How to manage your pet cat’s ‘blockages’

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Following a spate of cats with the serious issues of becoming ‘blocked’, (unable to pass any urine due to an obstruction of the urinary tract), I thought I would dedicate this week’s column to talking about feline lower urinary tract disease, and give a few tips on how to manage it.

Feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD as it is more commonly known, is not a specific disease in itself, but a term used to describe conditions affecting both the bladder and the urethrea (lower urinary tract) of cats.

It mainly affects middle-aged cats with a more sedentary lifestyle, especially those that are carrying a few extra pounds. Stress can also be a major factor in the development, and there is a much higher incidence in multi-cat households.

Diet can also be a predisposing factor, with a mainly dry food diet being the main culprit. Bacterial infections or crystals in the urine can also be responsible.

The most common signs of FLUTD include bloody urine, increased frequency of urination, straining to urinate (can easily be mistaken for straining to defecate), urinating in unusual places, passing small drops of urine very frequently and often accompanied by crying, and over grooming, especially around the back end.

FLUTD can be serious in that it can sometimes lead to a complete blockage of the urethra (nearly exclusively a problem of male cats), which is an emergency, so we would always recommend a phone call for advice at the very least if you notice any of the signs.

In terms of treating and managing FLUTD, a lot depends on the underling cause. In the case of a bacterial infection, appropriate antibiotic therapy will address the problem. In cats that have idiopathic cystitis (no identifiable underlying cause), measures such as increasing water intake and decreasing stress are effective management tools. There are a number of ways to increase water intake, such as adding some wet food into your cat’s diet, or water from tinned fish. In terms of stress reduction, pheromone diffusers play a valuable role.

In multi-cat households, the addition of more litter trays is an easy way to reduce competition and thus stress. The current recommendation is one more litter tray than the number of cats. In the case of overweight cats, diet and exercise are also an important part of management.

By Mary Parry, Vet.