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Cat Bladder Infection - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

The bladder is a hollow shaped organ within the abdomen which collects and stores urine until it is eliminated.

Cystitis is the inflammation or infection of the bladder, so you may see cystitis, bacterial cystitis OR urinary tract infection used in place of or in conjunction with "bladder infection". Most cases of "cystitis" are known as "idiopathic" which means "no known cause". Bacterial infection of the cat's bladder is much less common in cats than it is in dogs and is almost never seen in young to middle aged cats. E-Coli is the most common bacteria to infect the bladder.

There are different types of UTI depending on the location of the infection.

Cystisis - Infection of the bladder

Utethritis - Infection of the urethra

Pyelonephritis - Infection of the kidneys

It is believed that bladder infections occur when bacteria around the anus ascend into the urethra and into the bladder.

What are the signs of bladder infection in cats?

Typical symptoms of bladder infection in cats may include:

  • Frequent urination, often only passing small amounts of urine (stranguria)
  • Blood in urine (hematuria)
  • Urine that looks cloudy
  • Pain while urinating (dysuria)
  • Excessive genital licking
  • Urinating outside of the litter box
  • Foul smelling urine

How is a bladder infection diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of your cat and obtain a medical history from you. He may wish to run some tests to determine if the UTI is the result of a bacterial infection or idiopathic. Your cat may display pain when the vet palpitates the abdomen and he may feel a thickening of the bladder.

As the symptoms of all types of UTI are very similar, your veterinarian will want to establish if the bladder is infected with bacteria or if the cause is idopathic. Tests he may wish to run include:

  • Urinalysis to check for the presence of red and white blood cells and bacteria.
  • Bacterial culture of the urine to determine the type of bacteria. E-Coli is the most common bacteria to infect the cat's bladder, other bacteria include proteus, staph and strep. Urine needs to be obtained by means of cystocentesis to ensure there has been no contamination of the sample during normal voiding. This involves the insertion of a fine needle through the abdomen and directly into the bladder to obtain a sample of the urine.
  • Persistent or recurrent bladder infections may warrant an abdominal x-ray or ultrasound to look for the presence of calculi in the bladder.

How is a bladder infection treated?

Treatment for acute bladder infection is a course of antibiotics, taken for two weeks.

For chronic bladder infection, a bacterial culture may be taken with antibiotic selection based on the type of bacteria causing infection.

Home care is important. Try to encourage your cat to drink water and/or switch him to a wet diet to increase the intake of water.

Make sure there are enough litter trays and they are cleaned frequently.

If you have a long haired cat with repeated bouts of bladder infection, keeping the fur trimmed around the anus may be of help.

Also see:

Bladder stones in cats   Common bladder problems in cats