Because our feline companions are generally very good at hiding their pain, we may not immediately realize that they may be suffering from a urinary tract infection (UTI). Cats can be afflicted with a number of urinary tract issues, generally referred to as Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). Feline UTI is one of the types of FLUTD afflictions. A UTI refers to an infection caused by bacteria (E. Coli, Streptococcus, Staphylococcus and Proteus) within the normally sterile urinary tract. These microorganisms damage the cells of the urinary tract and can block the urethra, causing pain and straining during urination. The urinary tract normally filters and cleans the blood and produces, stores and eliminates urine, all essential processes for your cat’s on-going health. Failure to urinate for any extended period of time can be fatal so keep a close eye on the situation. Although UTIs don’t generally affect kittens or cats under one year of age, UTIs can affect both male and female cats at any age. Also note that urinary issues are some of the most common reasons cats are surrendered to shelters or abandoned outside.
Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection
The symptoms of a UTI are generally obvious and can be the same as the symptoms caused by feline idiopathic cystitis, even more common than feline UTIs. The most common signs of a urinary tract infection include:
- Decreased appetite due to pain associated with a UTI
- Urinating outside the litter box when combined with other symptoms below
- Straining to urinate
- Trying to urinate or going to the litter box more frequently than normal
- Licking the penile or vaginal area to try to self-soothe after a painful urination
- Blood in the urine, which you will see in the litter box
- Evidence of pain, including crying or hunching her back
- Drinking more water than normal – your cat needs the water but cannot drink enough to cure the problem
- Increased irritability due to discomfort and pain
- Lethargy and/or decreased self-grooming due to discomfort or pain
Traditional Treatment and Prevention
You will want to take your cat to the vet for a physical exam and, if possible, urinalysis. If it’s going to be difficult to obtain the urine necessary, your vet may just start your kitty out on a 7-day course of antibiotics and, if she is in a lot of pain, some pain medication. In cases of chronic UTIs, surgery to widen the urethra, called perineal urethrostomy, may be an option.
While there is no guaranteed way to prevent your cat from getting another UTI you can, however, reduce the chances that she will suffer from another UTI by ensuring that she drinks enough water throughout the day, reducing her stress, making sure she has access to a clean litter box and has enough moisture in her diet. Feeding her a diet of raw or wet food can help ensure that your feline fur baby has enough moisture in her diet. You may also want to try an automatic water dispenser or water fountain to grab your kitty’s attention and encourage her to drink more often.
Alternative Treatment Options
We all know about the benefits of cranberry juice in preventing UTIs for us and it can work for our kitties as well. You can either give her straight cranberry juice or give her a cranberry supplement. Organic apple cider vinegar is another popular and effective natural cure for feline UTI. Organic apple cider vinegar works in two ways to the reduce and eliminate the microorganisms causing your cat’s UTI:
- The apple cider vinegar creates an environment too alkaline for the microorganisms to thrive; and
- The vinegar is a potent antimicrobial (as you may know if you use vinegar to clean your house) and kills the weakened microbes causing the UTI.
Emergency Dose: Fill a needle-less syringe with a 50/50 mix of organic apple cider vinegar and water. As you can imagine, cats don’t appreciate the taste of vinegar so you may need to wrap your fur baby in a towel or have somebody help you. Injecting the diluted vinegar straight into his mouth is the best way to make sure your cat ingests it especially if he won’t eat or drink. The beneficial effect of the vinegar can take up to four hours to manifest, especially in serious cases. If you don’t notice any urination after 4 hours contact your veterinarian immediately as a urinary tract blockage can be fatal.
Standard Dose: Mix 1-3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar into 1 cup of water. Use the needle-less syringe or a medicine dropper to get about 1/8 cup of liquid into your cat’s mouth. Give this mixture to your cat several times a day until the UTI symptoms disappear. You can also dip your cat’s paw into a bowl of the vinegar/water mix so that he will lick it off his paw.
Maintenance. Once the UTI has cleared up, you may want to continue to add a daily 1/2 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to your kitty’s food or water to keep her urinary tract clear and free of harmful bacteria.
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