Effects of Urinary Tract Infections – From the Cat’s Point of View
The symptoms of urinary tract infections in cats can vary widely, ranging from mild to extremely severe. Based on reports from people who have had recurrent urinary tract infections, all affected cats probably experience some degree of discomfort, up to and including quite a bit of pain. They may have difficulty urinating and feel a great urgency to urinate, even though they aren’t able to eliminate much urine despite their repeated efforts. These symptoms can cause cats to lick persistently at the area around their external genitalia, which in turn can lead to external irritation and inflammation and promote the ascension of infectious organisms up through the animal’s urinary tract. Cats with UTIs also may become incontinent, feverish, lethargic, listless, depressed and/or anorexic.
Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections – What the Owner Sees
Some cats with urinary tract infections don’t show any signs of their condition, which makes the infection especially difficult for their owners to detect. This is particularly problematic in outdoor cats and those that are allowed to roam freely inside and out, because their owners typically spend less time with them than do owners of cats that are kept strictly indoors. When cats do show observable signs of having a urinary tract infection, owners may notice one or more of the following:
- Abnormally frequent attempts to urinate; urgency to urinate
- Production of small amounts of urine (pollakiuria)
- Straining to urinate (stranguria); can be confused with constipation
- Difficulty urinating (dysuria)
- Inappropriate urination in places that are not customary (such as outside of the litterbox)
- Incontinence; dribbling of urine continuously or intermittently
- Smelly urine; strong unusual urinary odor
- Blood in the urine (hematuria); especially noticeable at the end of the urine stream
- Drops of blood in or near the litterbox
- Cloudy urine
- Excessive licking/grooming around the external genitalia
- Redness, inflammation and irritation around the external genitalia
- Lethargy; listlessness
- Lack of appetite (inappetence; anorexia)
Cat owners should schedule an appointment with their veterinarian if they notice any combination of the above symptoms. Because many cats do not show any specific signs of having a UTI, it’s a good idea for them to have an annual physical examination and urinalysis, so that silent urinary tract infections can be diagnosed and treated as promptly as possible.
Cats at Increased Risk
Elderly cats, and those whose immune system is weak or otherwise compromised, are at a greater risk of developing infections of any sort, including infections of the urinary tract. Long-term administration of steroid medications can suppress the immune system, increasing a cat’s chances of contracting urinary tract infections. Free-roaming outdoor cats are more likely to develop persistent urinary tract infections, in large part because they typically are taken to the veterinarian for regular check-ups less frequently than are cats kept exclusively indoors.