First of all, it’s useful to know that cystitis is common in cats and while many owners assume it means a urinary tract infection, it’s actually an inflammation of the bladder.
Many cats never develop cystitis, while others suffer from it their whole lives. It’s all down to the unique mix of ingredients in an individual cat’s life. So while bouts of cystitis recurring for weeks, months or even a few years apart are not uncommon, identifying the main causes can help reduce the risk of this happening.
The difference between male and female feline cystitis
Although cystitis affects both genders, male cats have the added complication of a potential urinary blockage. In a female cat, the urethra (the tube that takes urine away from the bladder and out of the body) is short and wide and less likely to block. In male cats, it’s long and narrow, so if a blockage occurs, it could be more complicated. If your male cat is straining to urinate or persistently licking his perineal area, always contact your vet for a check-up in case his urethra is blocked.
How is stress involved?
Although we tend to think of stress as an emotional issue, it can trigger reactions that are physiological as well as psychological. In cats, hormones associated with stress can erode the fragile lining inside the bladder wall. Once this lining is worn down, urine canirritate it and cause the rest of the bladder wall to become inflamed. The result is cystitis.
A fit and healthy cat that goes outside and does lots of physical exercise will probably be more resilient to cystitis, but still not completely immune to it. Different lifestyles, both indoors or outdoors, can involve stress triggers, so cats can suffer from cystitis even within their first year of life.
A cat that is experiencing high levels of stress, perhaps from other pets in the household or a change in her living arrangements, or because of pain elsewhere in her body, will be more vulnerable to cystitis.
Spotting signs of a recurrence
If your cat is suffering from a recurrence of feline cystitis she:
- will squat to urinate more frequently
- will only produce small volumes of urine
- may produce blood-tinged urine
- may struggle to pass any urine
- will urinate in odd places, such as in the bath or on bedclothes
Some pet owners wonder how they’ll notice these symptoms if their cat usually urinates outside. But even if your cat usually toilets outside, you’re likely to notice some symptoms, especially as cats with cystitis often start urinating somewhere inside the house. Cats normally urinate two to four times a day, so if you notice your cat’s peeing six to eight times a day, contact your vet.
Treatments and therapies
As you’ll know, when your cat is diagnosed with cystitis, your vet may suggest several options. Most cats with cystitis require a combination of stress-prevention as well as medical therapy. As this is a painful condition, your vet will usually prescribe pain relief to make your pet more comfortable. Pheromone products, like sprays and diffusers, can help but if it’s possible to eradicate the stress triggers completely, that will always be more effective. Encouraging your cat to drink plenty of water helps, too. Try adding water to dry food, a drinking fountain, or give your cat filtered water in fully topped-up shallow, open-sided dish.