Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) describes a variety of conditions that affect the bladder and urethra in cats. FLUTD is the name for a group of problems including stones, infection and urinary tract blockages. This results in painful irritation of the bladder wall and lower urinary tract. It occurs in about 1% of all cats, but recurrence rates are as high as 67% especially if your cats is less than 4 years of age.
Veterinarians once thought that FLUTD was directly related to crystals formed in the urine caused from high mineral content (ash) in food. We now know that although crystals play a role, they are probably not the direct cause. Urinary tract infections (UTI’s) in cats are caused by microorganisms that enter the urinary tract, travel through the urethra and typically settle in the bladder. The urethra is the tube that connects the urinary bladder to the outside world. Infection of the bladder caused by bacteria is called “bacterial cystitis.” Occasionally, other organisms are the culprit, including mycoplasma, viruses, algae and fungi. Sometimes, the infected organisms migrate from the bladder through the ureters, lodging in the kidneys. Bacterial infection of the kidneys is called “pyelonephritis”. The primary bacteria involved in feline UTI’s are E. coli, Staphylococcus, Proteus, Chlamydia, Enterococcus, Klebsiella, Streptococcus, Enterobacter and Pseudomonas.
Most feline UTIs are associated with some underlying medical problem or anatomical defect, such as feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), polyps, bladder or kidney stones, and so on. Rising bacteria levels, without any predisposing condition, is not common in cats, but it can happen. Elevated urine pH from any cause creates a bladder environment that is primed for bacterial overgrowth. Cats with diabetes mellitus often have persistent or recurrent UTIs, because elevated levels of glucose in their blood and urine also creates a ripe environment for bacterial proliferation.
The most common signs of FLUTD are:
- Urinating in unusual places, usually the amounts will be small and/or bloody
- Straining to urinate
- Crying during urination
- Frequent, small urination with or without blood
- Inability to urinate
- Licking the urinary tract opening
One of the easiest ways a cat owner can help to both treat urinary tract episodes, as well as prevent future issues, is to get your cat to drink more water. The extra water intake dilutes the urine and expands the bladder, helping to flush out all the painful inflammatory byproducts. It also helps neutralize the pH of the urine so it is less painful on the irritated bladder wall. Also, if there are crystals present, it will help flush those out, further reducing irritation.
Your cat maybe finicky about her water but luckily there are ways to persuade her. Switching your cat to an entirely canned food diet will help greatly because canned food is up to 80% water. The second way is encouraging your cat to drink more on their own. Veterinarians strongly recommend buying your cat water fountain.
Not all cats like water fountains but most cats are naturally attracted to the flowing water of a fountain. In the wild, many cats will only drink from running water sources and fountains mimic a cat’s natural environment. Many cats like to play with the moving water, dipping their paws in and then licking the water from their toes. The constantly moving flow keeps the water fresh and oxygenated which is very important for these smell oriented creatures. The pool of water allows cats to lap water without whiskers touching the sides and the waterfall feature is fantastic for those cats that love to drink from a tap.
Since environmental stress plays a large role in the development of urinary tract disorders, it is important that the water source be in a quiet area where your cat can relax and focus on drinking. This area should be away from other pets, have an easy escape route and be free of loud or startling noises. Some studies have shown that cats will drink immediately after eating so the recommendation is to keep the water and food bowls close together. Some cats are finicky about having food and water too close together and these cats would prefer them separate. You may need to experiment to see what works best for your cats.
If you have multiple cats, the pecking order in your home may prevent some cats from using the provided food and water. In this case, multiple water and food sources scattered around the house will help ensure there are enough for every cat. If you have multiple cats, placing two or more drinking fountains around the house will help ensure every cat gets the amount of water they need.
In conclusion, urinary tract problems are very complex, painful for your cat and can rack up veterinarian bills. Drinking more water may help cats at risks by preventing or at least reducing the severity and frequency of episodes. A water fountain is a great tool to help your cat have a healthy urinary tract.