Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease: What You Should Know

Written on March 27, 2019 by Nancy Thompson, CVT Hospital: Boston West Veterinary Emergency & Specialty

Tabby cat sitting in a litter box and look to the camera.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is a common disorder in male cats. In some cats, the disease can progress to a urethral obstruction (UO), a life-threatening emergency.

The underlying problem is thought to be a sterile cystitis (inflammation of the bladder wall not associated with bacterial infection), which results in sand-like particles and mucoid material in the urine which can plug up the urethra.

What causes FLUTD?

The cause of the bladder inflammation is currently unknown, but it is believed that stress, diet, and water intake play significant roles. Urethral obstructions can unfortunately become a recurrent problem in some cats. There is no way to predict which cats will re-obstruct and which will not.

What are the signs of FLUTD?

The clinical signs for FLUTD are:

  • going to the litter box frequently
  • producing small amounts of urine
  • straining to urinate
  • persistently licking at penis
  • blood in the urine
  • lethargy
  • vomiting
  • anorexia

What can I do to decrease the possibility of my cat getting FLUTD?

A few things you can do to prevent recurrence are:

Increase your cat’s water intake

  • Keep multiple water bowls throughout the house and ensure they are frequently cleaned and refilled with fresh clean water.
  • Provide larger bowls, as many cats do not like to drink from smaller bowls because they dislike the sensation of their whiskers touching the sides.
  • Provide secondary water sources, as some cats enjoy drinking from moving water such as a dribbling faucet or a pet water fountain (available at pet stores).
  • To increase water palatability, you can try adding small amounts of canned tuna water or low-salt bouillon to one of the water bowls. Ensure the bowl is cleaned frequently to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Add canned food to their diet, either by incorporating it into their dry food or fully transitioning them to canned food. A canned food only diet is ideal, as wet food has a much higher water content.

Ensure proper litter box hygiene

  • Have at least one more litter box than you have cats i.e. if you have one cat you need two boxes, if you have two cats you need three boxes, etc.
  • Ensure the litter box is in a quiet, well-ventilated area (not a closed closet!) as cats are very sensitive to smell and may be reluctant to enter a box that is malodorous.
  • Scoop frequently and change the litter regularly.

Minimize stress as much as possible

  • Keep your cat’s routine as constant as possible: feed him at the same time each day and minimize changes to his schedule wherever possible.
  • Make time to play with him or otherwise spend exclusive time with him for at least 10 minutes each day. Try a teaser wand, laser pointer, or just a shoelace!
  • Ensure that he has activities to entertain himself when you are out of the house, such as independent cat toys, a window to look out, or a “kitty condo.”
  • Use Feliway vaporizers in the home, which dispense a continual low level of relaxing feline pheromones. Read more here.

If you notice any symptoms

Urinary obstruction is very serious and can be potentially fatal especially if the obstruction lasts longer than 24 hours, so never hesitate to call your veterinarian or bring them in to be seen.


Related Blog Posts

Urinary Obstructions and Infections in Cats

The Weird Things My Cat Does: Explained

PU/PD: Diagnosing and Treating Excessive Drinking and Urinating in Your Pet

Urinary Blockage in Cats

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