It is necessary to understand what the terms Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) and Feline Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) mean. While UTI is an infection in the urinary passage, FLUTD is not a specific disease but a pattern of symptoms like bloody urine, straining to urinate, frequent urination and pain that has many causes.
Lack of exercise and obesity in cats presents a higher risk of developing urinary problems. Some cats are too lazy to walk to the litter pan. Some others dislike sharing the litter pan with other cats. Such specific behaviors lead to a general unwillingness to urinate. Many times the litter pan is so dirty that a cat detests urination. If the bladder is not emptied regularly, it can lead to urinary tract infections in cats. It may also cause a host of other conditions that ultimately end up as making urination a painful experience.
There are many different causes of feline urinary infection. These include:
- Bacterial and Viral Infections: Urine is usually sterile in the bladder. The outside opening through which urine is passed out is also the route through which bacteria or viruses enter and travel up to the bladder and infect the urine.
- Bladder Stones: Improper diet that is high in mineral content leads to a situation where all minerals are not taken up by the digestive system. Mineral deposits gradually transform into crystals and later bind to form stones. The ensuing irritation often leads to inflammation and infection in the bladder. Cats that are fed kibble diets are more susceptible than those on canned or moist diets.
- Allergy: Some foods and environmental allergens can affect the bladder wall mucosa that protects the bladder from substances in the urine. This can cause cystitis, inflammation of the bladder and ureters.
- Idiopathic Cystitis: This is a recent observation and a very common type of urinary problem in cats. The cat has all the symptoms of a lower urinary tract disease but the tests, laboratory as well as imaging, do not reveal any known cause. Researchers are trying to find similarities between this condition and interstitial cystitis observed in humans (women) - a condition where there are hemorrhages in the bladder wall accompanied by excruciating pain. Similar hemorrhages are seen in cats. There is no known cause of interstitial cystitis in cats or humans.
Cats that drink a lot of water also urinate a lot. Lack of water intake is one of the primary causes of urinary tract infections in cats. A strong flow of urine is sufficient to eliminate pathogenic substances in the urine and also those clinging along the tract.