Cats with urinary tract infections are no fun and can even turn into an emergency. However, there are many natural home remedies for cat UTIs (urinary tract infections) that you can use to prevent and even help treat your cat’s urine problems.
What is a cat urinary tract infection?
A urinary tract infection can affect any part of the cat’s urinary system.
This can include the bladder, the urethra (where urine comes out of the body), or even the kidneys.
An important fact to know about cat UTIs is that it’s not always a bacterial infection. Your cat may have inflammation in their bladder without an infection which is called cat cystitis or sterile urinary tract inflammation.
How does a cat get a urinary tract infection (bladder infection)?
There are a variety of conditions that cats can get that affect the urinary tract that is labeled a feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).
A bacterial UTI occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract, usually by ascending up the urethra and entering the bladder. There are numerous causes for cat UTIs, whether bacterial or inflammatory.
These urinary conditions can occur at any age, but are usually seen in middle-aged, overweight cats that don’t have a lot of environmental enrichment, are in multi-cat households, are prone to stress, and eat a dry kibble diet.
Common Causes of Cat UTIs
Urinary bladder crystals are the number one cause of irritation in the bladder, and if not treated can lead to your cat being blocked (or not being able to urinate, especially in male cats) or having cat urine problems.
Crystals can form in the urine when the pH of the urine is either too alkaline (high) or too acidic (too low). The ideal pH of the urine should be neutral, around 6.0-7.0.
If your cat is being fed an inappropriate diet, this will cause the urine pH to be off, predisposing your cat to forming struvite or calcium oxalate crystals.
Commonly this occurs when your cat is on a high-carbohydrate ultra-processed kibble diet.
These crystals occur because the diets may be too high in ammonium, phosphate, and magnesium or other minerals that lead to the formation of these bladder irritating crystals.
Thus, we see inflammation and the pH of the urine is off which predisposes to bacterial infections.
It’s important to know that cats are obligate carnivores and actually have no physiological requirement for carbohydrates.
Unfortunately, the higher carb diets, aka kibble food, lead to a more alkaline urine pH which can predispose your cats to urinary problems, such as peeing outside the litter box.
“Cats are obligate carnivores and have no physiological requirement for carbohydrates, which are kibble diet.”
Your veterinarian may recommend special prescription diets to help dissolve the stones, but make sure to continue reading for other natural remedies to help your cat’s crystal issue if this is occurring, because many of these diets are kibble which is a root cause for your cat’s urine problems in the first place.
The crystals and inflammatory changes are what can lead to sludgy debris that can lead to a urinary obstruction, especially in male cats whose urethras are not as wide as a females’ urethra.
So if you’re seeing your cat, especially male cat, go in and out of the litter box but not product any urine or very little urine, this is a symptom of a urinary tract infection and urinary blockage.
You must go to the vet right away since this is an emergency.
Bladder Stones (Uroliths)
Bladder stones are common in cats that have undiagnosed or unresolved bladder crystals as discussed above, usually due to their diet.
These crystals are a collection of minerals and if not treated with a diet change, can condense to form bladder stones.
The most common stones seen in cats are struvite (magnesium ammonium phosphate), which are typically dissolvable with the right diet that addresses the abnormal urine pH.
Other stones include calcium oxalate which are not able to be dissolved by diet and typically require surgery to remove them from the bladder.
Urinary tract infection
Cat urinary tract infections can occur secondary to bladder crystal irritation and pH abnormalities in the urine.
Usually, bacterial UTIs in cats are secondary to another issue, which is why it’s important to find the root problem, or else the UTI will continue to recur.
Some of the other conditions that put your cat at higher risk of a UTI include:
- Bladder stones (uroliths)
- Bladder crystals (crystalluria)
- Diabetes mellitus
- Kidney disease
Because infections are usually secondary to another problem, your veterinarian will most likely recommend other testing to figure out why your cat has an infection.
Typical additional testing include bloodwork (CBC, biochemistry, thyroid), urinalysis, and additional imaging like abdominal radiographs or ultrasound.
To learn more about dog UTIs and how to help them naturally, click here.
Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC)
Feline idiopathic cystitis (also called interstitial cystitis) is the most common urinary problem seen in cats, especially younger cats.
This is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning all of the above conditions have been ruled out.
Stress and diet are the main reason for FIC occurring in cats. Unfortunately, this can also be one of the hardest to treat if the stress and diet are not addressed, making it very frustrating for the pet parent.
Cats with this urinary problem are usually peeing outside the litter box, may have blood in their urine, and look similar to cats with a bacterial UTI.
However, there is usually no bacterial infection present, which is why it’s important to do diagnostics to make sure your cat doesn’t end up on antibiotics when it’s not needed.
Make sure to check out our other blog on how to help your cat’s stress to treat cat cystitis.
What are cat urinary tract infection symptoms?
Symptoms of urinary tract infections in cats can be similar whether they have sterile cystitis (inflammation with no bacterial infection) or they have a bacterial infection.
Common signs of a cat bladder infection or cystitis include:
- Frequently urinating (peeing)
- Straining to urinate
- Urinating small amounts
- Urinating outside the litter box
- Signs of pain or distress like crying out while urinating
- Excessively licking their genital region
- Blood in the urine
- Strong-smelling urine
- Decreased appetite
- Lethargy (acting more tired)
If you’re seeing any of these signs in your cat, you need to take them to your veterinarian for an examination and additional diagnostics.
When is a cat UTI an emergency?
If you are noticing that your cat is struggling to produce urine, your cat can’t pee, or is straining to urinate and there is no urine coming out, this is a true emergency especially if your cat is male.
This can be a sign of a urethral obstruction (that your cat is blocked) which can lead to severe health conditions and even death if not addressed right away by your veterinarian.
If your cat is blocked, this means your cat cannot pee and can lead to acute kidney failure and as mentioned, a painful death if not addressed.
Diagnostic tests to rule out cat UTI
A urinalysis must be done as the first step for ruling out whether your cat has a bacterial infection that’s causing the urinary symptoms like commonly peeing outside the litter box.
You should never just put your cat on an antibiotic since stress cystitis is the number one reason for cat urinary problems.
Other diagnostic tests your veterinarian may recommend include bladder ultrasound to rule out sludge and bladder stones, an abdominal radiograph (x-ray) to rule out bladder and kidney stones, and a urine culture.
A urine culture is very helpful to make sure the right antibiotics are used if your cat has bacteria in its urine on the urinalysis. Antibiotic resistance is, unfortunately, becoming a bigger issue and many commonly used antibiotics are not working as well.
Doing this test will speed up treatment and help your cat feel better, usually meaning less vet visits and expenses in the long term.
What can I do at home with natural remedies for cat urinary tract infections?
There are many natural at-home treatments for a cat UTI, but the first area that must be addressed is diet.
Best cat diet
As previously discussed, the urine pH is directly affected by what you’re feeding your cat.
If your cat is on a dry kibble diet, it’s important to start transitioning to at least a canned food diet. High carb diets cause an increase in urine pH which can lead to struvite crystals forming.
Also, cats are not great water drinkers, and it’s important to increase the moisture content in their food. This helps dilute the urine and flush the kidneys and bladder, helping to prevent bacterial UTIs and crystals in the urine.
Other diets that are optimal for cats that are an obligate carnivore include freeze-dried or even raw diets.
Many pet parents are worried about feeding a raw diet so make sure to start slow or reach out if you need additional help and guidance.
Remember, when changing your cat’s diet, many cats have developed a preference for eating dry food and can be stubborn to change.
Also, we need to adjust the type of beneficial bacteria in their gut microbiome to help reduce the risk of GI upset. This is why starting with a slow transition over 2 weeks can help reduce any unwanted GI effects, but some cats may take longer, especially if they’re addicted to kibble.
Patience is key.
Juniper berries are well known for helping severe urinary tract infections by increasing blood flow to the kidney and increasing urine production.
Essential oils are not all equal, and cats can be sensitive to certain types of essential oils. Click here to learn more about how to use essential oils safely in your pets.
These are safe essential oil brands at the time this blog post was written:
A safe and easy way to start using juniper berry with your cat is to use a drop of juniper berry essential oil in a water diffuser and diffuser intermittently throughout the day in an open room where your cat can come and go.
D-mannose & Cranberries
D-mannose is an easy-to-use supplement that is actually a component of cranberries, which are commonly used for E. coli infections. This nutraceutical is a non-metabolizable sugar that binds to the bacteria in the bladder and helps clear the infection from the bladder.
If your cat has an E. coli infection, cranberry is another great option.
You can try adding in cranberries into their diet or you can use a supplement. I don’t recommend using cranberry juice due to its high sugar content.
Marshmallow root is a great natural remedy that reduces inflammation in the urinary tract. The polysaccharides present in the plant form a mucilage that has natural anti-inflammatory properties. It also has an affinity for mucous membranes like the urinary system.
With cats being a little more difficult to medicate, the marshmallow root glycerin tinctures tend to be the easiest to use. Start with ½ ml dose 2-3 x per day.
If your cat is on any other medications, ask your veterinarian if they can take this. It can inhibit the absorption of drugs so make sure to give it at least 1 hour away from medications.
Echinacea is commonly used to help with many types of infections, including UTIs. This is an herb that helps support the body’s immune system while decreasing inflammation.
A great product to use that combines Echinacea with other bladder supporting herbs like couchgrass, dandelion, horsetail, and marshmallow is Animal Essential’s Tinkle Tonic. This product comes as a glycerin tincture which is more palatable for cats and thus easier to give.
Glucosamine can help coat the bladder lining to reduce and prevent inflammation from occurring.
Products such as Cosequin may help. Studies have not been very beneficial, but there are no downsides to them and can help joint health if anything if you have an aging kitty.
How to Prevent Cat UTIs
Ensure adequate hydration
This can be done with a switch to a higher moisture diet like canned food, homemade diets, or raw diets that naturally have more moisture content than a kibble diet.
Other ways to help include getting a water fountain, adding tuna water or broth to the food, or even just adding plain water to canned or raw food diets.
Use canned cat food or a raw food diet
Changing your cat to a species-appropriate diet is essential to fixing the problem since food tends to be the root cause of the problem.
Remember high carb diets (kibble) tend to cause the urine pH to raise, leading to crystal and stone formation.
Stress causes inflammation in the body long-term if it’s not managed.
Simple ways to reduce stress for cats are to make sure they have a quiet room to themselves away from the noise and activity of the rest of the household.
In this space, make sure they have a place to hide if needed, comfortable bedding, scratching post, water, and a litter tray if needed.
Also, make sure you have enough litter trays in the household. Ideally, you want 1 + the number of cats that you have.
For example, if you have 2 cats, you’ll want 3 litter trays. And make sure to clean them every day since cats can stop using them if they are not clean enough.
If your cat is prone to stress cystitis, make sure to get calming products for them.
Feliway is a great option to plug in into an outlet in a room where your cat spends most of their time. Vetriscience Composure treats or RX Vitamins Nutricalm supplements are also another great option.
If you need additional help with anxious kitties, try some pet CBD. I highly recommend VetCS that has a low-odor cat option. Start with 1 drop on a freeze-dried liver treat with your cats.
To learn more about CBD, click here.
UTIs can be fairly common in cats, but there’s usually a reason they are happening that can be fixed. Ensure that your cat is on a species-appropriate diet and assess their environment for any stress that they may be experiencing.
There are numerous at-home treatments for cat UTIs that can be used safely and effectively to help your cat feel better.
Remember if your cat is not able to urinate, is in pain, or peeing blood, make sure to take them to the veterinarian right away. If your cat’s UTI is caught early enough, these natural remedies can help heal and treat UTIs.
For more information on home remedies for your cat UTI and other cat urine problems, click here.
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