Recognising and Preventing Feline Lower Urinary Tract Diseases (FLUTDs) in Cats

There's never a dull moment with cats, especially when you have five of them!  They wake us up in the morning, tell us when it's time to go to bed at night, remind us when it's feeding time, comfort us, babysit for us, make us laugh, and provide endless joy and fur baby cuddles.  And really all they ask for in return is some decent food and a bit of attention - when their mood dictates.  Cats are usually fairly healthy creatures, but they are prone to some similar complaints to humans, one of them being UTIs, or in cats' case Feline Lower Urinary Tract Diseases (FLUTDs).

Our cats, touching lots of wood, are rarely ill, so when they are not right it's always a big cause for concern.  When Misha started crying when he went to the toilet earlier this year, we headed straight to the vet for tests.  Thankfully, it was just cystitis, and cleared up really quickly.  But like many cat owners, I wasn't really sure what could be done to prevent a recurrence of his UTI, and how food and lifestyle can affect urinary health in cats.  Sadly, the more serious FLUTDs are also quite common, and can get pretty serious if not treated properly.

Thankfully, our favourite cat food brand, Hill's Science Plan, offer a special urinary cat food which can help maintain a healthy urinary tract.  Hill's sent us some of the cat food to sample, along with a very cute Purrrst Aid Kit for cats, which compares some of the things we know about human UTIs with cats'.  UTIs are often thought of as embarrassing, not to mention inconvenient and uncomfortable, so just imagine how our feline friends feel when they have FLUTDs.

Our cute kit contained lots of fun products, including 'Cranpurry Juice', containing scrummy Hill’s treats;some catnip; a porcelain water bowl, perfect for our cat acne-prone Taya (yep, it's a thing) who can't use plastic bowls; a very squeaky toy mouse as regular playtime prevents weight gain, a common cause of FLUTDs; and a feline warmer blanket, a cat pad you warm in the microwave for them to snuggle up on.  The cats were delighted, although no-one else is allowed to play with the mouse, as that's Misha's apparently!

But what of FLUTDs?  What are they, how do you recognise a problem, and what can you do to prevent it?

What is FLUTDs?

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is a general term that includes urinary stones, bladder stones and other causes of bladder irritation, sometimes including urinary tract infections.

The urinary tract is vital to your cat’s health, being important for waste removal, water level balancing and blood pressure regulation.  You must keep a close eye on your cat for any changes to his or her litter tray habits, even if they usually urinate outside.  Feline lower urinary tract disease can be painful and left untreated can even be life-threatening.

Recognising FLUTDs

The signs are:
  • Urinating in the house or having accidents
  • Urinating more frequently
  • Having difficulty urinating
  • Crying whilst urinating
  • Straining when urinating
  • Inflamed genitals
  • Cloudy urine or blood, often seen as pink spots in the litter tray

If you see any of these, consult your vet immediately.  If your cat is not urinating at all, or not freely, see your vet immediately.

What Causes FLUTDs?

  • Indoor cats are more prone to FLUTDs
  • Lack of exercise
  • Being overweight
  • Neutering - Whilst it can significantly increase life expectancy, the metabolic changes that follow neutering can increase the risk of urinary issues.
  • Stress - For tips on how to help calm a stressed cat, see the Hill's website.

A very stressed cat...

How common is FLUTDs?

Well, a whopping 60% of cat owners said that they had experienced their cat urinating in the house outside the litter tray, a sure sign of a problem.  In fact, urinary problems are the most common reason for cat owners visiting the vet*.  Many of us have no idea how to help keep our cat’s kidneys and bladder healthy, and although most of us are aware that some cat foods can cause urinary problems, only 3% have changed their cat’s food in an attempt to solve the issue.

How can you prevent FLUTDs?

Maintaining a healthy urinary tract isn't just down to hydration as you might expect, and other factors can predispose cats to FLUTDs, as mentioned above.  To prevent FLUTDs:

  • Keep your cat well-hydrated.
  • Make sure water is clean, fresh and available at all times, a cat fountain is a great investment.
  • Offer several water stations around the house using dishes of various materials, shapes, sizes or depths – get creative and discover her favourites!
  • Feed wet foods such as Hill's Urinary Health Pet Food pouches (see below).
  • Feed several small meals during the day instead of one or two larger meals.
  • Watch your cat's weight.
  • Make your home as cat-friendly as possible.  Provide a scratching post and schedule time during the day to play with your cat, especially if it is an indoor cat.
  • Provide cats with separate places to sleep, eat, drink, eliminate, hide, and play.
  • Cats love routine, so they’ll appreciate meals and playtime on schedule.
  • Cats are fundamentally clean creatures who don't like to soil the 'nest', so always make sure the litter tray is regularly cleaned as a cat will hold their urine rather than go in a dirty tray.
  • Alleviate stress for your cat, pheromone plug-ins like Feliway can help.

Hill's Urinary Health Pet Food

The new Science Plan Urinary Health cat food is formulated with a unique bundle of minerals including potassium citrate, an alkaline salt which supports urinary health in cats.  The food is available in two varieties: “Sterilised Cat” with clinically proven L-carnitine which helps convert fat to energy, to limit fat storage; and “Hairball Control” which helps avoid hairball formation, naturally.  Both are available as meaty flavoured kibbles or soft wet food pouches.  Ours loved it!

* Source: Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. claims data for 2014

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