Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) describes common conditions of the feline bladder and urethra. Unfortunately, since FLUTD often leads to unpleasant urinary signs around the home, the problem is a common reason why cat owners relinquish their pets to animal shelters. While we can’t control all FLUTD causes, many associated conditions can be prevented, or at least minimized, with a little extra attention from veterinarians and cat owners. Read on for more information about this common disease, including what you can do at home to support your feline friend. 

Are certain cats susceptible to FLUTD?

While FLUTD can technically occur in any cat at any time, affected cats are most likely middle-aged and overweight, live indoors and get minimal exercise, and eat an exclusively dry food diet. FLUTD is also common in cats who experience potentially stressful situations, such as living in a multi-cat household or whose daily routine is abruptly changed. 

What diseases fall under FLUTD?

FLUTD encompasses many different conditions that involve the bladder and urethra. The most common are urolithiasis (i.e., bladder or urethral stones), urinary tract infection, and urinary obstruction, usually because of a stone or mucus plug. Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) accounts for the majority of FLUTD cases and is diagnosed when signs cannot be explained by other urinary conditions.  

What are FLUTD signs in cats?

Cats affected by FLUTD will exhibit any of the following signs:

  • Inappropriate urination (i.e., urinating outside the litter box)
  • Frequent and/or prolonged urinary episodes that may suggest straining
  • Vocalizing while urinating, indicating pain
  • Excessive genital licking
  • Blood in the urine

If urethral obstruction is a possibility, the affected cat may produce little to no urine and will become increasingly distressed. This condition is a veterinary emergency that requires immediate treatment. 

How will my veterinarian diagnose FLUTD?

If your pet presents with urinary signs, the Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital veterinary team will perform a thorough examination, paying special attention to the bladder and lower urinary tract for any obstruction signs. Abdominal X-rays can help rule out problems related to certain urinary stones, as well as provide information about the size and shape of your pet’s bladder. If abdominal fluid is a concern, X-rays or other imaging modalities may also be recommended. While urinary tract infections aren’t common in cats, first ruling out this easy-to-treat condition with a urinalysis and bacterial culture and susceptibility is important. Depending on your pet’s signs, other laboratory tests, including blood work to look for diabetes or hyperthyroidism, may be useful. Your cat’s diagnostic tests may come back completely normal, in which case a feline idiopathic cystitis diagnosis is often made, especially in male cats. 

Is there an FLUTD treatment?

In most cases, yes. For pets with urinary obstruction, immediate treatment requires hospitalization, sedation, intravenous fluids, and an “unblocking” procedure via urinary catheter insertion. Urinary stones may be treated with diet, surgery, or a combination. Infections typically resolve with an appropriate antibiotics course. For cats suffering from FIC, the typical approach is nutritional and environmental, although certain medications may also aid in managing this condition.

Can FLUTD be prevented in my cat?

Since the overwhelming majority of cats with FLUTD are overweight, with poor exercise habits and a dry diet, making a few environmental and enrichment changes can help.

  • Exercise — Provide and encourage daily exercise by way of toys, hide and seek, and other games that mimic your cat’s inherent need to hunt. This will not only encourage physical activity, but also keep them mentally sharp. 
  • Water supply — Switch to a water fountain. Cats love running water, and providing a fountain versus a stagnant bowl of water may encourage them to drink more and possibly reduce their FLUTD risk.
  • Food change — Switching your cat to a wet food may also increase their water intake. However, speak with our veterinary team before changing your pet’s diet, as we may have individual recommendations for your cat. 
  • Litter boxes — Use the golden rule of litter boxes. Current recommendations suggest that households provide one litter box per cat, plus one additional box, in convenient, easy-to-access locations. This allows your cat(s) multiple options, and may eliminate behavior-based FLUTD signs. 

At Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital, we are dedicated to your cat’s physical and mental wellbeing. That’s why we made the effort to become Austin’s first Fear Free Certified Practice, in addition to undergoing the Cat Friendly Practice program through the American Association of Feline Practitioners. We love cats and we know you do, too—contact us today to schedule your feline friend’s next appointment.