FLUTD - Feline Lower Urinary..

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

Written by: Alison Laurie, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, also known as "FLUTD" is a broad term used to describe a number of conditions associated with the feline (cat) lower urinary tract.

What is FLUTD?

FLUTD is a common disease in adult cats and can affect both males and females. Problems it may present include: inflammation of the bladder or urethra, formation of urinary crystals or stones in the bladder and especially in male cats, partial or total obstruction of the urethra.  FLUTD can be more common in middle aged, overweight cats, neutered and indoor cats and can often be caused by an underlying stress trigger.

Symptoms of FLUTD:

Some symptoms to look out for if you suspect your cat may be suffering with a feline lower urinary tract disease are:

  • Frequent trips to the litter box
  • Prolonged straining during attempts to urinate
  • Blood noted in the urine
  • Small amounts of urine each time your cat attempts to urinate
  • Urinating outside of the litter box or in unusual places throughout the house e.g. on towels or bedding.
  • Unusual behaviour, crying or signs of discomfort and pain when attempting to urinate
  • Hiding away
  • Becoming lethargic
  • Becoming grumpy

If you have an outdoor cat it may be more difficult to spot these symptoms without regularly monitoring a litter tray.  However if you find that your cat is suddenly urinating in household in unusual places, then this would be a symptom worth some concern.

Urethral obstruction (urethral "blockage") is a very serious medical emergency and if suspected you should seek veterinarian advice immediately. Often cats experiencing urethral obstruction may not show symptoms until it becomes more serious.  With urethral obstruction look out for the following symptoms:

  • Distress, pain and crying
  • Excessively licking the genital area
  • Hiding away
  • Stopping eating and drinking
  • Vomiting and lethargy
  • Aggressive behaviour when handled especially when picked up

If you think that your cat may be "blocked" (i.e. have a urethral obstruction) you do need to seek veterinary treatment for your cat immediately .This is an emergency situation and should not be left until the morning.

Causes of FLUTD:

Possible causes include: Cystitis (a Bladder infection), a mineral imbalance causing fine crystals to form in urine, Bladder stones, anatomical abnormalities within the urogenital tract, Bladder tumours. Also a number of cases are termed "idiopathic", meaning that we cannot determine the underlying cause. Also Stress is now recognised as a common contributing factor.  Cats are very sensitive to any change in their environment and so are easily stressed, this can be due to  e.g. new pet additions to the household, moving home, house renovations, home decorating, a new baby in the household, any change of routine, extra visitors etc.

How can I prevent FLUTD?

In addition to following correct advised dietary management and keeping to a fairly stress free regime, one of the most important ways to help reduce the risk of having an occurrence or re-occurrence of this type of urinary problem is to increase your cat's water intake. This is because the more your cat drinks, the more urine and a more dilute will be produced. This encourages more frequent urination and reduces the time that urine ‘sits’ in the bladder less time is therefore available for any bladder crystals and stones to form the urine is more dilute and so the chances of the building blocks of bladder crystals and stones meeting each other is reduced.

How to get my cat to drink more?

The following ideas may be used to encourage your cat to drink more:

Add extra water to their food, whether it is canned or dry. Start with a very small amount and then gradually increase as your cat’s dietary acceptance permits.

Place water next to your cat’s food and at several extra places to which your cat has access, e.g. provide an extra bowl of water upstairs, in the porch and outside.

Keep the water in the bowls clean and fresh and change this water daily.

Some cats like shallow water, e.g. from a saucer, others prefer running water e.g. from a drinking fountain. Try adding a small amount of palatable liquid to the water (such as a natural chicken stock or tuna juice from tuna in spring water) can increase a cat’s water intake also.     

If your cat is showing signs of increased frequency of urination, apparent distress or straining to pass urine, paying attention to and licking a lot at their genital area, blood in urine  or inappropriate urination in unusual places in the household , these can all be symptoms of FLUTD and we would ask that you arrange an appointment with for Vet for a thorough clinical examination.  

Your Vet can dispense out urine sample collection kits to enable collection of a urine sample from your cat using a fine plastic cat litter and a pipette and urine sample container. This urine sample can be useful to determine the underlying cause of FLUTD symptoms.

If your think that your cat may have some of the symptoms of FLUTD, please do arrange an appointment. A urethral blockage is an emergency situation and should be dealt with quickly.