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October 31, 2022 |0 min read

Stress and Feline Urinary Tract Diseases: Prevention and Treatment

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Feline urinary tract disease (FLUTD) refers to infections affecting the lower urinary tract of cats, especially the urethra or bladder. There are 10 of these disorders, and most of them present almost similar symptoms. FLUTD symptoms range from mild to critical.

All cats can be prone to FLUTD, but the disease affects male cats more than female cats. Additionally the disorder is highly prevalent in overweight middle-aged cats that get little to no exercise. If left unchecked, these disorders can lead to the production of blood and tiny crystals in the urine.

Although FLUTD is tough to diagnose casually, there are tell-tale FLUTD symptoms that pet owners should be on the lookout for. For instance, uncontrolled licking of the genitalia, prolonged urinating attempts, and blood in the urine are some common signs of FLUTD. A visit to a vet is warranted whenever some of these signs occur.

In this write-up, we give in-depth coverage of feline urinary tract diseases, including the most common causes of UTI in cats, the signs of UTI in cats, and the relationship between stress and FLUTD. Let's dive right in.

Most Common Cause of UTI in Cats

Many underlying factors can cause FLUTD. Let's take a deep look at the most common ones.

Urolithiasis

Urolithiasis is the formation of urinary stones (uroliths) in the urinary tract of cats. The uroliths (or bladder stones) arise from the minerals present in the urethra and bladders of cats. Common urinary stones in felines are mostly magnesium ammonium sulfate (struvite) and calcium oxalate.

Struvite urinary stones account for about 45% of the uroliths in cats and are caused majorly by diet and cats' metabolism. Struvite uroliths are easily remedied by giving cats a stone-dissolving diet.

On the other hand, calcium oxalate uroliths arise from excessive calcium saturation in the urine. In most cases, sodium and potassium diets are the major causes of these uroliths. To rid cats of calcium oxalate stones, they must be removed surgically.

Feline Idiopathic Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis is also known as feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC). It is known to cause FLUTD in cats, especially those under ten years in age. Although it is still being studied, this condition affects the urinary tract and other body systems like the nervous system, earning the name pandora syndrome.

Since FIC isn't fully understood, its diagnosis is exclusionary. That means it can only be diagnosed if all other disorders causing similar signs are ruled out.

Since the cause of FIC is largely unknown, it is a widely accepted theory that systemic neuroendocrine imbalances cause the disorder. Therefore, owners with cats showing FIC symptoms should try and do away with stressors disturbing their pets, from dirty dishes to stray cats wandering on your property.

Urethral Obstruction

Urethral obstruction is one of the deadliest causes of FLUTD since it involves either a full or partial blockage of a feline's urethra. In cases where a full blockage is left untreated, the cat may experience kidney failure, accompanied by death in less than 48 hours.

This lethal condition comes primarily from urethral plugs and stones. Urethral obstruction is more common in male cats than in their female counterparts because they have longer and narrower urethras. Treating urethral obstruction is done by flushing a sterile liquid through a tube lodged in the urethra. After that, depending on the cat's condition, antibiotics and fluid therapy may be administered. For chronic cases of urethral obstruction, perineal urethrostomy is advised.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism in cats occurs when the thyroid glands oversecrete thyroid hormones. The condition is more prevalent in cats aged eight years and above. Apart from constant urination, major weight loss and loose stool are some of the hyperthyroidism signs.

Blood tests and determining the level of thyroid hormones in cats are the major ways the disorder can be diagnosed. After that, administering a dosage of methimazole can work wonders.

Can High Stress Cause a UTI?

The short answer is yes, high stress can cause your cat to get a UTI.High stress in felines comes from various external and emotional stressors. With that in mind, let's look at some of the stressors that eventually lead to UTIs in cats.

  • New family members: Whether animal or human, the addition of new faces in a home may cause stress levels in cats to heighten. In that case, a slow introduction process at the cat's pace can reduce the stress caused by sudden introduction.
  • Relocating: Like humans, cats grow fond of their surroundings, which may prove stressful when moving to new residences. In such cases, cats should be moved into closed cages and all their stuff brought into their new homes.
  • Vet visits: Seeing the veterinarian may be stressful and frightening to cats. Therefore, it is advisable to handle them with care during transit.
  • Changes in routine: Deviating from the norm, whether feeding or playing time, can be stressful for cats. To ensure that stress doesn't come from changes in daily routines, you must try and incorporate slow transition periods. For example, changing your cat's litter all at once without a transition period may cause  stress, which could lead to a UTI. Instead, slowly transition them to a new litter to ease the stress 
  • Loud noises: Whenever you plan on having a party in a household with cats, keeping the volume on the down low is ideal. Cats hate earsplitting pitchsand will always run from them.
  • Environmental stressors: Fear is one of the critical emotional stresses that a cat can suffer. It usually comes from environmental and human changes such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires. Whenever such factors occur, you must have proper means of evacuating the cat safely.
  • Conflict: Additionally, cats get picked on by other cats. In such cases, separating the victim from the bully can reduce stress levels.

High-stress levels in cats may lead to the production of cortisol. Cortisol can hinder immune responses making cats' bodies susceptible to other common cat diseases, including FLUTD. Stress in cats is also the leading cause of feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC). With excess anxiety, the layer protecting the bladder from harsh chemicals in the urine is damaged, leading to FIC.

Signs Of Stress in Cats

Although signs of cat stress are not always obvious, you can spot some of them. They include:

Incessant Litter box visits

Litter box problems, like continuous visits to the litter box indicate something is wrong with your cat. Frequenting the litter box can result from high-stress levels that give cats bladder complications. They usually get the urge to urinate even when there is little urine in their systems. When this happens, you should know that a visit to the vet is long overdue.

Bloody Urine

Finding blood traces in a cat's urine is another sign that the pet is stressed. Even with females in heat, bloody urine is never a common occurrence, meaning you must take precautions.

Although it is challenging to spot bloody urine in a litter box, cats under heavy stress tend to avoid litter boxes and opt for cooler spaces such as the floor and bathtub. This makes it easy for you to see it. Sometimes, the urine may appear discolored and with an unusual smell.Health monitoring litter helps cat parents monitor their cats’ health to ensure everything is looking good.

Difficulties when urinating

Whenever a cat seems uncomfortable or strains when urinating, it indicates high-stress levels. Some cats even scream while in the act, meaning their urinary tract has an obstruction or can be a sign of a cat UTI. For male cats, stressful urination can turn into a life-or-death situation due to their narrow urinary tracts. In such cases, it is crucial to visit a vet doctor.

Uncontrolled licking

Most cats lick their bodies in painful areas. Although licking is sometimes part of a feline's grooming, excessive licking is a manifestation of stress. In the case of stress cystitis, cats ferociously lick their genitalia and bellies.

How Can an Indoor Cat Get a UTI?

Since Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) aren't a preserve of strays with no one to take care of them, indoor cats are at risk of contracting the disease too. In this case, diet is the primary reason for UTIs among indoor cats.

Typically, cats tend to binge on anything they find around. As a result, they gain extra weight, which increases their vulnerability to infections.

An ideal cat's diet comprises high-quality meals that should be eaten in moderation and with a proper feeding routine. Any deviation from this may pose a threat. Moreover, lack of clean water or low amounts of it may lead to bladder blockages, which are fatal at times.

Well-maintained indoor cats tend to have longer lifespans. Typically, age comes with reduced immunity, predisposing them to diseases such as UTIs. In addition, indoor cats are only familiar with their owners; inviting friends to the house may spike their stress levels, leading to urinary tract infections. Here are some other ways indoor cats may contract UTIs:

  • Spinal cord complications
  • Tumors in the bladder and urethra
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Debris accumulation in urine
  • Incontinence

Can Changing Kitty Litter Brands Cause UTIs in Cats?

UTIs in cats are a result of microscopic organisms (bacteria, fungi, and viruses) living in the cats' urinary system. Many cat owners wonder whether different kitty litter brands come with these organisms. The answer is no. Usually, the organisms come about due to continuous use, meaning brands matter less and cleanliness is paramount.

A dirty litter box is a disaster in waiting since it can provide a conducive environment for these organisms to grow, increasing the chances of infections in cats. Generally, changing brands may not have adverse effects that lead to UTIs. However, as explained above, some cats are averse to changes and disruption of routine. That means it is key to slowly transition your cat to new litter to avoid stress that could cause UTI's.

Cat UTIs can be stressful for both the cat parents and their furry friends. Luckily, PrettyLitter is here to help. PrettyLitter changes color to tell you when your cat might have a UTI or potential health issue, so you can get them help before it becomes an urgent medical situation.


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Sources:

  1. AVMA. Feline lower urinary tract disease: what is feline lower urinary tract disease. https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/petcare/feline-lower-urinary-tract-disease#:~:text=Feline%20lower%20urinary%20tract%20disease%20(FLUTD)%20describe
  2. Carolina Veterinary Specialists. Feline Urinary Tract Disease: Signs and Symptoms and Symptoms. https://www.greensboro.carolinavet.com/site/greensboro-specialty-veterinary-blog/2020/08/14/feline--urinary-tract-disease-causes-symptoms-treatments
  3. PETMD. What is Feline Lower Urinary Urinary Tract Disease. https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/urinary/feline_idiopathic_lower_urinary_tract_disease

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Sharilyn is a proud cat owner, long time storyteller and researcher. Her work spans beloved podcasts, television shows, media outlets, and independent documentaries. She likes to strike a balance between education and comedy, which you can hopefully tell when you read her articles!

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