Feline Cystitis, may also be called Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD), feline urologic syndrome (FUS) and Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC). These terms are used to label variable combinations of behavior patterns and conditions related to cat urination. Feline Idiopathic Cystitis has been treated with a variety of medications including anti-inflammatory drugs like Prednisone, but there is little evidence that current drug therapies are effective in treating this disease.
Definition of Feline Idiopathic Cystitis
Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder. A veterinarian's fact sheet published by Veterinary Partner reports that of all cats with inflammation of the bladder: 20 percent have bladder stones, 20 percent have a urethral blockage, 1 to 5 percent have an infection, 1 to 5 percent have urinary tract cancer, 1 to 5 percent have had trauma to the urinary tract, 1 to 5 percent have a bladder stone with an infection and 50 percent do not have an identifiable cause.
Idiopathic means of unknown cause. When a cat has a bladder inflammation and the cause can't be pinpointed, despite extensive testing, the cat is diagnosed with feline idiopathic cystitis.
Symptoms of Feline Idiopathic Cystitis
The Veterinary Partner fact sheet explains that feline idiopathic cystitis shares symptoms with other forms of bladder inflammation including: bloody urine (hematuria), painful urination (dyuria), licking the urinary opening and urinating in unusual places (sink, bathtub, rugs, etc.).
Cats at Risk
Class information notes published by the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine report that the FIC is typically seen in young adult cats (two to seven years), with a "...very high incidence of recurrence in the same cat (35%), especially if the first episode occurs when the cat is less than 4 years old (67%). Risk of recurrence diminishes with age."
Risk factors also include: dry food only diets, diets high in vegetable proteins (high alkaline diets), long hair, obesity, conflict with other pets, indoor-only housing, low water intake and stress. Stress appears to be the highest risk factor as reported by the Veterinary Partner fact sheet: "We know that cats that get this syndrome have a unique imbalance in the way their brain controls hormones. In other words, these cats are unusually sensitive to environmental stress and, due to a complicated cascade of metabolic events, stress manifests in the urinary tract."
Treatment of Feline Idiopathic Cystitis
A wide array of treatments has been used to treat FIC episodes. Tranquilizers and narcotic analgesics may be subscribed to help diminish urination pain and urethral spasms. Anti-anxiety medications may be used to minimize recurrence of the condition. A veterinarian’s report published by the Cat Fancier's Association states, "Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are also sometimes used to decrease inflammation, and other types of drugs, such as pentosan polysulfate or glucosamine, are used to help repair the lining of the bladder. However, evidence for the effectiveness of these therapies is lacking."
The UGA College of Veterinary Medicine reports that 70 percent of cats get better within five days with or without therapy, and recommends prevention as the best treatment for FIC.
Preventing Feline Idiopathic Cystitis
Providing fresh clean water at all times is important for all cats. Switching from dry to canned cat food helps many cats suffering from FIC. But the best prevention is stated in a report from the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine as follows, "...environmental enrichment is the primary therapy for prevention of recurrence of elimination disorders, including FIC. This opinion is based on documented neuroendocrine abnormalities suffered by cats with FIC and on our clinical experience."
Environmental enrichment includes finding private areas where the cat can eat, drink, sleep and use the litter box. Keep litter boxes, food bowls and sleeping areas clean. Provide the cat a scratching post and rotate toys on a regular basis. Allow the cat the opportunity to move about freely, climb, stretch, play or retreat to rest as it chooses. Duplicate resources (multiple food bowls, multiple litter boxes, multiple water bowls) if pets are in conflict over these resources in the home.