Kidney and Lower Urinary Tract Problems in Cats

María Besteiros
By María Besteiros, Expert veterinary assistant and canine/feline hairdresser.. June 28, 2022
Kidney and Lower Urinary Tract Problems in Cats

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Urinary problems in cats are a frequent cause of visits to the veterinarian. Urinary tract issues can be tremendously painful and potentially life-threatening for cats. That's why it's so important to learn to recognize any symptoms of discomfort or inability to urinate in your cat, so you can seek immediate veterinary care.

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

You may also be interested in: Ear Problems In Cats
  1. Which cats are more prone to urinary tract diseases?
  2. Most common urinary tract diseases in cats
  3. Prevention of urinary problems in cats

Which cats are more prone to urinary tract diseases?

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

  • Cats that do not drink enough water: cats are very picky when it comes to drinking water. Their strong sense of cleanliness can cause them to refuse to drink if they feel their water bowl is not up to their hygiene standards. This means that you must always keep the waterers clean and change the water frequently.

  • Exclusive dry feeding: cats have evolved to get most of their water from the prey they eat and are not used to drinking water very often. However, for modern domestic cats that eat only dry food, this can be a problem. While dry food contains many nutrients and promotes good dental hygiene, it only provides about 10% of a cat's water needs. Wet food, 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 infections in the urinary tract.

  • Anatomical abnormalities: In some cats, anatomical abnormalities in the lower urinary tract, either from birth or trauma, can increase susceptibility to urinary problems.

  • Obesity and advanced age: Age and weight: Older, overweight or highly 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 moving in, or even bad weather.

  • Neoplasia: Although rare, it should be considered that the bladder or urethra may be affected by a tumor (cancer), especially in older cats.

Most common urinary tract diseases in cats


Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is an umbrella term for all diseases affecting the bladder or urethra in cats and includes approximately 10 different lower urinary tract diseases, all of which may present with very similar symptoms, including:

  • Urinating many times and in small amounts (pollakiuria).
  • Urinating outside the litter box.
  • Presence of blood (hematuria) and/or semolina (crystalluria).
  • Urinates with difficulty (dysuria) and may whimper in pain.
  • Persistent licking of the genitourinary area.
  • Externates the penis (in males) or holds the vulva open (in females).
  • The animal may have a deteriorated general condition: 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 stone-like growths that form in the urinary bladder. They are also called cystic stones. They may be a single huge stone or a collection of smaller stones that range in size from sand to gravel. Often, a variety of large and small stones are present. Each stone develops as a result of a bladder infection or inflammation. The most common signs of bladder stones in the cat are:

  • Blood in the urine.
  • Difficulty urinating.

The friction of the stones against the bladder wall causes irritation and tissue damage that leads to bleeding. Inflammation and swelling of the urethra or bladder walls cause narrowing (the tube that connects the bladder to the outside world). Muscle spasms can also contribute to stricture. If your cat suffers from kidney stones, you can improve its condition with a proper diet. Read this other article to learn more about what to feed your 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 female cats because their urethra is narrow and long, making it more easily obstructed.

Urethral obstruction can lead to life-threatening complications. If urine is prevented from leaving 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 build up. 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 that muscle function is lost; in the worst case, it may rupture. 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 he is completely or partially blocked.

Urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections, also known as UTIs, are one of the most common diseases your cat can suffer. There are different types of infections, such as nephritis (kidney inflammation), urolithiasis (urinary stones) and cystitis (bladder infection). Most of them have similar symptoms. Often there are no symptoms until the disease is too far 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 constant stress dynamics in their lives. There are cats that have recurring episodes, which creates a pattern that gets worse over time. If your cat has had an infection before, you must be extra vigilant.

Prevention of urinary problems in cats

The veterinarian will prescribe an 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 the 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 in a place where your cat can see everything them. Add fresh water to the bowl once or twice a day. If everything fails, try a cat water fountain, as cats love running water and the sound it makes. You can also add wet food to their diet because water is not the only way to keep your cat hydrated.

  • Quality Food: The formation of crystals in the urethra is a multi-factorial condition in which poor nutrition plays a major role. Poor quality food alters the pH of the urethra. Fortunately, there are foods that are designed to break down and prevent the precipitation of crystals. 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 sandbox that is dirty, too high, or too small, that is too closed, or that is in an excessively noisy part of the house. Therefore, it is important that the sandbox is accessible at all times and meets the specific needs of the cat.

  • Reduce stress: Since cats are very sensitive to any change in their daily routine, no matter how small, and stress promotes the development of urinary problems, a calm environment is critical for their health. To reduce anxiety, a cat should also be able to play every day and be mentally and physically stimulated.

If you want to know how to relieve your cat's stress, read on in this other article, where we 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 any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Kidney and Lower Urinary Tract Problems in Cats, we recommend you visit our Prevention category.

  • García and Bárcena (2014): Main pathologies of the feline lower urinary tract. Veterinary Portal .
  • Palmero, María Luisa: Cystitis in cats: Update on the diagnosis and treatment of FLUDT . Gattos Feline Clinical Center.
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Kidney and Lower Urinary Tract Problems in Cats