Grey cat lied on the floor

In cats, urine problems frequently have a stress component.

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How can I treat my cat’s urinary tract infection?

By Dr. Liz Barton MA, VetMB, MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

Changing your pet's diet or reducing their stress are just two of the ways that can help treat your cat's urinary tract infection.

If your cat has a urinary tract infection, treating it might mean changing their diet. Preventing a future problem may also mean altering what they eat, as well reducing any stress that your pet may be experiencing and ensuring a cleaner environment for them to live in. It's also a good idea to have your cat checked by a vet.

Can ingredients in cat food cause a urinary tract infection?

Diet cannot cause a urinary tract infection (UTI) on its own, but it can make the urine easier for bacteria to survive in, making an infection more likely. In the wild, cats would naturally eat a diet high in water content, protein and fat, as they are carnivores. Commercial cat food often contains more carbohydrate and salt, which can predispose to the formation of stones and make the urine more alkaline – both of which can help bacteria to survive. Dry food also contains less water, which reduces the amount of urine produced and makes it more concentrated. This can irritate the bladder wall and reduce the flushing out of bacteria.

How can I treat my cat’s urinary tract infection?

An established urinary infection will need antibiotics to clear in most cases – sometimes even prolonged courses. Urine infections are also painful, and painkiller and anti-inflammatories are needed in most cases. Many cats will have waxing and waning urinary infections, especially in older age. Increasing water intake can help to flush the bladder through. Reducing the mineral content of the diet will reduce risk of bladder stones forming, which can harbour bacteria. Apple cider vinegar has been added to a cat’s diet to make the urine more acidic, but there is no evidence that this stops urine infections. Natural treatments are not suitable for treating established infections, as bacteria can track upwards into the kidneys and cause more serious complications.

How can I treat my cat's UTI at home?

Stress is often a component of urinary disease in cats, so reducing sources of stress can often help with the underlying cause of urinary problems. Feeding a diet with reduced mineral content will reduce risk of bladder stones and crystals, which can harbour bacteria. Bacteria are more likely to survive in alkaline urine, so urine acidifiers are often used in prescription diets. There is some anecdotal evidence that apple cider vinegar may have a similar effect, but accurate doses and good evidence for its use are not available. Home remedies are not suitable for treating established infections. If your cat is uncomfortable and straining, you should see a vet to ensure that your cat gets pain relief quickly.

Can cats get a UTI from a dirty litter tray?

UTIs will usually be caused by bacteria from the environment tracking up the urethra and into the bladder. This is less likely to occur in a cleaner environment, so keeping the litter box clean will reduce the number of bacteria. A dirty litter tray will not necessarily cause a UTI, but it will increase the risk.

Which cat food is best for urinary problems?

As some cat food may increase the risk of a UTI, prescription urinary cat foods are designed to reduce the risk. They include increased water content, reduced minerals and salts, reduced carbohydrates, they may be acidifying and they may also contain substances to reduce stress levels.

Does wet cat food help with a UTI?

Increasing water intake is important as it will increase the flushing through of the bladder and help to get rid of bacteria. Wet food contains about 70 per cent water, compared to 15 per cent for dry food. Additional water can also be added to food, and tasty water – such as water used to boil chicken and then allowed to cool – can also be offered.

How do you prevent urinary problems in cats?

Urine problems in cats frequently have a stress component. Reducing stress will help to prevent urinary problems. Obese male cats are at highest risk, so ensuring your cat maintains a healthy body weight is important. Keeping their litter tray clean, and having more than one litter tray to reduce both contamination and competition for trays in a multi-cat household will also help to prevent problems. Increasing water intake helps to flush the bladder through.

Feeding a urinary diet is the most effective way to prevent future urinary problems. Additional supplements may also be given to both reduce stress and increase the protective lining of the bladder wall.

When should I see a vet?

A true urinary infection needs to be treated quickly to reduce the risk of complications, such as blocked bladder and kidney infection. If your cat is drinking and urinating a lot, straining in the litter tray or has blood in the urine, then it’s important to have your cat checked by a vet.

What should I ask a vet about the best diet for my cat with a UTI?

If your cat has a urinary infection, it is a good idea to ask a vet what changes to a cat’s diet may help. The vet is likely to suggest increasing water intake by feeding wet food or adding water to the food. Urinary diets have reduced mineral and/or protein content, and using a diet to change the pH (acidity or alkalinity) of your cat’s urine may be recommended. Lower calorie foods can also help with weight loss, if your cat is overweight. It often helps to have the label of your pet's current cat food handy to show the vet, so you can discuss if it is appropriate if your cat has a UTI.

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