Kidney and Lower Urinary Tract Problems in Cats

Kidney and lower urinary tract problems in cats

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Urinary problems in cats are a common reason for visits to the vet. Urinary tract problems can be extremely painful and potentially life-threatening for cats. That’s why it’s so important to learn to recognize any signs of discomfort or inability to urinate in your cat so you can seek veterinary care immediately.

In this AnimalWised article, we summarize the main features of the most common ones kidney and lower urinary tract problems in cats and explain what measures we can take to prevent and treat them.

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As mentioned earlier, urinary tract diseases are very common in cats. Cats can develop these diseases for a variety of reasons, but some factors make them more likely to develop them in the future:

  • Cats that don’t drink enough water: cats are very picky when it comes to drinking water. Their strong sense of cleanliness may cause them to refuse to drink if they feel their water bowl does not meet their hygiene standards. This means you must always keep the drinkers clean and change the water often.
  • Exclusive dry food: cats have evolved to get most of their water from the prey they eat and are not used to drinking water very often. However, this can be a problem for modern domestic cats that only eat dry food. While dry food contains many nutrients and promotes good dental hygiene, it only provides about 10% of the water a cat needs. Wet feed, on the other hand, is characterized by the fact that it contains at least 60% water.
  • Diabetes: Cats suffering from diabetes have a much higher risk of developing bacterial urinary tract infections.
  • Anatomical abnormalities: In some cats, anatomical abnormalities in the lower urinary tract, either from birth or after injury, can make them more prone to urinary problems.
  • Obesity and advanced age: Age and weight: Older cats, overweight cats, or very stressed cats may also be more prone to urinary complications. Stress can be caused by a number of factors, including moving to a new home, new people or cats, or even bad weather.
  • Neoplasia: Although rare, it should be considered that the bladder or urethra can be affected by a tumor (cancer), especially in older cats.


Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is an umbrella term for all conditions affecting the bladder or urethra in cats and includes approximately 10 different lower urinary tract conditions, all of which can present with very similar symptoms, including:

  • Urinating many times and in small amounts (polakisuria).
  • Urination outside bin.
  • Presence blood (hematuria) and/or grit (crystalluria).
  • Urine with difficulty (dysuria) and may whimper in pain.
  • Constant licking genitourinary area.
  • Externates the penis (in men) or holds the vulva OPEN (in women).
  • The animal may get worse overall status: fever, poor appetite and symptoms of abdominal pain.

A cat suffering from FLUTD may exhibit one, some, or even all of the above symptoms.

Bladder stones

Bladder stones are mineral-based stones that form in the bladder. They are also called cystic stones. They can be one huge rock or a collection of smaller rocks that vary in size from sand to gravel. A variety of large and small stones are often present. Each stone develops as a result of a infection or inflammation of the bladder. The most common symptoms of urinary stones in cats are:

  • Blood in urine.
  • Difficulty urinating.

It causes stones to rub against the bladder wall irritation and tissue damage which leads to bleeding. Inflammation and swelling of the urethra or bladder wall causes a stricture (the tube that connects the bladder to the outside world). Muscle spasms can also contribute to a stricture. If your cat suffers from kidney stones, you can improve its condition with a suitable diet. Read this next article to learn more about what to feed a cat with kidney stones.

Urethral obstruction

Urine flows from the kidneys into the ureters and then into the bladder, where it is stored until it is released through the urethra. Urethral obstruction occurs when the urethra is blocked and prevents urination. There are many possible causes of obstruction, including urinary stones, mucus plug or sediment, blood clots, tumors, and scarring. Although any animal is susceptible to urethral obstruction, male cats are at greater risk than dogs or cats because their urethra is narrow and long, making it easier to get blocked.

Urethral obstruction can lead to life-threatening complications. If urine is prevented from leaking from the bladder, pressure in the urinary tract can damage the kidneys. Urine contains metabolic waste products that the body needs to eliminate; urethral obstruction causes these toxins to accumulate. Another possible complication of urethral obstruction is scarring of the urethra, which makes the urethra even narrower and more prone to future blockages. In addition, the bladder wall may have stretched to the point of loss of muscle function; in the worst case, it can crack. If your cat tries to urinate several times and produces only a few drops of urine or none at all, it is very likely that it is completely or partially blocked.

Urinary tract infection

Urinary tract infections, also known as UTIs, are one of the most common ailments your cat can suffer from. They exist different types infections such as nephritis (kidney inflammation), urolithiasis (urinary stones) and cystitis (bladder infection). Most of them have similar symptoms. There are often no symptoms until the disease is very advanced.

These infections can occur at any age, but especially in adult cats that are overweight, live in very confined spaces or are exposed to a constant dynamic of stress in their lives. There are cats that have recurring episodes that creates a pattern that it gets worse over time. You need to be especially vigilant if your cat has already had an infection.

The vet will prescribe the appropriate treatment depending on the urinary tract disease our cat is suffering from. It must include measures such as those listed below, which will also prevent occurrence of this type of problem in the future:

  • Increased water consumption: Drinking more water allows our cat to urinate more and the urine is less concentrated. To encourage your cat to drink more water, choose a suitable water bowl that is wide and shallow and place it where your cat can see everything. Add fresh water to the bowl once or twice a day. If all else fails, try a cat water fountain because cats love running water and the sound it makes. You can also add wet food to their diet, as water is not the only way to keep your cat hydrated.
  • Quality food: Crystal formation in the urethra is a multifactorial condition in which poor nutrition plays a major role. Poor quality food changes the pH of the urethra. Fortunately, there are foods that are designed to break down and prevent crystals from forming. On the other hand, a balanced diet will help maintain your cat’s ideal weight and prevent obesity.
  • Find the perfect sandbox: Cats will avoid urinating in a litter box that is dirty, too high or too small, too closed or in an excessively noisy part of the house. Therefore, it is important that the sandbox is constantly accessible and meets the specific needs of the cat.
  • Reduce stress: Since cats are very sensitive to any changes in their daily routine, no matter how small, and stress promotes the development of urinary problems, a calm environment is essential for their health. To reduce anxiety, the cat should also have the opportunity to play and be mentally and physically stimulated every day.

If you want to know how to reduce your cat’s stress, read on in this next article where we will explain the different measures you can take to reduce your cat’s stress.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe veterinary treatment or make a diagnosis. We encourage you to take your pet to the vet if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles like Kidney and lower urinary tract problems in catswe recommend visiting our Prevention category.

  • García and Bárcena (2014): Major pathologies of the lower urinary tract of cats. Veterinary portal .
  • Palmero, Maria Luisa: Cystitis in cats: Current information on the diagnosis and treatment of FLUDT . Gattos Cat Clinic.

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