Cats With UTIs. Why Do They Vomit?


Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common health issue in cats, especially as they age. They occur when bacteria enters the urinary tract and multiplies in the bladder. UTIs in cats can cause symptoms like frequent urination, pain or crying when urinating, blood in the urine, and excessive licking of the genital area. Left untreated, UTIs can spread to the kidneys and become a more serious infection.

According to Cat Urinary Tract Infection – What You Need To Know, some of the most common symptoms of UTIs in cats include straining to urinate, urinating only small amounts, not urinating at all, and pain while urinating. Cats may frequently enter and exit the litter box when trying to urinate. They may also vocalize when urinating due to discomfort or irritation.

It’s important to watch for signs of a UTI in cats and contact your veterinarian if symptoms are observed. UTIs can usually be diagnosed and treated quickly with antibiotics prescribed by your vet. Left untreated, the infection can spread and lead to more serious health complications.

What is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of a cat’s urinary system, including the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra. Generally, a UTI occurs when bacteria travel up the urethra (the tube through which urine exits the body) and into the bladder. Urine in the bladder is sterile, so the presence of bacteria indicates an infection (VCA Animal Hospitals, 2022).

Most UTIs in cats are caused by bacteria like E. coli or Staphylococcus that normally live in the gastrointestinal tract but make their way into the urinary tract. Once in the bladder, the bacteria begin to multiply rapidly, infecting the urine and tissues lining the bladder. This leads to inflammation and irritation of the bladder and urethra (Guilford JamesTown Vet, 2021).

Common Symptoms of UTI in Cats

There are several common symptoms of UTI in cats that cat owners should look out for. Some of the most common include:


Dysuria refers to difficulty or pain when urinating. Cats with UTI may cry out or show signs of straining and discomfort when trying to urinate 1. They may frequently visit the litter box but only pass small amounts of urine each time. Dysuria is one of the most telling signs of a lower urinary tract problem like UTI.


Hematuria is the medical term for blood in the urine. Cat owners may notice blood droplets or pinkish discoloration in the litter box. This occurs because the inflammation and irritation caused by the UTI can cause bleeding in the urinary tract. Hematuria warrants prompt veterinary attention 2.

Excessive Licking

Some cats with UTI lick their genital area excessively due to the discomfort and irritation. The area may appear red and inflamed. Excessive licking should not be ignored as it is likely a sign of an underlying problem.

Urinary Accidents

Litter box accidents outside the box can occur with UTI, even in cats that are normally well-trained. This happens when the cat feels a urgent need to urinate due to the UTI but is unable to make it to the litter box in time. Urinary accidents combined with the other symptoms mentioned above indicate a veterinary visit is needed.

Is Vomiting a Symptom of UTI in Cats?

Vomiting is not a direct symptom of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in cats. However, severe or prolonged UTIs can sometimes lead to vomiting as a secondary symptom.

UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract and multiply, causing inflammation and infection. The most common symptoms of feline UTIs include frequent and painful urination, blood in the urine, and straining to urinate. These are considered the primary signs of a UTI.

Vomiting tends to occur after the infection has progressed or caused secondary complications. For example, some cats may vomit if the UTI leads to a complete blockage of the urethra, causing a buildup of toxins in the blood. Vomiting can also result from nausea, loss of appetite, or dehydration associated with a severe UTI.

While vomiting alone is rarely a sign of a UTI, it should not be dismissed. Cats that vomit in combination with other UTI symptoms like inappropriate urination, bloody urine, or straining to urinate should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Prompt treatment is important to relieve discomfort and prevent serious complications in the kidneys or bladder.

Causes of Vomiting with UTI

Vomiting is not a primary symptom of UTI in cats, but some cats may vomit if the UTI is particularly severe. There are a few potential causes of vomiting with UTI:

  • Severe UTI Infection: In severe cases, the infection and inflammation can spread up the urinary tract and impact the kidneys. This is called pyelonephritis. The kidney damage and overall sickness from the infection can sometimes lead to nausea and vomiting.

  • Kidney Problems: UTIs that spread to the kidneys can potentially cause kidney infections, damage, or kidney failure. Vomiting is a common symptom of kidney disease in cats as toxins build up in the bloodstream.

  • Side Effects of Medication: Antibiotics like amoxicillin are commonly used to treat UTIs in cats. Some cats may experience nausea or vomiting as a side effect of the antibiotic medication.

It’s important to monitor vomiting and seek veterinary care if it persists, as it may indicate kidney involvement or a severe UTI infection requiring prompt treatment.

When to See the Vet

If your cat begins vomiting frequently, seems lethargic, has bloody urine, or shows other concerning symptoms, it’s important to take them to the vet right away. According to Heritage Animal Hospital, you should see a vet as soon as possible if your cat has a potential UTI to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Cats can deteriorate quickly when suffering from a UTI, so it’s crucial not to wait. Frequent vomiting and lethargy are especially worrying signs that point to the infection spreading or kidney damage occurring. Other red flags include straining to urinate with little or no urine produced, crying out while urinating, and loss of bladder control or urine in unusual places. The sooner treatment begins, the better the prognosis for your cat’s recovery.

While home remedies may provide temporary relief, they cannot cure a UTI. Onlyprompt veterinary care and antibiotics can fully resolve the infection and prevent lasting harm. So if your cat displays frequent vomiting, lethargy, bloody urine, straining, or other UTI symptoms, call your vet right away or go to an emergency animal hospital. Quick action gives your cat the best chance at a smooth recovery.


To diagnose a UTI in cats, vets will typically start with a urinalysis. This involves collecting a urine sample and examining it under a microscope. The vet will look for an increased number of white blood cells, bacteria, and crystals, which can indicate infection or inflammation. A urine culture may also be done, where the urine sample is incubated to allow any bacteria present to multiply. This helps identify the specific bacteria causing the infection.

In addition to urinalysis and culture, the vet may run bloodwork. This can help check kidney function and look for conditions like diabetes that may make a cat prone to UTIs. Bloodwork also allows the vet to assess the cat’s overall health status.

For male cats in particular, the vet may palpate the bladder through the abdominal wall to feel for swelling, pain, or bladder stones. Gentle palpation of the urethra may also be done. Special imaging like X-rays or ultrasound can help detect bladder stones or tumors if those are suspected as an underlying cause. Vets will perform a thorough diagnostic workup to discern the exact nature and cause of any lower urinary tract signs.

Overall, urinalysis and urine culture are the primary diagnostic tests for UTIs in cats. Bloodwork provides additional information about overall health and may point to complicating factors. Male cats may undergo palpation and imaging to fully evaluate the urinary tract. A complete diagnostic picture allows vets to choose the most effective UTI treatment.


The primary treatment for a UTI in cats is antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian. Some common antibiotics used include amoxicillin, cephalexin, and trimethoprim-sulfa. The antibiotic course is usually 2-4 weeks. It’s important to give the full course as prescribed by your vet, even if your cat seems better, to ensure the infection is fully cleared. Follow all dosage instructions carefully.

Pain medication may also be prescribed to help with discomfort during urination. Common pain medications include buprenex and meloxicam. These can provide relief while the antibiotics work to clear the infection.

Your vet may recommend switching to a special urinary or bladder health cat food during treatment and after. These foods are formulated to promote more dilute urine and a balanced pH to prevent crystals from forming. Your cat should have ample clean water access as well.

In severe cases when the cat is not able to urinate at all, catheterization or even surgery may be needed to unblock the urethra and allow urine to pass. Thankfully these cases are less common if caught and treated promptly.

Be sure to follow up with your vet after treatment is complete to ensure the UTI has fully resolved. Your vet can do a recheck urinalysis if needed.


Home Care

Treating a cat’s UTI at home requires some changes to their care routine. Here are some tips for home care:[1][2]

Encourage Water Intake: Making sure your cat is drinking plenty of water is crucial for flushing bacteria from their urinary tract. Provide fresh water in multiple locations around the house. Consider getting a cat fountain, as running water encourages drinking. Offer wet food, broths, or tuna juice, which all add fluid.

Dietary Changes: Feed exclusively wet food, as the moisture content is higher than dry kibble. Avoid dry food completely or add broth to rehydrate it. Feed raw food or add oils like salmon oil. Reduce ash and magnesium in food to avoid crystals. Consult your vet on the best diet.

Litter Box Hygiene: Scoop waste from litter boxes 2-3 times daily. Clean boxes weekly with mild soap and hot water. Use unscented clumping litter. Have at least one box per cat, in quiet locations. Cat attractant litters can encourage use.

With some adjustments to their care, many UTIs can be managed at home. But consult your vet if symptoms persist or worsen.



There are several ways to help prevent UTIs in cats:

Increase your cat’s water intake – Making sure your cat drinks plenty of water is crucial for flushing bacteria out of the urinary tract. Provide fresh, clean water in multiple locations around the house. Consider getting a cat water fountain, as running water encourages more drinking. Feed wet cat food, which has high moisture content. Avoid dry food, which can contribute to dehydration.[1]

Feed a high quality diet – Look for cat food with meat as the first ingredient and minimal fillers. Avoid feeding human food. Stick to a scheduled feeding time rather than free-feeding, as obesity can increase UTI risk.[2]

Consider probiotics or supplements – Probiotics support urinary tract health by promoting good bacteria. D-mannose is a supplement that prevents bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall. Ask your vet for recommended products.[3]

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