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Feline Idiopathic Lower Urinary Disease


When cats develop signs of a urinary tract infection with or without an obstruction but there is no actual infection present, this is feline termed idiopathic cystitis (FIC). This is a very complicated disease that typically requires long term management. Sometimes this disease is also complicated by other lower urinary tract issues like stones making it even more challenging. There is a lot that can be done for cats showing symptoms at home in addition to the care that they may need in a crisis.

What’s going on with your pet? Here are some signs of a FIC to watch for:

There are many overlapping symptoms with cats that have sterile cystitis (feline lower urinary tract disease) and cats that have a bacterial infection. It can be impossible to tell at home. Both of these conditions can be irritating, painful, and cause severe health concerns.Here’s what to look for:

Blood: A little tinge of blood is common. Clots or the entire voided puddle looking like blood are causes for concern.

Odor: A strong odor can be common even with normal urine. However, an odor that smells foul or fishy is not normal.

Changes to urination pattern:

  • - Urinating smaller volumes more frequently
  • - Posturing to urinate with only a small amount of urine passed
  • - Acting like they still need to go immediately after urinating
  • - Urinating outside of the litter box 
  • - Vocalizing in the litter box

If they are straining to urinate and nothing is coming out, that can be a sign of obstruction/blockage and you should see a veterinarian immediately.


Here’s what you can do...

Enrich the environment: There are 5 pillars to a safe environment for cats and we know that stress plays a role in the occurrence of this disease. This is where you can make the biggest impact for your cat.

  1. 1. Provide plenty of the places to hide - They especially need places that are high so they can observe their environment from above. Putting up shelves just for playing and hiding is a great option. You can line some of them with softer materials, vary the heights and sizes. Is it weird to have a bunch of shelves with nothing on them in your house? No! You are a cat person. It’s weird to not have them!
  2. 2. Provide plenty of space for resources such as littler, water, and food. This is especially important in a multi-cat household. Each cat may have different preferences and those may change if a housemate starts to invade a territory. A general rule is number of cats plus 1 for litter boxes and water dishes. Vary the locations as well.
  3. 3. Encourage predatory behaviors -Construct a “catio” for them to have the feeling of being outside without some of the dangers. Hide treats around the house for them to “hunt”. Go ahead and buy that new cat toy! They love variety. Rotate the toys to prevent boredom
  4. 4. Know and follow their social preferences – Some cats are more social than others, but they all need some amount of interaction with you! Does your cat like to come to you when you are watching TV? Great! Make sure you spend a little time every day on the couch waiting for your friend to come to you. Does your cat live for the laser pointer? Super! Make that a part of your morning routine!
  5. 5. Respect their sense of smell and noise sensitivities – A “catio” can help with this too. It may allow more natural environmental smells and noises that can be soothing. Do they seem startled with loud noises? If so, try to reduce noise from slamming doors and cabinets to lower the stress level.

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Does your pet need Urgent Care?

Yes, if there is ANY evidence of obstruction. Even a partial obstruction can cause severe disease and kidney failure. It’s always better to be more proactive when it comes to something that can be life threatening.

What can you expect from your visit?

Your Scout veterinarian is going to start with an examination. They will feel the bladder and check for dehydration. The care team will also ask you some historical questions such as how many cats do you have? Has anything changed in the environment recently? Has this happened before? Many cat parents think that their cat has experienced a urinary tract infection in the past when it was actually cystitis. Be sure to mention any urinary tract issues in your cat’s history.

Your Scout veterinarian may recommend:

Bloodwork: Your Scout veterinarian may recommend bloodwork to look at kidney function.

Urine testing: Looking at the urine is a big part of the diagnostic and treatment process. It can help determine if the are crystals or aninfection, as well as how to best treat it and maybe even why it happened in the first place. The two most common tests are urinalysisand urine culture.

X-rays: Some sterile cystitis and obstructions are caused by bladder stones. Many stones will show up on an X-ray.

Ultrasound: An ultrasound is used to safely collect a sterile urine sample (cystocentesis). Your Scout veterinarian may also be able to tell how irritated the bladder wall is and/or if there may be stones contributing to your pet’s symptoms. An ultrasound does not replace an X-ray when indicated. These tests work together to give the best information.

Treatments: Your Scout veterinarian wants your pet to feel better just as much as you do! They may recommend fluids under the skin to help with dehydration, antibiotics, pain medications, and/or a special diet. If there is concern for an obstruction/blockage, your Scout veterinarian will give your cat some sedation and pass a urinary catheter to diagnose and/or relieve that obstruction. This can be a lifesaving procedure when it is necessary.

Follow up appointments: This disease may require long term management and modifications. It can be very helpful to have a trusted primary care doctor to follow up with in the future. If you have a primary care veterinarian, we will recommend that you continue care at their clinic to ensure the best long-term management. If not, Scout can help you until you are able to find a primary care! 

Referral: We hate to say it but sometimes your pet needs someone outside of Scout. If we diagnose an obstruction /blockage we will stabilize your pet and help facilitate referral to an inpatient care hospital in Chicago for ongoing hospitalization and management.

Remember that you are the best advocate for your pet. If you think it’s a problem, it probably is! We are here for you in your time of need.

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