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Cat Lower Urinary Tract Disease

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Feline lower urinary tract disease is a syndrome that encompasses many general symptoms associated with a cat’s urinary function, and is sometimes known as “feline urologic syndrome.” There are many symptoms associated with the syndrome, and the exact causes can range from urethral blockage and bladder stones, to urinary tract infection and possibly cancer. The possible causes differ between cats of different ages, as older cats (ages 10 and up) are much more at risk of serious infections. In some cases, especially in younger cats, there might not be any apparent cause to the syndrome, and recurrence of the symptoms can be moderated via diet and behavioral modification.

Since there are many underlying illnesses that may cause feline lower urinary tract disease, careful observation of the symptoms and persistence is required to rule out all possibilities. While a direct physiological cause is not always found, any urinary dysfunction has the potential of being a medical emergency and should be considered as such.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of feline lower urinary tract disease include straining during urination, frequent attempts to urinate, blood in urine, urinating outside of the litter box, and excessive licking of the urethral opening. If a total obstruction of the urethra develops (almost exclusively seen in males), the cat can be greatly distressed and may cry out in pain.

Any of the symptoms may indicate an infection or blockage along the urinary tract; a blood panel, urinanalysis, and radiograph can reveal the site and severity of infection or blockage. In older cats with more likelihood of kidney diseases a urine culture is also needed.


Treatment of the symptoms will depend on the underlying condition. Infections of the urinary tract can be treated with antibiotics. Blockage and bladder stones can be surgically and medically treated. Cats with urinary crystals can be treated with behavior modification (increase water consumption, etc.), as well as medications. If a cat is in kidney failure, treatment options include subcutaneous fluids, diuresis (via intravenous fluid), and kidney transplants.

While any symptom of feline lower urinary tract disease may have serious implications, over half of the cases (especially in younger cats) will not show signs of physiological illness in any of the diagnostic tests. This is called idiopathic feline lower urinary tract disease, and will generally resolve over time. Sometimes the symptoms (especially with cats that urinate in inappropriate places) are stress and behavior-oriented; it is possible to alleviate these problems by removing the stress, eliminating odors in marked areas, as well as anti-anxiety medication.

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