Note: Home remedies are not an alternative to professional medical advice. If your pet has a serious issue, please consult your veterinarian immediately.
Most cats are hardy little creatures, which is lucky considering the scrapes and situations they can get themselves in! This is probably where the old saying about cats having nine lives comes from! However, cats do unfortunately suffer problems with their urinary system relatively frequently. Up to 8 in every 100 cats will at some point in their lives have a bladder problem, and 4 in every 100 cats will suffer from a kidney problem. These stats sadly increase with age, with around 80% of older cats having at least a mild kidney issue. These figures mean that we, as cat owners, are likely to have to help our cats manage these problems at some stage.
In this article, we will focus on bladder problems (known scientifically as Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease or FLUTD and sometimes called ‘cystitis’ or Pandora Syndrome). How can we best assist our cats and help them feel better when their bladder is causing trouble? What are the best crystals in cat urine home remedies?
How Do I Know if My Cat Has a Bladder Problem or Cystitis?
Just like in humans, cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder that makes your bladder think you need to pee constantly. Cats will be dashing into and out of their litter tray frequently. You might also see your cat straining while he or she tries to pee, usually while producing very small amounts of urine or no urine at all. Bladder inflammation can cause the bladder wall to become damaged and start to bleed. This means that blood or blood clots might be seen in their urine or in the litter tray.
Cystitis is obviously unpleasant for all cats, but it is especially dangerous in male cats. Male cats naturally have a longer, thinner ‘urethra’ (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside world), while female cats naturally have a shorter, wider urethra. Unfortunately, this means that the longer, thinner tube of males is more likely to get physically blocked and obstructed by blood clots and debris from the bladder lining. At this point, this is a life-threatening emergency. When animals cannot pass urine, their bladder will fill until it bursts. Theoretically this can happen in female cats but is much less likely. Being unable to pee also means that lots of toxins stay in the body and can cause blood poisoning and kidney failure.
It is important to note that any symptoms of cystitis are a serious problem in cats and should not be taken lightly. If your cat is showing signs of cystitis, you need to contact your local veterinary clinic for advice. Most cats with cystitis need professional help from a veterinarian.
If your male cat is showing signs of being unable to pee, licking his penis, or yowling in the tray, you should contact the nearest open veterinary surgery immediately.
What Causes Bladder Problems in Cats?
There are several possible causes of cystitis that all cause the same symptoms, but all need slightly different management. This is why an accurate, professional diagnosis is usually needed to treat your cat effectively.
1. Feline Idiopathic Cystitis
This condition is most common in younger cats, making up about 60-80% of cases of cystitis in cats under 10 years old. The word ‘idiopathic’ means there is no obvious specific cause for the cystitis in these cases—nothing we can test for or obviously treat—and it usually involves multiple factors. We know that there are features that make individual cats more vulnerable to the disease, such as:
Cats also get stressed about going to the toilet in general and can be quite fussy, so if a cat is not happy with its litter tray or litter tray material, this can cause upset.
Essentially, when a vulnerable cat suffers stress in its environment, idiopathic cystitis is likely to occur.
2. Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections, caused by bacteria invading up the urethra and into the bladder, are more likely in older cats and those with other underlying conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease.
3. Crystals and Bladder Stones
Urine carries lots of excess minerals away from the body. In the right conditions, these minerals can form sharp, solid crystals within the bladder, which cause trauma. Crystals in cat urine can also join to form bladder stones. Stones cause irritation and then can also cause blockages, especially in male cats. Remember: blockages are life-threatening, and you should contact a vet immediately if your cat cannot pee.
Unfortunately, older cats can suffer from cancers of the bladder, which can cause similar symptoms to cystitis. These are, sadly, very hard to treat in most cases.
How Are Bladder Problems in Cats Diagnosed?
Typically, your veterinarian will perform a physical examination, followed by analysis of the blood and urine. Urine can be looked at under a microscope – your vet might see crystals, blood and/or bacteria. It may also be necessary to perform imaging, usually using ultrasound, to check for physical problems like stones or tumors.
How Are Bladder Problems in Cats Treated?
Proper treatment depends heavily on the underlying cause of the cystitis, which means an accurate diagnosis from a veterinarian is essential. In general, prescription anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain and swelling are often used but these are only to control symptoms.
If a male cat is physically blocked, an emergency surgical procedure to clear the urethra is usually required, performed under anesthesia by a veterinarian. These cats may also require hospitalization. Long term management depends on the exact diagnosis, but appropriate and specific home remedies form a part of the plan.
Are There Home Remedies for Cat Bladder Problems?
Idiopathic cystitis usually relies on reducing the underlying stress to your cat; this means home remedies are essential for long term management. There are also some home remedies for crystals in cat urine.
So here are ten home remedies for cat UTIs that actually work:
1. Increase Number and Variety of Litter Trays
Having multiple clean litter trays filled with different materials in different parts of the house can reduce the stress of going to the toilet.
2. Provide a Safe Space
Providing safe, dark, and quiet hiding areas makes your cat feel more comfortable and less stressed.
3. Use Pheromones Such as Feliway
Pheromone-based diffusers and sprays such as Feliway naturally help to relax your cat.
4. Use Cat-Safe Aromatherapy
Not all aromatherapy is cat safe, but some are. Pet Remedy is a popular calming scent blend that is safe to use around cats.
5. Consider Urinary Supplements
There are some dietary supplements (GAG Supplements and Glucosamine/Chondroitin) that can help repair the bladder wall.
6. Change the Diet to Make the Urine More Acidic
Urinary tract infections usually require antibiotics, but some people have tried treating cats with home remedies that make urine more acidic and kill bacteria that way. These can help, alongside veterinary guidance and intervention, although very acidic urine over long periods may cause other problems in older cats.
Natural products that make urine more acidic and are possibly antibacterial are available. These include marshmallow root, juniper, apple cider vinegar, and echinacea. It is worth noting though that most are not safety or efficacy tested and there are no established doses.
7. Add in a Cranberry Supplement
Small daily amounts of cranberry products, such as cranberry juice or cranberry extracts, have shown some benefits for bladder health in scientific studies. It is thought that it prevents bacteria from being able to attach to the bladder wall. Try to find a specific product that has been designed for cats to ensure safe dosing.
8. Try a Prescription Veterinary Diet
Crystals and bladder stones can be controlled well with diet, although large stones may require surgical removal. The objective is to produce dilute urine without excesses of minerals, so that the crystals dissolve again and cannot become solid. There are also diets available that include calming nutrients, as it’s thought that stress is a big factor for these cats.
9. Choose a Wet Cat Food
Moving your cat to a wet food will help to increase their water intake and dilute their urine, thereby preventing crystals from forming.
10. Increase Their Water Intake
Encouraging plenty of water intake dilutes urine, which will prevent crystal formation. You can give meat-flavored water (such as bone broth) to encourage drinking if it is not too salty. Adding in extra water fountains and bowls around the house means even the laziest cat should be tempted to drink.
Bladder problems are very common in cats and have a variety of causes, each with a different specific treatment. There are home remedies to try for these conditions, but you should seek professional help from a veterinarian at an early stage if you are worried about your cat, as bladder problems are unpleasant and can rapidly become life-threatening.
Featured Image Credit by: natata, Shutterstock