What Happens If A Cat Has A Uti For Too Long?

What is a UTI in cats?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) in cats is a bacterial infection of the urinary tract. The urinary tract includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. UTIs occur when bacteria, most commonly E. coli, travel up the urethra and into the bladder (https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/urinary-tract-infections-utis-in-cats).

There are several factors that can increase a cat’s risk of developing a UTI, including (https://www.webmd.com/pets/cats/cat-urinary-tract-problems):

  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Bladder stones
  • Anatomical defects
  • Senior age

Common symptoms of a UTI in cats include (https://www.guilfordjamestownvet.com/site/blog-greensboro-vet/2021/05/31/cat-urinary-tract-infection):

  • Frequent urination
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Crying out or straining to urinate
  • Blood in the urine
  • Urinating outside the litter box

If a UTI is left untreated, it can lead to more serious conditions like bladder or kidney infections. Prompt veterinary treatment is important to resolve a cat’s UTI and prevent complications.

How are UTIs diagnosed in cats?

Veterinarians use several diagnostic tests to diagnose UTIs in cats, including:

  • Urinalysis testing – A urine sample is collected and examined under a microscope to look for bacteria, increased white blood cells, and crystals, which can indicate infection or inflammation. The urine’s chemical properties are also tested.

  • Urine culture – A urine sample is cultured in a lab to identify the specific type of bacteria causing the infection and which antibiotics it is susceptible to. This is the most definitive UTI test.

  • Imaging tests – X-rays or ultrasound may be used to examine the urinary tract and look for any obstructions, stones, or other abnormalities contributing to infection.

These diagnostic tests allow vets to confirm a UTI diagnosis and distinguish it from other urinary conditions with similar symptoms. Urinalysis and urine culture are typically the first steps in diagnosing feline UTIs.


What happens if a UTI goes untreated?

If left untreated, a UTI can spread from the bladder to the kidneys, leading to a potentially serious condition called pyelonephritis (source). Kidney infections can cause permanent damage and even kidney failure if not treated promptly.

As the infection spreads, it can enter the bloodstream causing a life-threatening condition called urosepsis or sepsis (source). Sepsis occurs when the body has a severe response to the infection. It is a medical emergency that requires immediate veterinary treatment.

Other potential consequences of an untreated UTI in cats include (source):

  • Bladder or urethral stones
  • Partial or complete obstruction of the urethra
  • Rupture of the bladder

That’s why it’s critical to have a suspected feline UTI diagnosed and treated promptly to avoid severe complications.

Signs of kidney damage from UTI

Kidney damage from a UTI in cats often starts with signs of lower urinary tract disease like increased thirst and urination. As the infection travels up to the kidneys, it can cause more systemic signs of illness.

Some common signs of kidney damage from untreated UTIs in cats include:1

  • Increased thirst and urination – This is often one of the earliest signs of a UTI as the cat tries to flush bacteria out through extra urination.
  • Weight loss – Kitties with kidney damage often have poor appetites and lose weight.
  • Poor appetite – Sick kitties frequently become disinterested in food.
  • Vomiting – Nausea and vomiting can result as toxins build up in the blood when the kidneys aren’t filtering properly.

If a UTI is left untreated long enough to spread to the kidneys, it can cause potentially life-threatening damage. Kidney infections (known as pyelonephritis) require urgent veterinary treatment.2 Catching the signs of kidney trouble early is important to give kitties the best chance of recovery.

Treating UTIs in cats

UTIs in cats are typically treated with antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian. Some common antibiotics used include amoxicillin, cephalexin, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMZ) [1]. The type and dosage of antibiotic will depend on the cat, the severity of the infection, and the particular bacteria causing the UTI.

Along with antibiotics, vets may prescribe pain relievers or anti-inflammatories to help a cat feel more comfortable while the infection clears. Common options include buprenorphine, meloxicam, or steroids. Providing extra hydration is also important, either through encouraging the cat to drink more water or giving subcutaneous fluids.

Most UTIs in cats can be cleared up within 1-2 weeks using antibiotics and increased fluid intake. It’s important to give the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by the vet, even if the cat seems better. Stopping antibiotics too soon can allow the infection to return. Follow up vet visits are usually needed to confirm the UTI has resolved.

Preventing UTIs in cats

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

Increased hydration – Making sure your cat drinks plenty of water is crucial to flushing bacteria out of the urinary tract. Use a water fountain or place multiple water bowls around your home to encourage drinking. Flavoring the water with tuna juice or broth can also entice your cat to drink more. Canned or wet food also has a high water content. https://yourpetandyou.elanco.com/us/health-and-care/uti-symptoms-in-cats-and-prevention

Urinary health diet – Feeding your cat a veterinary diet designed to support urinary tract health may help prevent UTIs. These diets are lower in magnesium, increase urine pH, and contain nutrients to maintain a healthy bladder lining. Always check with your vet before switching foods.

Stress reduction – Stress is a common factor in feline UTIs, so minimizing stressful situations when possible can help. Using pheromone diffusers, keeping litter boxes clean, and making sure your cat feels safe and comfortable in their environment are examples. Adding extra litter boxes and giving your cat “alone time” can also curb stress.

When to see a vet

If your cat has symptoms of a UTI that persist for over 24 hours, it is important to have them seen by a vet as soon as possible. Some key indicators that warrant an urgent vet visit include:

  • Symptoms last more than 24 hours – If signs like frequent urination, straining to urinate, crying out when urinating, or blood in urine persist beyond 24 hours, do not wait to seek veterinary care. The longer the UTI goes untreated, the higher the risk of dangerous complications.
  • Cat seems to be in pain – If your cat cries out, whimpers, or shows other signs of discomfort when trying to urinate, they likely have a painful UTI that requires medication. Getting vet prescribed antibiotics can help clear up the infection and relieve painful urination.
  • Blood in urine – Any presence of blood or reddish color in your cat’s urine is abnormal and requires immediate vet attention. Bloody urine indicates inflammation, infection or more serious conditions like bladder stones or tumors.

Because UTIs can quickly spread to the kidneys and become life threatening, do not delay medical care if your cat has UTI symptoms combined with pain, bloody urine or other concerning signs. Call your vet promptly when in doubt. The sooner treatment begins, the better the outcome for your cat’s UTI recovery.

Caring for a cat with chronic UTIs

Cats with recurring UTIs may need long-term care to prevent infections from returning. According to Bond Vet[1], severe UTIs may require a longer course of antibiotic medication that continues for weeks or months. Your vet may prescribe regular antibiotic therapy for your cat to prevent the infection from recurring.

Feeding your cat a urinary or kidney diet can also help manage chronic UTIs. These prescription cat foods are formulated to support urinary tract health by increasing water intake, making the urine more dilute, and creating an environment that discourages bacterial growth. Your vet may recommend trying this diet long-term.

Depending on your cat’s case, your vet may want to monitor your cat more closely with follow-up exams and urinalysis tests to check the infection. Let your vet know if you notice any returning signs of a UTI in between visits. With your vet’s guidance, caring for a cat with chronic UTIs involves managing symptoms, preventing recurrences, and monitoring your cat’s urinary health.

Outlook and prognosis

The outlook for cats with UTIs is generally excellent with prompt veterinary treatment. According to PetMD, most cats will fully recover within 7-10 days of developing a urinary tract infection when properly diagnosed and treated.

However, there is potential for recurrence, especially if an underlying condition is causing the UTIs. Some cats may experience chronic or recurrent UTIs that require long-term management. Preventative steps should be taken to reduce risk of recurrence, like increasing water consumption, feeding only canned food, and maintaining good litter box hygiene.

Without treatment, UTIs in cats can be fatal. According to WebMD, if left untreated, a UTI can lead to complete blockage of the urethra, kidney failure, or rupture of the bladder. This is why it is critically important to have a cat evaluated by a veterinarian at the first signs of a UTI.

With prompt veterinary care, most cats fully recover from UTIs. However, recurrence is possible and UTIs can become fatal without proper treatment. Prevention and close monitoring are important for cats prone to UTIs.


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

Get annual vet exams. Your vet can check for signs of UTIs during annual wellness exams. They may run urine tests to check for bacteria. Early detection allows for faster treatment.

Increase water intake. Make sure your cat has access to fresh, clean water at all times. Consider getting a cat fountain since running water encourages more drinking. Canned food also has high moisture content. The more your cat urinates, the more they can flush bacteria from their system.

Feed urinary health cat food. There are specialty cat foods made to promote urinary tract health. They contain ingredients like cranberries, antioxidants, omega fatty acids and probiotics. These can make the urinary tract environment less hospitable to bacteria. Consult your vet on the best urinary food options.

Cleaning the litter box frequently, avoiding stress, maintaining an ideal weight, and grooming the hind end can also help reduce UTIs. While not always preventable, being proactive with your cat’s urinary health is important.

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