Is a Feline UTI a Death Sentence for Senior Cats?


Urinary tract infections (UTIs) in cats are bacterial infections of the urinary system, including the urethra, bladder, and ureters. They occur when bacteria, often from the gastrointestinal tract, enter and multiply within the urinary tract. UTIs in cats can lead to discomfort, pain, and even life-threatening conditions if left untreated.

UTIs are more common in older cats, especially those with other medical conditions like kidney disease or diabetes. However, UTIs can occur in cats of any breed, age, or sex. Some cats are simply more prone to developing UTIs due to genetic factors.

While UTIs in cats can cause severe symptoms, they are treatable infections. However, if not addressed promptly, they can lead to kidney damage and other complications. Understanding the causes, risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment of feline UTIs is key to properly managing this condition in cats.

Symptoms of UTIs in Cats

Cats with UTIs often display symptoms related to urination. The most common symptoms include:[1]

  • Straining to urinate
  • Frequent urination, but only passing small amounts of urine
  • Blood in the urine (hematuria)
  • Crying out while urinating due to pain or discomfort

Other possible UTI symptoms in cats include urinating outside the litter box, appearing to have difficulty urinating, and excessive licking of the genital area. In some cases a cat may stop urinating altogether due to a blocked urethra.[2]

These signs can indicate inflammation, irritation, or infection in the urinary tract. Catching the symptoms early allows for prompt treatment and prevents more severe complications.

If a cat displays any of these symptoms, it’s important to take them to a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. Left untreated, UTIs in cats can lead to painful bladder and kidney infections.[3]

  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. [3]

Causes of UTIs in Cats

There are several potential causes of urinary tract infections in cats:

  • Bacteria – The most common cause of UTIs in cats is a bacterial infection, usually with Escherichia coli bacteria. This bacteria is commonly found in feces and can make its way into the urinary tract. Once inside, E. coli multiplies and causes inflammation and infection (Source).

  • Bladder stones – Struvite and calcium oxalate stones can cause irritation and infection in the bladder. These stones obstruct the flow of urine and provide places for bacteria to multiply (Source).

  • Tumors – Tumors in the urinary tract, especially the bladder, can get infected and lead to UTIs. Tumors cause obstruction and interfere with the normal emptying of the bladder (Source).

  • Anatomical defects – Birth defects that alter the normal urinary tract structure can increase susceptibility to UTIs. Conditions like ectopic ureters, which empty the ureters in an abnormal location, can cause urine to pool and become infected (Source).

Risk Factors for UTIs in Cats

Certain cats may be at an increased risk of developing urinary tract infections compared to others. Some of the main risk factors include:

Older cats are more prone to UTIs, with incidence increasing significantly over the age of 10 years old. This is likely due to weaker immune systems and other age-related changes that make bacterial infections more common.[1]

Female cats are at higher risk than males, partially due to their shorter urethras which allow bacteria easier access to the bladder. Up to 3-4 times as many female cats develop UTIs compared to males.[2]

Obesity increases susceptibility to UTIs in cats. Excess weight puts pressure on the bladder and urinary tract. Obese cats have higher risks of crystal and stone formation.[3]

Diabetes is a risk factor, as elevated blood sugar enables bacterial growth and impairs immune function. UTIs affect 5-10% of diabetic cats.[2]


There are several ways that veterinarians diagnose UTIs in cats:

Urinalysis: The most common diagnostic test for UTIs is a urinalysis, which examines the cat’s urine for signs of infection such as the presence of bacteria, increased white blood cells, and crystals. The urine sample needs to be fresh, so vets often obtain it by cystocentesis, inserting a needle into the bladder to get an uncontaminated sample. [1]

Urine culture: While a urinalysis can reveal indicators of a UTI, a urine culture is needed to confirm infection and identify the specific bacteria causing it. The urine sample is incubated to allow any bacteria present to multiply so they can be identified. [2]

Imaging tests: X-rays, ultrasounds, or other imaging techniques may be used to evaluate the kidneys, bladder, and urethra for any abnormalities, stones, masses, or structural issues. These tests can aid diagnosis and help determine appropriate treatment. [3]


Treatment for urinary tract infections in cats often includes antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian. Common antibiotics used include amoxicillin, cephalexin, trimethoprim-sulfa, and enrofloxacin. The antibiotic choice depends on the type of bacteria causing the infection, which is determined through a urine culture. Antibiotics are usually given for 2-4 weeks to fully clear the infection. It’s important to complete the full course as prescribed, even if symptoms improve sooner. In severe or recurrent cases, intravenous antibiotic therapy may be needed.

In addition to antibiotics, keeping the cat well hydrated is crucial. Increasing water intake helps flush bacteria from the urinary tract. Feeding wet food, adding water to dry food, using flavored waters, and placing multiple water bowls around the home can all help increase hydration. Restricting or changing the diet may also help. Prescription urinary foods lower urinary pH, increase water consumption, and prevent crystal formation.

Home remedies like cranberries, vitamins, and herbs are sometimes tried, but there is little evidence of their effectiveness. Without proper treatment, UTIs can lead to dangerous complications, so antibiotics and veterinary care are strongly recommended.



Left untreated, cat UTIs can lead to some serious complications, especially in elderly cats. Some potential complications include:

Kidney damage – UTIs that spread to the kidneys, called pyelonephritis, can cause permanent damage and scarring. According to VCA Hospitals, kidney infections tend to cause more severe illness in cats.

Recurrent infections – Even after treatment, some cats may experience recurring UTIs. Underlying causes like bladder stones, anatomical defects, or impaired immune systems can make cats prone to repeated infections. As noted by WebMD, recurrent UTIs may require long-term antibiotic use.

Sepsis – If bacteria from the UTI enters the bloodstream, it can lead to sepsis. This is a life-threatening reaction to the infection. According to Fremont Veterinary Clinic, sepsis requires immediate veterinary care and hospitalization for treatment.


The prognosis for cats with UTIs is generally good if treated promptly, according to PetMD[1]. With appropriate antibiotic treatment, most cats will fully recover within 7-10 days. However, recurrence of UTIs is relatively common in cats, especially females. Recurrent UTIs can lead to more severe kidney problems if left untreated. According to Small Door Veterinary[2], the prognosis is worse for recurrent UTIs as repeated inflammation can cause scarring in the urinary tract. This scarring can lead to obstructions that prevent the proper flow of urine. For cats that respond well to initial treatment and UTI recurs less frequently, the long-term outlook can still be good.




There are several steps cat owners can take to help prevent UTIs in their cats:

Increased water intake is important. Always provide fresh, clean water and consider getting a cat water fountain, which encourages drinking. Feed wet cat food, which has high moisture content. You can also add water to dry food.

Feed urinary or senior cat foods, which are formulated to support urinary tract health. These foods often contain reduced magnesium and increased moisture. Ask your vet for specific diet recommendations.

Probiotics and supplements may be helpful. Some vets recommend D-mannose, a sugar that helps flush bacteria from the urinary tract. There are also probiotics made specifically for urinary and kidney health in cats.

Keep the litter box clean and provide multiple boxes, as cats don’t like dirty litter boxes. Use unscented clumping litter.

Reduce stress for your cat, which can influence urinary health. Make sure their environment is calm with proper socialization time.

Bring your cat to the vet regularly for wellness checks. Stay alert for potential UTI symptoms so you can get early treatment.


In summary, urinary tract infections in cats, especially elderly cats, can be dangerous if left untreated. However, fatalities are rare if the UTI is properly diagnosed and treated in a timely manner. The key points are:

  • UTIs in cats often cause symptoms like frequent urination, blood in urine, and crying while urinating.
  • Bacteria, crystals, bladder stones, tumors, and other issues can cause UTIs in cats.
  • Elderly cats are at higher risk due to weaker immune systems and other age-related factors.
  • Veterinarians can diagnose UTIs through urinalysis, urine culture, bloodwork, and imaging tests.
  • Antibiotics, dietary changes, fluids, and sometimes surgery are used to treat the infection.
  • Without treatment, UTIs can spread, leading to kidney damage, sepsis, and even death.
  • With prompt veterinary care, most cats fully recover from UTIs with no long-term effects.
  • Increasing water intake and urinating frequently helps prevent UTIs in cats.

While UTIs in elderly cats can be dangerous, proper diagnosis and treatment leads to positive outcomes in most cases. Close monitoring and preventative care reduces the risks and fatalities associated with feline UTIs.

Scroll to Top