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Common urinary disorders in cats

Common urinary disorders in cats
by KatKin Team

Read time: 9 min

Health issues are one of the uncomfortable realities of cat-parenting life. But knowing more about them can help you get your cat the care they need sooner rather than later. 

Urinary disorders can show up in cats of any age and make up 10% of all vet admissions. But as a cat parent, there are things that you can do to catch things early. We've put together a breakdown of the most common urinary disorders and their telltale signs to help you to keep a proactive eye on your cat's health.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease is a term that is used to cover various different disorders that can occur in your cat’s lower urinary tract, bladder or urethra. 

FLUTD affects between 1-3% of cats each year and causes cats pain and discomfort when trying to pass urine. Many of the different disorders that come under FLUTD present similar symptoms. 

Look out for the following, which may be signs of FLUTD

  • Trying to urinate frequently and only passing small amounts 

  • Crying out with a pained ‘meow’ while urinating

  • Passing blood in the urine

  • Urinating outside the litter box or in unusual locations

  • Not being able to urinate at all (important: this is potentially life-threatening. In this instance, a cat should be seen by a vet immediately) 

If your cat displays any of these behaviours, make sure to contact your vet for advice.

We’ve done a dive into a few of the urinary disorders that come under the umbrella of FLUTD. Here are some that are helpful to know about:

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

UTIs are also known as bacterial cystitis and are most commonly seen in older cats. This infection makes up between 5-15% of FLUTD cases and is caused when bacteria in your cat’s urinary tract system (their bladder, urethra and kidneys) triggers inflammation. This leads to pain and discomfort for your cat. Thankfully, they’re easy to diagnose and generally quite straightforward to treat. 

Your vet will recommend the best treatment for your cat. They might suggest feeding them wetter food or supplements, or prescribe a course of antibiotics. If your cat is really uncomfortable, they might prescribe anti-inflammatory medication. In most cases, your cat should feel better before too long.

Bladder stones

Bladder stones, or uroliths, are hard stone-like formations that develop in the urinary tract. They are about as unpleasant as they sound. Bladder stones usually form when there are too many minerals in a cat’s diet – especially magnesium, phosphorus and calcium. A great way to prevent bladder stones is to make sure your cat eats a healthy diet. 

Bladder stones can form in many different sizes and shapes. Some can be seen by X-ray or ultrasound, while others can’t be seen at all. Your vet might be able to detect larger stones by pressing their fingers on your cat’s belly. Small bladder stones can become lodged in the urethra and cause a blocked urinary tract (explained below) which can cause serious problems. Make sure to see a vet if you have any concerns.

It's possible to catch this issue early by checking the pH level of your cat’s urine. This is because bladder stones tend to form in urine that is overly acidic or alkaline. A pH-testing cat litter that monitors your cat’s urine every day is a useful tool to use to keep an eye out for any changes. 

Blocked urinary tract

A cat’s urinary system needs to keep flowing. When things get blocked, it can be uncomfortable or even dangerous. There are several things that can cause obstructions and create a blockage in your cat’s urinary tract.

Bladder stones

We already touched on these nasty mineral build ups above. Bladder stones can be removed by your vet through surgery to open the bladder and remove the stones, or by catheter. In some cases, to avoid surgery, cat parents might try feeding a special diet to encourage the stone to dislodge. Your vet is the right person to advise on the best approach for your cat.

Urethral plug

This issue is caused by a buildup of proteins, cells, crystals and debris that become lodged in a cat’s urethra. As treatment vets can prescribe a special diet of dissolution foods to remove the plug or, in more serious cases, it might need to be taken out using a catheter

Urethral stricture

Cats that suffer from inflammation can develop a swollen urethra which restricts their flow of urine. This can lead to muscle spasms which intensify the pain and cause an obstruction. Behaviour and stress are big contributing factors for this condition. To treat it, cats are often required to drink plenty of water; you can try anti-inflammatory medication and reduce anxiety within the home. 

Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC)

Sometimes the root cause of a problem isn’t clear. In these situations, cats are diagnosed with a condition called feline idiopathic cystitis, meaning ‘an inflammation of the bladder without a known cause’. FIC diagnoses make up around 60% of cases of bladder inflammation.

While vets might not be able to tell us what directly causes each instance of FIC, it’s widely known that a cat’s stress factors can have a huge influence. Reducing stress in their home environment and making changes to help them feel less anxious can have a huge impact in treating and preventing this condition. 

Cat parents can do this by establishing a more structured daily routine with regular time slots for feeding, play, affection and rest. Most cats enjoy toys and scratching posts, clean water dishes, more space from unknown cats and sometimes an extra litter box to give them privacy. 


Thankfully, cancerous tumours in the bladder or urethra of cats are not common, but your vet may run tests for cancer if they think it is necessary. The tests they’ll use to diagnose tend to be physical examinations, scans, x-rays or blood and urine analysis.

If your cat does receive a cancer diagnosis, chemotherapy, radiation and surgery are available as treatment options but it’s best to chat with your vet for their expert recommendation. They’ll have a complete understanding of your cat's health and can guide you on the best approach for your situation.

How to get an early heads-up: Scoop Health

It can be difficult to know if a cat is feeling unwell because they’re secretive by nature. They conceal pain and hide signs of illness. They’re not just trying to be mysterious when they do this – they’re instinctive behaviours from their days living in the wild. 

These reasons can all make it difficult when you’re trying to check for potential urinary disorders. Although a cat’s behavioural cues might be hard to spot, pH can be a good indication of changes in the bladder and is an early warning sign for one of the diseases we discussed above. Most cat parents assume you can’t measure pH level with the naked eye. But now you can.

Health-monitoring litter helps cat parents spot potential illness early so you can speak to your vet sooner. Scoop Health is the UK’s first health-monitoring litter, formulated by vets to give an early heads-up of common urinary issues. Catch a problem early and you could end up saving on vet bills. Get a normal reading and have peace of mind knowing you’ll find out first if things change. 

The highly absorbent, innovative colour-changing silica crystals in Scoop Health react with the urine, changing into a colour that’ll tell you more about your cat’s health. 

What the colours show:

  • Yellow to olive green: normal urinary pH. Your cat’s urine is healthy.

  • Orange: indicates conditions like kidney diseases and urinary crystals. Give your vet a call.

  • Dark green to blue: indicates conditions like bladder stones and UTIs. Give your vet a call.

  • Red: blood in your cat’s urine. See your vet as soon as possible. 

Find out more about Scoop Health here.

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