Ask a Vet: How Can I Prevent Bladder Problems in My Cat?

My 18-month-old female cat had her first attack of cystitis. She was given buprenorphine and improved within hours. She has been on mostly a wet...

 |  Feb 16th 2012  |   3 Contributions


My 18-month-old female cat had her first attack of cystitis. She was given buprenorphine and improved within hours. She has been on mostly a wet diet with less than a 1/4 cup of dry food a day. I now have her on an all-wet-food diet and add a little water to it; she is not crazy about it, so I put a can of tuna with two cups of water through the blender and added several teaspoons to her food, which seemed to do the trick.

The week before the incident my daughter was here with her 17-year-old cat and two 7-month-old kittens. They have been here before with no problems; the kittens and my cat played together with no hissing or fighting, while the old guy goes to his chair like he has done for all 17 years.

Avoiding stress can help your cat avoid urinary infections.

With all the commotion around the visit (a major holiday) I am sure this stress had something to do with the cystitis. Now I have been reading everything I can and have found suggestions to give your cat Vitamin C, or cranberry pills crushed.I really don't want to do anything that would harm her.

What is the best way to keep her healthy and avoid the pain of this again?

Bobby
Racine, WI

Cystitis, or inflammation of the bladder, is a common and notoriously frustrating syndrome. It is also known as FIC (short for feline idiopathic cystitis, the currently preferred nomenclature), FUS (feline urologic syndrome), and FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disorder). The multiple names are emblematic of the syndrome — experts can't agree on what to call the condition, let alone what causes it or how to prevent it.

Cystitis causes episodic pain, house soiling, and straining in the litter box. In females, the symptoms are indistinguishable from those caused by a bladder infection. In males, the same symptoms can lead to a bigger problem: life-threatening urinary obstruction.

There is much about FIC that is not understood. However, there are several factors that are known (or believed) to contribute.

First, it appears unequivocal that stress plays a role. The problem is especially common whenever new cats are placed in the house, as well as during stressful times such as moving, holidays, or any major life change. I realize that your cat gets along with your daughter's cats, but remember that having house guests is inevitably difficult, even if it is also fun.

Second, the problem appears to be more common in overweight cats. The cause for this is not known.

Finally, body chemistry anomalies appear to be linked to the condition. The anomalies may be hereditary. They are linked to a high urine pH (low acidity level) and to certain types of crystals in the urine that are more likely to occur in strong urine. Therefore, many vets recommend feeding wet food (which contains more water) and adding urine acidifiers such as vitamin C or an amino acid called methionine. Some vets also prescribe special preventative diets. Note that some experts do not believe that abnormal urine chemistry plays a significant role, and point at stress as the primary culprit. My experience, however, has been that dietary changes do -- and are the simplest way to -- prevent episodes of FIC.

Bobby, I would recommend that (to the extent it is reasonable) you try to avoid stress in your cat's life, and that you discuss a special urinary diet with your veterinarian. These are the best ways to reduce the frequency of future problems. However, your cat may still experience painful episodes despite these steps. They are best treated with painkillers such as buprenorphine and, in male cats, urethral antispasmodics that reduce the likelihood of urinary obstruction.

Remember that cats with FIC can also develop bladder infections (although FIC is a much more common cause of urinary issues in young cats), so if your cat has problems in the future, ask your vet to take a urine sample to make sure that antibiotics aren't also needed.

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