Cystitis in Cats - What is Cystitis?
Cystitis is basically inflammation of the bladder. It is a very painful condition and can be very distressing for both your cat and you as an owner. Inflammation in the bladder can be caused by a variety of factors, including bladder stones and bacterial infections.
The vast majority of cats, affected by cystitis, suffer from a condition called 'idiopathic interstitial cystitis' or 'sterile cystitis'.
Idiopathic means that the exact cause of the problem is unknown. However we do know many of the factors that seem to predispose cats to this problem (see below). The idea of this information sheet is to help you help your cat avoid this common and distressing problem.
What are the common signs of cystitis?
- Blood in the urine
- Excess licking around the penile area
- Pain and distress passing urine (many cats cry out with discomfort)
- Increased frequency of urination
- Inappropriate urination (for example - urinating in the bath and missing the litter tray)
What causes cystitis?
Any cat can be affected, but most will possess any one or a combination of the predisposing factors listed below:
- Young cats
- Indoor cat only/very sedentary lifestyle
- Fed a diet of dry food only
- Stressful circumstances (e.g. new cats in the neighbourhood, a trip to the cattery, decorating or moving house)
- Bacterial infection and bladder stones may cause cystitis but are less common.
How is cystitis diagnosed?
Cystitis is diagnosed using a combination of methods. Visible signs (such as those previously described) are indicative, as well as looking at the cat's general life-style. A thorough veterinary consultation will include:
- Discussion and advice
- Palpation of the abdominal region and bladder (gently feeling for abnormalities)
- Taking the temperature (body temperature may be raised if an infection is present or as a result of pain - drugs can be given to lower this and subsequently make your cat feel better)
- Sometimes, more extensive tests may be required such as x-rays (to look for bladder stones), urine analysis (to detect urinary crystals and bacteria) and blood tests (to look for underlying diseases). These tests are often used to rule out other diseases of the urinary system that may show similar symptoms. We will usually recommend them in prolonged cases of cystitis that last in excess of 7 days, or in cases that recur persistently.
How is cystitis treated?
Signs of idiopathic cystitis often resolve spontaneously within 1-2 weeks regardless of treatment. However, it is important to seek veterinary advice since analgesia (pain relief) and anti-inflammatory drugs are usually required to alleviate the severe discomfort this condition causes. In some cases we may also prescribe antibiotics (to prevent secondary infection) and drugs that can help to reduce stress and help protect the bladder lining.
Regular veterinary examinations are necessary in order for us to be able to supply prescription only medicines and help give professional advice for your pets' problems.
There are also a number of things that you can do at home to help. These recommendations should be the mainstay of preventing recurrence of problems.
- Avoid feeding only dried foods (we advise switching to a diet with a relatively high water content, but as with all changes to the diet, this should be implemented gradually). Tinned food is considered a better option for cats predisposed to cystitis since it is more similar in consistency to a natural diet than a dry formulation. We recommend high quality diets such as those produced by Waltham, Royal Canin and Hills and can order in your supplies for collection/delivery.
- It is always important to feed a diet appropriate to the life-stage of your cat (i.e. a Senior diet for cats over 7 years). If you are already feeding your pet to help with a specific problem then remember to check with your vet before changing foods.
- In multi-cat households, each cat should have separate feeding bowls, and they should be allowed to eat out of sight of one another. This minimises stress at feeding times caused by cat-to-cat interactions.
Ensure that access to fresh drinking water is always available. It is important to encourage drinking in cats prone to cystitis. Frequent drinking in these cats helps to flush the bladder out frequently and means less chance of inflammation and bladder stones.
Tips for doing this include:
- Using large dog size water bowls so that your cats' whiskers don't touch the edges of the dish. This can be particularly annoying to cats!
Providing multiple bowls in different areas in the house
- Adding water to the food. Do so slowly to see if water is palatable to your ca
- Trying pet fountains if your cat seems to prefer running water
- Offering filtered, distilled or bottled water
- Make flavoured ice cubes! Add these into the water to aid palatability
- Change the water in all the bowls regularly
- Some cats, despite all your best efforts, will drink from ponds and puddles! This is fine as long as they are drinking!
Please note if your cat starts suddenly drinking more than you feel is normal then please check with your vet that your cat has not developed any other problems!
- Cats suffering from cystitis may have 'accidents' in the home. It is important to clean up thoroughly (using an effective product to neutralise odours such as 'Odour Eliminator' available from the Surgery). Avoid reprimands for negative behaviour, since such accidents are usually beyond your cat's control.
- Cats do not respond well to punishment and it is likely just to induce more stress and exacerbate the original problem!
- Introduce a litter box to a quiet area of the house away from feeding areas. The toilet area must be kept clean at all times, and the litter changed regularly. As a rule, there should be one more litter tray than the number of cats in your household. Sharing litter trays is one of the biggest causes of house soiling problems in cats. If you only have one cat, and it isn't reliably using the litter tray, then try giving it another tray in a different area and clean after each use.
- You may have to experiment with different types of litter in order to establish which texture your cat prefers. Various brands of cat litter are available from the surgery. Give your cat the option of change by providing the new litter next to the familiar litter. This way you reduce the likelihood of a breakdown in training.
Scratching objects are essential. The sharpening of the claws is vital for cats in the wild in order to ensure that the tools necessary for hunting and defence are in tip-top condition. A wide range is available from most pet shops and we can also order items for you.
Cats prefer to have quiet hidden areas in which they can sleep. Radiator hammocks are popular, as are quilted, domed beds that offer privacy. Cats often feel safer if they can sleep in a raised position so that they can keep a watchful eye of their surroundings.
Feliway is a replica of the cat facial pheromone. Pheromones are essential tools in feline communication; cats release this particular pheromone when chin rubbing up against objects and their owners. It has a calming effect and hence minimises stress levels. It has been found to be very helpful in a number of cases of feline cystitis. It is available from the surgery in either a spray formulation or plug-in diffuser (refills available).
Where can I find out more information?
You can always telephone your local branch of Grove Lodge Vets for help and advice, our Veterinary Surgeons and Practice Nurses are always happy to help.