like stones and even kidney failure if not addressed early. Your vet will make sure your kitty’s kidney levels look good.

Lastly, they will prescribe a course of treatment based on what they found.

Cat UTI Treatment

If your vet found that your cat does have a UTI, they will prescribe a round of antibiotics to wipe out any bacteria that could be causing the infection. These antibiotics usually last about 10 days, although you might start seeing improvements sooner than that. Remember, it’s really important to give your cat the full round of antibiotics, even if they are better!

While your cat is recovering from a UTI or other lower urinary tract infection, make sure they are getting plenty of water! Most vets say that the best solution to pollution is dilution, meaning that if something icky is in your kitty’s urinary tract, more fluids will help flush it out. Cats naturally don’t drink a lot of water, so you can try supplementing their water intake with:

  • Chicken broth (look at the ingredients and make sure it’s safe for kitty)
  • Wet food
  • Wet treats
  • Flavored ice cubes

The best way to keep your cat hydrated is to feed them a high-quality, protein-rich diet. Animal protein should be the very first ingredient in your cat food. If your cat refuses to eat, read about why is my cat not eating to find the source of the issue.

Your vet may also recommend putting your cat on a special prescription diet made to address their specific urinary issues. If this is the case, check with them before giving your cat any food or treats that aren’t prescribed.

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Conclusion

Luckily, the signs and symptoms of a cat UTI are pretty obvious, so you should be able to tell if your cat has a UTI. As a cat owner, you should look for any unusual bathroom behavior, such as urinating outside of the litter box or going in and out of the litter box frequently. You can also check the pH and blood content of their urine with a health-monitoring litter to make sure you don’t miss anything! Understanding these PrettyLitter color meanings can provide early insights into potential health issues, allowing you to take proactive steps for your cat's care.

Christina Scamporrino is a lifelong animal lover and began working in the petcare space in 2019. Christina’s passion for the community of feline owners and enthusiasts have led her to designing premium packaging for PrettyLitter cat litter, PrettyPlease dry food, wet food, and treats, and a litter box designed to solve common litter box issues.

Outside of her professional work in the petcare space, Christina is a longtime kitten foster and has worked with several cat rescues throughout Southern California. When given the option, she favors orange cats, but loves all cats equally.

Links

https://www.linkedin.com/in/christina-tasci-68ab815b (opens in a new window)

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Sara Ochoa

Sara Ochoa, DVM graduated from St. George's University Veterinary School in 2015. Since then, she has been at a small and exotic animal practice in Texas. In her free time, she loves making quilts and spending time with her husband Greg and their 4 fur kids. Two dogs, Ruby a schnoodle, and Bug a Japanese Chin, one cat named OJ and a leopard tortoise named Monkey.

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