Cystitis in Cats


Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder, which is seen as discomfort urinating or going more frequency, sometimes you may see blood in the urine or your cat may be urinating in inappropriate places in the house. Cystitis can cause obstruction as well which can be life threatening and must be treated very quickly. Obstructive cystitis is more likely to occur in male cats as they have a narrower tube from the bladder compared to females; with obstruction the cat will try to urinate but not produce anything, this can occur even when not obstructed due to the irritation so the only way to check is to assess the size and firmness of the bladder. It can be mistaken for constipation.

Cystitis in young cats is most commonly idiopathic (no known cause) and can be frustrating. This often lasts 5 to 7 days and can resolve with or without treatment though can lead to obstruction and pain relief can speed recovery. Other causes of cystitis can occur in cats such as bladder stones or bacterial cystitis, damage to the urinary system or cancer. If your cat keeps getting cystitis very regularly i.e. monthly or their cystitis doesn’t settle quickly over a few days, it is important to check to make sure that there are no other causes for the cystitis. This would involve an anaesthetic to xray the bladder and to take urine samples direct from the bladder and running a blood sample to check for any other underlying disease. Idiopathic cystitis can only be diagnosed by ruling out all other causes of cystitis. Idiopathic cystitis is associated with stress levels as well and some cats are more susceptible to stress than others and is painful, so painkillers are needed when they get episodes. Being overweight can also increase the risk of cystitis.

Some things that make the cystitis worse are not drinking enough water; ways to increase water intake include wet food as opposed to biscuits but don’t change this overnight as your cat may not eat the sachets straight away. Giving several meals over the day rather than just one meal, running or dripping water, bottled water instead of tap water, flavoured water-from cans of tuna or prawns, using several wide water bowls around the house and not leaving close to the food bowls..

Reducing stress levels also helps. Pheromones can help and Feliway diffusers can be useful or calming supplements such as Nutracalm or Zylkene. It is also important to have plenty of access to litter trays or going outside to urinate/defaecate, so that they doesn’t always get a very full bladder, which lead to stagnant urine and a stretched bladder. Also environment enrichment which encompasses increased interaction with you and toys to play with; giving them areas that are their own to get away from the other cats or other pets in the house.

There are also supplements that help to line the bladder and reduce any inflammation, we have a brand that also has a calming agent as well, called Nutracyst, these capsules can be used on food and are usually eaten with no problems. There are prescription diets that can help as well, especially if there a lot of crystals in the urine or they have had bladder stones.

Where other causes of cystitis are found we can treat these to settle the cystitis. In the case of bladder stones there are prescription diets which will often dissolve the stones and are then needed to keep the stones from reoccurring. There are some types of bladder stones that may need surgical removal though. Urinary infections can be identifying from urine sample but these must be taken directly from the bladder to prevent false positives and then can be treated with the appropriate antibiotics.

The table below shows some ways that we can help with cystitis, especially where it is idiopathic.

Enhancing interactions

With owners

With other cats

With other animals

Increased play, handling, training.

Feline companion (if tolerated)

Canine companion (if tolerated)

Increased activity

Use of toys

Increase areas of interest

Using feeding …….

Using drinking

Fishing rods, wire based toys, mice.

Cat tree, platforms, hiding boxes, play tunnels. ….

Puzzle feeding devices, more feeding bowls in different areas.

Water fountains, playing with water stream.

Sensory enrichment





Windows (if tolerated) external run, television.


Human voice, radio.

Feliway, felifriend.

Respecting feline behaviour





Avoid punishing when urinating inappropriately.

Change litter & trays regularly, avoid scented litter, 1 tray per cat in the house plus 1 spare. Place in quiet areas/hidden.

Give regular and frequent meals.

Leave isolated places to sleep, often far from the ground.

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