Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC), also known as Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) and previously known as Feline Urological Syndrome (FUS) is one of the most common reasons cats, especially younger male cats, come to the veterinarian.
FIC means irritation of the bladder without an identifiable cause. FLUTD is the catch-all name for a collection of problems including stones, infection and urinary blockages. The result is painful irritation of the bladder wall and lower urinary tract and an cats show signs directly related to this painful condition. The overall incidence of FIC is about 1% of all cats, but recurrence rates are as high as 67% especially if your cats is less than 4 years of age.
We veterinarians used to think that FIC was most directly related to crystals formed in the urine caused from high mineral content (ash) in food. We now know that although crystals play a role, they are probably not the direct cause of FIC.
“Idiopathic” means we do not know the underlying cause of the bladder irritation. Treatment is aimed at reducing the inflammation and the symptoms, however, in many cats, the episode lasts a few weeks regardless of treatment. Episodes often recur but veterinarians have found more success with prevention of future episodes. Environmental stress seems to play a role and cats that are very sensitive to environmental stress are more prone to these painful episodes.
The most common signs of FIC and FLUTD are:
- urinating in unusual places, often the amounts will be small and can be bloody
- straining to urinate
- crying during urination
- frequent, small urination with or without blood
- inability to urinate – most common in male cats and is a medical emergency also known as being “blocked”
- licking the urinary tract opening
One of the simplest ways you as an owner can help to both treat episodes of FIC and FLUTD and to prevent future episodes is to get your cat to drink more water. The extra water dilutes the urine and distends the bladder, helping to flush out all the painful inflammatory byproducts. It also will help neutralize the pH of the urine so it is less painful on the irritated bladder wall. Also, if there are crystals present, it will help flush those out, further reducing irritation.
Cats can be very finicky about their water but luckily there are ways to help your cat take in more water. First, switching your cat to an entirely canned food diet will help immensely as canned food is up to 80% water. The second way is encouraging your cat to drink more on their own. One common recommendation by veterinarians to help you accomplish this goal is to buy a cat water fountain.
Not every cat will like a water fountain, however, most cats are naturally attracted to the flowing water of a fountain. In the wild, many cats will only drink from running water sources, and fountains mimic the cat’s natural environment. Many cats like to play with the moving water, dipping their paws in and then licking the water from their toes. The constantly moving flow keeps the water fresh and oxygenated which is very important for these smell oriented creatures. The pool of water allows cats to lap water without whiskers touching the sides (very important for many cats) and the waterfall feature is fantastic for those cats that love to drink from a tap.
Since environmental stress plays a large role in the development of FIC, it is important that the water source be in a quiet area where your cat can relax and focus on drinking. This area should be away from other pets, have an easy escape route (so your cat feels safe being in there) and be free of loud or startling noises. Some studies have shown that cats will drink immediately after eating so the recommendation is to keep the water and food bowls close to one another. However, some cats are finicky about having food and water too close together and these cats would prefer to have them separated. You may need to experiment to see what works best for your cats.
If, (like me), you have multiple cats, the hierarchy in your house can cause the cats lower on the social totem pole to to be restricted from access to food and water. In this case, multiple water and food sources scattered around the house will help ensure there are enough resources for every cat. If you have multiple cats, placing two or more drinking fountains around the house will help ensure every cat gets the amount of water they need.
In summary, FIC/FLUTD is a very complex problem which is painful for your cat, hard on your household, and expensive when needing veterinary treatment. Drinking more water may help cats at risk for FIC by preventing or at least reducing the severity and frequency of episodes. A water fountain is a great (and inexpensive!) tool to help our well-loved felines to have healthy urinary tracts.
Tee is a veterinarian and (of course!) a multiple cat owner. Her particular passion is preventive cat health. Visit http://www.bestcatwaterfountainreviews.com/ to read more articles on how drinking more water keeps your cat healthy and to learn more about cat water fountains.
Author: Darrin Swain