Cat UTI or FLUTD - how to treat it?

What is FLUTD?

FLUTD stands for feline lower urinary tract disease, it is a general name for a group of disorders of the lower urinary tract in cats.

Causes of FLUTD

There are several causes of FLUTD, but the relative importance of these causes varies by country and by cat population. Some of these causes are:

  • Urolithiasis: This term is used to describe bladder stones. Like humans, cats can develop stones in the bladder. The two most common types are Magnesium Ammonium Phosphate/Struvite and Calcium Oxalate stones.
  • Bacterial Infection: Bacterial infection of the bladder is the most common cause of lower urinary tract problems but it is rare in cats. Most cases occur in older cats.
  • Urethral Plug: Obstruction of the ureter in male cats is caused by a "urethral plug", which occurs when proteins, cells, crystals and precipitation in the urine accumulate in the urinary tract. Together they form a "plug" that cannot be urinated. Other causes of obstruction are small bladder stones that become lodged in the ureter or strong muscle spasms of the ureter (these can occur with severe inflammation/irritation).
  • Anatomical defect: Sometimes, a defect in the lower urinary tract can produce similar symptoms. This usually happens when the urethra is too narrow. After the damage to the urethra, connective tissue (scar) forms during the healing process. This connective tissue can greatly reduce the diameter of the urethra making it difficult for the cat to urinate normally.
  • Neoplasia/tumor: Although rare, especially in elderly cats with symptoms of FLUTD, the presence of a tumor in the bladder or ureter should also be considered.
  • Idiopathic cystitis: Despite a number of clear causes for FLUTD, no underlying cause can be identified in the majority of cats (around 60 - 70%). These cases are referred to as "feline idiopathic cystitis" (inflammation of the bladder for no apparent cause).

Symptoms of FLUTD

  • Frequent and unsuccessful urination attempts.
  • Urinating in unwanted places.
  • Urinating is painful, pain in the abdomen, ball in the abdomen.
  • Blood in the urine.
  • Excessive licking of the pubic area.
  • Pressing.
  • Being restless, hiding, refusing to eat.

What if my cat's urinary tract is blocked? 

If the cat is no longer able to urinate at all because a lot of crystals accumulated in the ureter, it is called a urethral obstruction. This is a life-threatening situation! The cat’s body continues to produce urine but urine can’t be expelled. Due to the increase in kidney pressure, the cat can develop kidney failure and die, so immediate medical attention is required.

Cat UTI Treatment and Prevention

If there is no blockage, there are a few steps your vet will follow:

  • A urine test: the urine test is used to check for crystals and/or an inflammation picture in the urine. Distinguishing between the types of crystals is important to provide appropriate nutritional advice.
  • Radiography and/or ultrasound: if there is a strong suspicion of stones in the bladder, an X-ray and/or ultrasound of the bladder is conducted. If stones are found, the vet will need to surgically remove them from the bladder and send the stones for analysis in order to provide appropriate nutritional advice.
  • Antibiotics: Cats with a bacterial bladder infection generally respond well to appropriate antibiotic treatment. The choice of a particular antibiotic should ideally be based on a bacterial culture and bacterial antibiotic resistance testing.
  • Pain Medication: Medication for the pain, swelling, and muscle spasms are important.
  • Diet food: A special diet from the vet can help prevent new bladder stones from forming, regardless of whether the cat has had surgery first or not. Feeding wet food (meal pouches, cans) instead of dry food increases the cat's water intake, which also reduces the risk of new bladder stones forming. Sometimes, it is necessary to give this food for life on the advice of the vet. You should also try to stimulate drinking by purchasing more water bowls or a drinking fountain, for example.
  • Preventing stress: Stress plays an important role in the development of bladder stones.
  • Urinating regularly: Encouraging regular urination is important. You should place the litter box in a location where the cat feels comfortable. You should also change litter regularly, especially if the cat is sharing the box with other cats.
  • Obesity: Being overweight is also an important factor. Try to get your cat to its ideal weight, this can prevent a blockage from reoccurring.

If a blockage occurs:

  • The vet will place a urinary probe/catheter in the cat and let it sit for several days.
  • Depending on the general condition of the cat, the vet will decide whether or not to put the cat on an IV.
  • If the urethra blockage keeps recurring, penile amputation may be necessary. This procedure makes blockages impossible, as the narrow passage at the level of the penis is removed.

The importance of an appropriate diet


  • Struvite stones can be dissolved by changing the acidity of the urine.
  • By reducing the amount of minerals in the diet, the risk of stones and crystal formation is reduced.
  • High levels of omega 3 fatty acids are necessary to break the inflammatory cycle and reduce discomfort.
  • Added GAGs (glycosaminoglycans) 1, the building blocks of the lining of the bladder wall.