How Do House Cats Get Uti?


Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common medical issue for cats, especially as they age. A UTI occurs when bacteria get into the urinary tract and multiply, causing inflammation and infection. UTIs in cats can lead to discomfort, pain, and even life-threatening conditions if left untreated. In this article, we will cover the basics of feline UTIs including the causes, risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, home care tips, ways to prevent UTIs, and when to seek veterinary assistance.

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. It is caused by bacteria that enters the urinary tract and multiplies in the urine (Cat Urinary Tract Problems and Infections).

The most common bacteria that causes UTIs in cats are Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Enterococcus species (New Information on Bacterial Cystitis in Cats). As the bacteria multiply, it irritates the lining of the urinary tract, causing inflammation, pain, and further urinary issues.

Common symptoms of a feline UTI include (Cat Urinary Tract Problems and Infections):

  • Frequent urination
  • Painful urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Straining or crying when urinating
  • Urinating outside the litter box
  • Excessive licking of the urinary opening

If left untreated, UTIs in cats can lead to more severe kidney infections, bladder stones, and other complications.

Causes of UTI in Cats

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

Bacteria: One of the most common causes of UTIs in cats is bacteria, usually Escherichia coli (E. coli), which is found in feces. Bacteria can enter the urinary tract and multiply, leading to an infection. This is more likely to occur if there is a pre-existing condition that impairs the body’s ability to flush out bacteria before they can propagate.

Crystals: Some cats, especially males, can develop crystals in their urine which can cause small lacerations and abrasions in the bladder wall. These damaged spots allow bacteria to take hold, resulting in infection. Common crystals found in cats include struvite, calcium oxalate, and urate crystals. Certain diets and medications can help dissolve these crystals [1].

Bladder stones: Also known as uroliths or calculi, bladder stones are rock-like formations of minerals that develop in the urinary bladder. They can irritate the bladder wall, leading to infection. Stones can sometimes form around bacterial colonies already present in the bladder. Like crystals, special diets and medications can help manage bladder stones in cats [2].

Anatomical defects: Abnormalities in a cat’s lower urinary tract anatomy can increase susceptibility to UTIs. Examples include ureteral strictures, ectopic ureters, bladder stones, and bladder polyps. These defects can cause urine to flow backward or become trapped, allowing bacteria accumulation.

In addition to these common causes, other factors like tumors, trauma, and congenital malformations may also lead to UTIs in cats.



Risk Factors

Certain cats are at higher risk for developing UTIs than others. Age is one factor, with very young and very old cats being most susceptible. Gender also plays a role, as female cats are more prone due to their shorter urethras. Diet can be a contributor if a cat does not get enough water or has an inappropriate pH, which allows bacteria to thrive. Obesity is problematic because the extra weight puts pressure on the bladder. Stress is another element, as it can cause inflammation and lower immunity. According to research, “Lower urinary tract signs were absent in 35.5% of cats with UTI” (


Cats with UTIs often exhibit the following symptoms:

Frequent urination: Cats with UTIs will need to urinate more often, but only pass small amounts of urine each time. This is because the infection causes an urgent need to urinate, even when the bladder is not full. Source

Straining to urinate: A UTI can make urination painful and difficult, so cats may strain or struggle when trying to pee. They will take a long time in the litter box but only pass a little urine.

Blood in urine: The inflammation from a UTI can cause bleeding in the urinary tract, leading to visible blood in the cat’s urine. This symptom warrants immediate veterinary attention.

Crying out when urinating: Due to the pain and discomfort associated with a UTI, cats may cry out or whine when trying to pee. This vocalization indicates they are experiencing pain.

Licking genitals: The urge to frequently urinate leads some cats to compulsively lick their genital area. The irritation from infection can also cause genital licking.


If a UTI is suspected, the veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam and obtain samples for diagnostic testing. The main diagnostic tests are a urinalysis and urine culture.

Urinalysis involves examining a urine sample under a microscope to look for signs of infection, such as bacteria, white blood cells, and crystals. The urine’s chemical properties are also analyzed for factors indicating infection or other abnormalities.

A urine culture is considered the gold standard for diagnosing a UTI. The sample is incubated to allow any bacteria present to multiply. This allows the vet to identify the specific bacteria causing the infection and determine the appropriate antibiotic for treatment. Urine cultures provide a definitive diagnosis and guide treatment decisions.

Imaging tests like x-rays or ultrasound may also be recommended if there are complications or the vet suspects anatomical abnormalities. These can identify bladder stones, tumors, or other issues contributing to the UTI.



The main treatments for UTIs in cats are antibiotics, dietary changes, and surgery in some cases.[1] Antibiotics are usually the first line of treatment prescribed by vets to fight the infection and provide fast relief. Common antibiotics used include amoxicillin, cephalosporins like cefpodoxime, and fluoroquinolones like enrofloxacin. It’s important to give the full course as prescribed, even if symptoms improve, to completely clear the infection.

Dietary changes may also help cats with frequent UTIs. Increasing water intake by feeding wet food, adding water to dry food, or using cat fountains can help dilute the urine and flush out bacteria. Special veterinary urinary or stress diets lower urine pH and increase minerals to prevent crystal formation. Reducing stress and providing extra litter boxes can also help.

For recurring UTIs that don’t respond to antibiotics or dietary changes, surgery may be recommended. This may involve widening the urethra, removing bladder stones, or performing a perineal urethrostomy to relocate the urethral opening in male cats. These solutions allow urine to pass more easily and prevent bacteria from accumulating.


Home Care

There are some simple home remedies that may help relieve your cat’s UTI symptoms and speed up recovery:

Increase water intake – Make sure your cat has access to fresh, clean water at all times. Consider getting a cat water fountain to encourage drinking. Increased hydration will help flush bacteria from the urinary tract.[1]

Maintain a clean, sanitary litter box – Scoop waste from the litter box daily and completely replace the litter at least once a week. Unclean litter boxes can harbor bacteria that contribute to UTIs.[2]

Reduce stress – Environmental stress can make cats more prone to UTIs. Try to minimize changes to your cat’s routine and make sure they have a quiet place to retreat when needed. You can also try calming supplements or pheromone diffusers.

While home care can provide some relief, veterinary treatment is still required for most cat UTIs. Home remedies should never replace medical care from a licensed veterinarian.


There are several ways to help prevent UTIs in cats:

Hydration: Ensuring your cat drinks plenty of water is crucial for preventing UTIs. Increased water consumption helps flush bacteria from your cat’s urinary tract. Provide fresh, clean water at multiple stations around your home. Consider getting a cat water fountain since cats prefer moving water. You can also add a little low-sodium broth or tuna juice to their water to entice them to drink more.

Urinary health diet: Feeding your cat a veterinary urinary health diet supports bladder and urinary tract health. These foods contain nutrients that make the urine more alkaline, which discourages bacterial growth. They also have reduced magnesium to prevent crystals. Talk to your vet about switching your cat to a prescription urinary health food.

Reduce stressors: Stress can contribute to UTIs in cats. Try to minimize stressful events like changes to their routine, introducing new pets, loud noises, etc. Make sure litter boxes are kept clean and are easy for your cat to access. Providing hiding spots, cat trees, and playtime can also help reduce stress.

When to See a Vet

If your cat is exhibiting any symptoms of a potential UTI, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian right away. Some key signs that warrant an urgent vet visit include:

  • Frequent and painful urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Excessive licking around the genital area
  • Crying out while trying to urinate
  • Straining to urinate but producing little urine
  • Urinating outside of the litter box

You should also contact your vet if your cat has a history of recurrent UTIs. Repeated infections can indicate an underlying issue that needs further evaluation. In some cases, your vet may recommend a urine culture test and a prolonged course of antibiotics to fully clear the infection.

Even if your cat doesn’t show signs of a UTI, you should still contact your vet promptly for other concerning symptoms like lethargy, appetite changes, vomiting, and abnormal urination habits. Catching any health issues early maximizes the chances of effective treatment.

Seeking timely veterinary care is crucial, as UTIs can quickly escalate into more dangerous kidney and bladder infections if left untreated. Don’t hesitate to call your vet if your cat’s symptoms concern you.

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