How to Prevent Urinary Issues in Cats


This article is written by our veterinarian, Dr Carla Paszkowski, BVSc (Hons)

Urinary problems are one of the most common issues that vets see in cats. This is in part due to their tendency to stress easily, and also due to the sensitive nature of their bladder wall. The main complex of issues that affects the urinary system in cats is called FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease). Luckily, there are many ways to prevent urinary tract disease in cats.


Causes of FLUTD in Cats

Symptoms of FLUTD in Cats

Treatment of FLUTD in Cats

Prevention of FLUTD in Cats

Further Reading

What Causes Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease?

FLUTD can be caused by a number of conditions such as cystitis, crystals in the urine, bladder stones, urinary tract infection, blocked urethra, urinary tract cancer and trauma to the urinary tract. Secondary conditions such as diabetes and an underactive thyroid gland can predispose cats to FLUTD.

In many cases of FLUTD, particularly in young adult cats, often no underlying cause can be found. These cases are called Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC).

FIC is related to the way a cat copes with stress. When some cats experience stress, the protective lining of the bladder wall is weakened. Bladder and urinary tract inflammation (cystitis) then occurs, which can affect the pH of the urine and can lead to increased mucous production and crystal sediment formation. If left without treatment, enough of this mucous and/or sediment can lead to a blockage in the urethra. When a cat's urethra is blocked this means urine cannot pass, so the bladder swells with urine and becomes painful and life-threatening. If the bladder bursts inside the abdomen, it is often fatal.

Symptoms of Feline Urinary Tract Disease

Signs of urinary disease can present as:

  • Urinating outside the litter tray
  • Straining to Urinate
  • Frequent or prolonged urination
  • Agitation or vocalisation when trying to urinate
  • Blood-tinged urine
  • Passing small amounts of urine, or no urine
  • Excessive licking of genitals

If you see any of these signs in your cat, seek veterinary attention immediately.

Treatment of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

Your vet will first treat for any emergency conditions, such as a urethral obstruction or trauma to the urinary tract. If your cat has bladder stones, surgery may be required. If other conditions are present, such as cystitis or infection, your cat may receive antibiotics and pain relief.

Once underlying conditions are under control, you can focus on preventing a recurrence. The course of action depends on the cause of the FLUTD in the first place.

How To Prevent FLUTD in Cats

Preventing urinary issues will depend on whether your cat has experienced an episode of FLUTD in the past, and if so, the underlying cause. Thankfully there are many ways to prevent urinary tract disease in cats.

Feed a good quality food

For cats that haven't had urinary issues before, you can help to prevent any issues from developing if you stick to super premium cat foods and avoid cheap, low-quality brands. High quality cat food has more ideal levels of magnesium, phosphorus, protein and calcium to help avoid the formation of crystals in the urine. Any cat food from Hill's Science Diet, Royal Canin, or Advance is considered super premium and high quality.

It can also help to include wet food in your cat's diet, rather than solely relying on a dry food only diet.

For cats that have suffered from FLUTD in the past, your vet may recommend a prescription diet for life. These include Royal Canin Urinary s/o, or Hill's Prescription Diet c/d. Urinary prescription diets are designed with the right balance of nutrients to promote a healthy bladder in cats. They contain ingredients to control urine pH, minerals and protein to decrease, and in some cases, even dissolve crystal formation.

Best Urinary Diets for Cats

Some premium non-prescription foods are specifically formulated with balanced levels of minerals to reduce the risk of FLUTD. For cats who have experienced an episode of FLUTD, the prescription veterinary urinary diets are usually indicated, though it is important to check with your vet to ensure that they are appropriate for your cat and their specific condition.

Royal Canin Urinary Pouches

Designed to help lower the risk of urinary issues by lowering urine pH and through controlled levels of minerals.

Hills Urinary + Hairball Control

With controlled magnesium levels and natural fibres, this Hills diet helps to support the health of the urinary tract at the same time as reducing hairball formation.

Royal Canin Veterinary Urinary S/O

A urinary prescription diet to be prescribed by your vet, to prevent the recurrence of crystals and and encourage water intake.

Hills Prescription Urinary + Stress

A prescription urinary diet to prevent crystal formation, reduce stress and increase water intake.

Keep their weight down

Obese and overweight cats are far more likely to get urinary issues, particularly a blocked urethra. Obese cats often re-block again after being treated if they don't lose weight.

The best ways to keep your cat's weight down involves, just as with humans, exercise and diet.

To exercise your cat, try to figure out what type of toy they like best. Some people assume their overweight cat is too lazy to play with toys, but then discover that their cat just needed a more interactive toy, or a different type of toy such as one containing feathers.

With regards to diet, your vet will likely recommend a good weight loss food for you with guidelines for amount of food to feed per day. Great vet-prescribed weight loss diets include Hill's Prescription Diet Metabolic plus Urinary wet food, or Royal Canin Veterinary Satiety.

Reduce stress

It can be hard to predict what will stress your cat out. Common causes of stress include moving house, new visitors, introducing a new pet, a trip to the vet or groomer, coping with the loss of family member or pet, new furniture or even rearranging your furniture.

If there is a pet or family member (such as a child) that your cat doesn't like, try to provide adequate hiding areas, so that your cat feels they have somewhere safe to escape to. Things like cat trees, cat cave beds, and high shelf beds such as window beds can all help make your cat feel safe.

If a stressful situation is anticipated (such as visiting family, new furniture, moving house or a trip to the vet), you might like to try a feliway spray or diffuser. This is an odourless pheromone that appeases nervous cats and makes them feel calm. Many vet hospitals use this in their cat consult rooms or wards, to help calm feline patients.

Another way to reduce stress is to provide enrichment in your cat's environment. Having plenty of toys will not only help to keep them fit, but will help to keep them occupied and distracted from any stress that may be affecting them.

Best Stress Relieving Products for Cats

Our Vet Squad often recommend the following products to help alleviate stress in cats.

Shop All Calming Products for Cats

Encourage water intake

It can be hard to encourage your cat to drink more water.

Just like the saying goes; you can lead a cat to water...

However, many people find they can increase water drinking by providing plenty of bowls, or a water fountain. Cats are naturally drawn to moving, fresh water and will drink more if they have fresh water available. Always make sure you replace water at least once a day.

It also helps to provide cats with wet food.

Top Products to Increase Your Cats Water Intake

Provide enough litter trays

It is important to ensure you have enough litter trays throughout your house. A good formula to work off is to provide the same number of litter trays as you have cats, plus one extra. So for example, a one-cat home should have two litter trays, and a three-cat home should have four litter trays.

There are many ways you can help to avoid urinary issues in your cat. By maintaining a good body weight, decreasing stress, encouraging water intake, and providing enough litter trays and toys, you will be giving your cat the best chance at a healthy urinary tract.

Further Reading

Want to read more? Check out our other articles:

Best Dry Kitten Food

How To Stop Cat Litter From Smelling

Best Urinary Cat Food

What is the Best Grain Free Cat Food?

Kitten Vaccination Guide

Why Do Cats Knead?

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