Why Does My Cat Keep Getting UTIs? The Top Causes Explained


Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common issue in cats, especially as they age. A UTI occurs when bacteria gets into the bladder or kidneys and causes inflammation and infection. UTIs can be acute, happening suddenly, or chronic, recurring frequently. Studies show UTIs affect 14-18% of cats, with higher rates in older cats and cats with other diseases like kidney disease or diabetes.

UTIs in cats can lead to pain, discomfort, blood in the urine, and even more severe kidney and bladder damage if left untreated. Understanding the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of UTIs in cats is important for any cat owner.


There are several potential causes of frequent UTIs in cats:

Bacterial Infections

The most common cause of UTIs in cats is bacterial infection, usually from bacteria like E. coli, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, or Proteus species. These bacteria can enter the urinary tract through the urethra and start multiplying, leading to an infection (VCA Animal Hospitals).

Anatomical Factors

Certain anatomical factors can make some cats more prone to UTIs, such as having a narrow urethra or smaller urinary tract that allows bacteria to ascend more easily. Female cats are at higher risk than males since their urethra is shorter (Cornell Feline Health Center).

Other Diseases

Underlying diseases like diabetes, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, bladder cancer, and bladder stones can increase susceptibility to UTIs by altering the urinary tract environment (Bond Vet). Things like stress, obesity, and poor diet may also be predisposing factors.


Some of the most common symptoms of frequent UTIs in cats include:

  • Increased urination – Cats with UTIs will often try to urinate more frequently and pass only small amounts of urine each time. This is because the infection causes discomfort and irritation in the bladder.
  • Straining – Cats may strain or take a long time trying to urinate since the urethra is inflamed and painful. There is a persistent urge to urinate even when not much urine is present.
  • Blood in urine – Blood may be visible in the urine or give it a red tinge due to damage and inflammation of the urinary tract lining.
  • Vocalizing – Cats may cry or meow when urinating due to the painful, burning sensation caused by the infection.
  • Inappropriate urination – The urgency, discomfort, and inability to hold urine can lead cats to urinate outside the litter box. They may opt for softer surfaces like carpets, bedding, or clothing.

Other symptoms like vomiting, lethargy, and poor appetite may also be present depending on the severity of the infection. Recurrent UTIs can also cause crystals or stones to form in the bladder over time.


The diagnosis of a urinary tract infection (UTI) in cats often begins with a veterinarian performing a urinalysis. Urinalysis involves evaluating a urine sample under a microscope to look for the presence of bacteria, inflammatory cells, and crystals, which can indicate an infection. The urine may also be tested for pH and specific gravity. These tests help identify abnormalities that point to a UTI.

According to Small Door Veterinary, a urine culture is the most definitive diagnostic test for confirming a UTI and identifying the bacteria causing the infection. The urine sample is incubated to allow any bacteria present to multiply. This helps determine the type of bacteria and the appropriate antibiotic treatment.

Imaging such as X-rays or ultrasound may also be recommended. These imaging techniques allow the veterinarian to evaluate the urinary tract for any anatomical abnormalities, stones, or masses that could be contributing to frequent UTIs.


The most common treatment for a UTI in cats is antibiotics. Antibiotics work by killing the bacteria causing the infection. Some commonly prescribed antibiotics for cat UTIs include:[1]

  • Amoxicillin
  • Cephalexin
  • Enrofloxacin
  • Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole

The course of antibiotics is usually 2-4 weeks. It’s important to finish the entire course as prescribed by your veterinarian, even if your cat’s symptoms improve, to fully clear the infection. For recurrent UTIs, a longer course of antibiotics may be needed.

In addition to antibiotics, other treatments focus on increasing water intake to dilute the urine and allow the cat to flush bacteria out of its urinary tract. Feeding canned food or adding water to dry food can help increase hydration. Veterinarians may also recommend urinary health diets.[2]

Treating any underlying conditions, like bladder stones, diabetes, or kidney disease, is also important to help prevent recurrent infections.[3]


The best way to prevent frequent UTIs in cats is by improving hygiene. Scoop litter boxes at least twice daily and completely empty, wash, and refill them weekly. Disinfect litter boxes and bowls regularly with a pet-safe cleaner. Avoid plastic bowls, which can harbor bacteria. Give your cat ample clean, fresh water daily. Consider adding more litter boxes around your home so your cat always has convenient access to relieve themselves (Bondvet).

Making dietary changes can also help prevent UTIs. Feed your cat wet food, which has extra moisture to encourage urination. Reduce dry food, which can contribute to constipation. Ask your vet about urinary health diets designed to support bladder and kidney function. Supplements like glucosamine and omega-3 fatty acids may also help (Elanco).

Female cats are more prone to UTIs than males due to their shorter urethras. Neutering your male cat can help prevent UTIs by eliminating hormone-driven urine marking behaviors. Promptly treat any urinary issues to prevent recurrence. Call your vet at the first signs of discomfort urinating, blood in urine, frequent attempts to go, or crying in the litter box (FetchFind).

When to See a Vet

You should take your cat to the vet if they have recurring UTIs or severe symptoms. Recurring UTIs may indicate an underlying issue that needs further investigation and treatment. Severe symptoms like high fever, lethargy, vomiting, and urinary blockages are medical emergencies requiring immediate veterinary care.

Kittens with UTIs also warrant a vet visit, as their immune systems are still developing. Kittens may be more vulnerable to complications like kidney damage if UTIs go untreated. It’s important to have a vet accurately diagnose and treat the UTI before it spreads further in a kitten’s body.

In general, do not try to treat a UTI at home without a vet’s guidance. While some mild UTIs may resolve on their own, most require prescription medications like antibiotics. Trying to treat a UTI without a proper diagnosis and vet supervision can allow the infection to worsen over time.

Visit your vet promptly if your cat shows signs of a UTI for an exam, urinalysis, and treatment plan. This provides the best chance of resolving the infection before it causes lasting harm.


With prompt veterinary treatment, the prognosis for cats with frequent UTIs is generally good. Most feline UTIs will clear up within 1-2 weeks when treated with appropriate antibiotics like amoxicillin or Clavamox® (as cited from Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in Cats – VCA Animal Hospitals).

However, some complications can arise if UTIs go untreated. Recurrent UTIs are common if the underlying cause is not addressed. In rare cases, a kidney infection called pyelonephritis may develop, which can lead to kidney damage if left untreated (according to UTI in Cats: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention – Bond Vet). Severe, untreated UTIs may also spread systemically and cause fever, lethargy, vomiting, and other symptoms.

The prognosis is best when UTIs are caught and managed early before complications set in. Preventative steps like increased water consumption, diet changes, and litter box hygiene can help reduce recurrence. Overall, the majority of cats recover fully from UTIs with veterinary care and monitoring.

Other Considerations

Treating frequent UTIs in cats can incur costs that impact the quality of life for both the cat and its owner. Medications like antibiotics and pain relievers, diagnostic tests, and veterinary visits can add up quickly (VCA Animal Hospitals). It’s important for cat owners to factor in these potential expenses when deciding on a treatment plan. Some possible ways to reduce costs include using generic medications when available, working with the vet to only run essential diagnostic tests, and monitoring the cat at home when feasible to avoid unnecessary vet visits. However, cutting corners too much could lead to chronic UTIs and worsening of the cat’s condition in the long run.

Frequent UTIs and their treatments can also negatively impact a cat’s quality of life. Symptoms like dysuria and frequent urination are uncomfortable for cats. Side effects of medications, vet visits, and even urinary catheters cause additional stress. At the same time, allowing UTIs to persist untreated can lead to life-threatening complications. Working closely with the veterinarian to find the most effective treatment with minimal side effects is key to preserving a good quality of life.


In summary, frequent UTIs in cats are usually caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract. Common symptoms include frequent urination, straining to urinate, blood in the urine, and crying while urinating. To diagnose frequent UTIs, vets will take a urine sample and send it for culture and sensitivity testing. Treatment involves antibiotics prescribed by a vet. Prevention focuses on increasing water intake, feeding wet food, and keeping the litter box clean. If UTIs keep recurring, additional tests may be needed to look for underlying causes. With prompt treatment and prevention methods, the outlook for cats with frequent UTIs is good.

The key is to have your vet diagnose the UTI and prescribe the right antibiotic. Give all medication as directed and finish the full course even if symptoms improve. Try the prevention tips to reduce future recurrences. See your vet promptly if symptoms return after finishing treatment. Frequent UTIs in cats can often be cured and prevented with the right medical care and home care techniques.

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