Can Antibiotics Conquer Your Cat’s UTI?


A urinary tract infection (UTI) in cats is defined as a bacterial infection of any part of the urinary system, including the bladder, urethra, ureters, and kidneys. UTIs are caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract and multiply in the bladder or kidneys. Common symptoms of UTIs in cats include increased urination, straining to urinate, blood in the urine, and vocalizing while urinating. UTIs are diagnosed through urine culture and urinalysis. Treatment typically involves antibiotics, though recurring infections may require additional medications or therapies.

Causes of UTIs in cats include bacteria entering the urinary tract, bladder stones or crystals, tumors, anatomical defects, and conditions that compromise the immune system. Prompt diagnosis and treatment is important to relieve discomfort and prevent complications like kidney damage. While UTIs in cats can often be cured with a course of antibiotics, some cats may experience chronic or recurring infections that require ongoing management.

Causes of UTIs in Cats

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) in cats are often caused by bacteria, especially Escherichia coli (E. coli), which is commonly found in feces. E. coli gains access to the urinary tract through the urethra and begins to multiply, infecting the bladder and sometimes even reaching the kidneys. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, E. coli is the most common organism known to cause UTIs in cats.

Bladder stones or crystals can also lead to UTIs in cats. These stones irritate the lining of the bladder, making it easier for bacteria to take hold and grow. Struvite crystals in particular can foster infection.

Certain anatomical defects may also predispose cats to UTIs. For example, some cats are born with abnormal openings around the urethra that allow bacteria to get into the bladder more easily. Narrowing of the urethra, called urethral stricture, can also impede the flow of urine and increase UTI risk.

Less common causes of UTIs include trauma to the urinary tract, tumors or polyps in the bladder, bladder dysfunction, and congenital deformities like ectopic ureters. Certain medical conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism are linked to increased UTI susceptibility as well.

Underlying reasons why UTIs develop in cats are not always identified. But prompt veterinary attention and appropriate treatment are important for relieving symptoms and preventing complications.

Symptoms of UTIs in Cats

The most common symptoms of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in cats include frequent and painful urination, urinating small amounts, blood in the urine, and excessive licking of the genital area, according to veterinarians.

Cats with UTIs will often have an increased urge to urinate but struggle to pass more than a small amount of urine each time. They may frequently enter the litter box but produce little output. Cats may vocalize pain or discomfort when urinating. The urge to urinate persists even right after urinating due to inflammation in the urinary tract.

In some cases, blood may be visible in the cat’s urine, which indicates inflammation or irritation in the urinary tract. The blood is not usually visible to the naked eye but may turn the urine a pink or reddish tinge.

Licking or irritation around the genital area is another potential symptom. The cat may frequently lick its urethra or genitals due to the discomfort or burning sensation caused by a UTI.

If a cat displays these urinary symptoms, it is important to see a veterinarian to check for a possible UTI. Quick diagnosis and treatment can help relieve painful symptoms and prevent the infection from worsening. Left untreated, UTIs can spread to the kidneys and lead to serious health complications.

Diagnosing UTIs in Cats

There are several methods vets use to diagnose UTIs in cats:

Urine sample testing: Vets will take a urine sample and analyze it under a microscope to check for bacteria, white blood cells, and crystals, which can indicate an infection. They may also do a urine culture to identify the specific bacteria causing the infection [1].

Ultrasound: An ultrasound of the bladder and urinary tract allows vets to get visuals of the organs and look for issues like inflammation, stones, tumors, etc. that could be causing symptoms [2].

X-rays: X-rays can help detect bladder stones or other abnormalities that may be contributing to a UTI.

Urine culture: This test grows the bacteria from a urine sample to identify the specific type of bacteria causing the infection. This allows vets to select the appropriate antibiotic for treatment [3].

Treating UTIs in Cats

Treatment for UTIs in cats usually involves a combination of antibiotics, pain relievers, diet changes, and fluid therapy. Here are some of the common treatments:

Antibiotics: Antibiotics are usually the first line of treatment for cat UTIs in order to kill the bacteria causing the infection. Some common antibiotics prescribed include Amoxicillin and Orbifloxacin. It’s important to give the full course as prescribed by your vet, even if symptoms improve, to fully eliminate the infection. Source

Pain Relievers: Medications like Phenylpropanolamine may be prescribed to help relax the urethra and make urinating less painful. Reducing inflammation and discomfort helps cats urinate normally. Source

Diet Changes: Your vet may recommend feeding more wet food or adding water to dry food to increase hydration. Staying hydrated dilutes the urine so irritants are less likely to cause inflammation. Prescription urinary or stress diet foods may also help. Source

Fluid Therapy: If your cat is dehydrated, fluid therapy with intravenous or subcutaneous fluids can help flush bacteria from the urinary tract. Hospitalization for a day or two may be needed for initial treatment. Source

Can UTIs in Cats Be Cured?

UTIs are generally treatable and curable in cats if caught early, according to veterinarians ( The key is starting antibiotics and treatment as soon as symptoms appear. Completing the full prescribed course of antibiotics is crucial, even if your cat seems better after just a few days.

In most cases, cats will fully recover from a UTI within 7-10 days of starting treatment, though they may need to remain on a canned urinary diet for longer ( However, some cats may have recurring UTIs if the underlying cause is not addressed. Certain breeds like Persians and Himalayans are prone to chronic UTIs.

While UTIs are treatable, it’s important not to stop antibiotics prematurely. Work closely with your vet to ensure your cat finishes the entire course as prescribed. This helps prevent antibiotic resistance and ensures the infection is fully cured. With prompt veterinary treatment and care at home, most UTIs in cats can be cured.

Preventing Recurring UTIs

Once a cat has had a UTI, there are several things you can do to help prevent recurring infections:

Prescription Diet: Veterinarians may recommend feeding a prescription urinary or kidney diet like Hill’s c/d or Royal Canin Urinary SO. These diets help regulate urine pH and mineral levels to promote urinary tract health (source).

Increased Water Intake: Make sure your cat has access to plenty of fresh, clean water at all times. Consider getting a cat water fountain to encourage drinking. Wet food can also increase moisture intake (source).

Veterinary Follow-Ups: Your vet will likely want to do periodic urinalyses and urine cultures, even when your cat seems healthy. This allows early detection and treatment of any recurrent infections.

Sanitary Litter Habits: Scoop urine clumps from the litter box daily. Empty the litter box 1-2 times per week and clean thoroughly with soap and hot water to remove bacteria (source).

When to See a Vet

If you notice any of the symptoms of a UTI in your cat, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian right away. Some signs like frequent urination or blood in the urine indicate the infection may be progressing, so prompt veterinary care is recommended.

You should also bring your cat in for annual wellness checkups, even if they seem healthy. Vets can check for early signs of a UTI or other illness during routine exams. An annual urinalysis and bloodwork can identify problems before symptoms appear.

If your cat has had a UTI before, be alert for any recurrence of symptoms. Recurrent UTIs may indicate an underlying condition, so contact your vet if the infection comes back after treatment.

Getting veterinary care at the first sign of a UTI, as well as maintaining preventative care, gives your cat the best chance of full recovery and helps prevent complications from the infection worsening over time.

Outlook for Cats with UTIs

The outlook for cats with UTIs is generally excellent with prompt veterinary treatment. Most cats will fully recover within 7-10 days of developing a urinary tract infection when prescribed a course of antibiotics and supportive care like increased fluids (1). However, there is potential for recurrence which means ongoing monitoring is important. Some cats may be prone to chronic or recurring UTIs depending on underlying factors.

Rarely, a UTI can progress to a more serious kidney infection called pyelonephritis. But as long as the UTI is caught and treated early, this complication is unlikely. Life-threatening problems are very rare if the UTI is appropriately diagnosed and treated (1). With veterinary care and owner vigilance about signs of another UTI, most cats go on to live long and healthy lives.

Overall, UTIs in cats have a favorable outlook in the vast majority of cases. Prompt treatment leads to a full recovery. While recurrence is possible and requires continued monitoring, UTIs rarely pose a serious threat to a cat’s long-term health and wellbeing.

The Bottom Line

UTIs in cats are typically caused by bacteria and can cause symptoms like frequent urination, blood in urine, and urinary accidents. While uncomfortable, UTIs in cats can often be cured with a round of antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian. Early detection and treatment is key, as prolonged infections can spread to the kidneys and become much more difficult to cure.

Some cats are prone to recurring UTIs, especially if an underlying condition like bladder stones is present. In these cases, the UTIs themselves can be cured with antibiotics, but lifelong management may be needed to prevent infections from returning. This usually involves a special diet and monitoring for symptoms. With diligent care from pet owners, recurring UTIs in cats can often be well-managed.

Overall, UTIs in cats should never be ignored. Left untreated, they can cause serious complications. But with prompt veterinary care and proper follow-up, the prognosis for cats with UTIs is generally very good. While recurring infections are possible, they can typically be controlled with lifestyle changes, diet, and close monitoring. So while UTIs in cats may not always be permanently “cured”, they can often be effectively managed for a good quality of life.

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