UTIs (urinary tract infections) in cats

March 8, 2024 - 5 min read

The information in this article has been reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM on March 1, 2024 . Although it may provide helpful guidance, it should not be substituted for professional veterinary advice.


Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can be a sneaky issue in cats, causing discomfort and stress for both pets and their owners. If you've noticed your cat making frequent trips to the litter box or showing signs of pain during urination, it might be more than just a bad day.

Understanding the signs and knowing when to seek veterinary help can make a big difference in your cat's well-being.

UTI (urinary tract infection) symptoms in cats

Cat pee on bed

UTIs are not all that common of a problem for healthy cats, but they are still important to understand. They’re most often diagnosed in cats who have other health problems, such as diabetes mellitus or kidney disease. Recognizing the early signs can help you get your cat the help they need more quickly. 

Cats are notorious for hiding discomfort and illness, so it's up to their humans to stay vigilant. Here are some common indicators that your cat might be struggling with a urinary tract infection or another, more common urinary problem, such as feline idiopathic cystitis:

  • Difficulty urinating or frequent attempts to urinate: You might notice your cat visiting the litter box more often than usual, but only producing a small amount of urine each time.

  • Crying out in pain while urinating: This is a clear sign that urinating is causing your cat discomfort. If you hear them vocalizing more than usual when they're in their litter box, it's time to pay attention.

  • Blood in the urine: Although this may be harder to spot, especially if your cat uses clumping litter, any sign of blood in the urine is a red flag and warrants immediate veterinary attention.

  • Excessive licking of the genital area: Cats may lick their genital region more frequently in an attempt to soothe irritation caused by a UTI.

  • Changes in bathroom habits, such as urinating outside the litter box: If your cat starts avoiding their litter box and instead chooses to urinate in unusual places, this can be a sign of distress linked to urination.

  • No urination: It’s an emergency if your cat can’t urinate at all or only produces a tiny amount of urine. Get your cat seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Catching these symptoms early can prevent more serious complications from developing. If you notice any of these signs, it's a good idea to consult your vet right away for advice on the next steps. Your cat's health and comfort depend on it.

What causes UTIs in cats?

A silver tabby cat with striking green eyes is being held by a veterinary professional in green scrubs. The vet's gloved hands gently support the cat, one hand with a stethoscope ready to examine. The cat's attentive gaze and the close human interaction symbolize the importance of regular health check-ups to identify and manage common feline health issues.

Understanding what causes urinary tract infections (UTIs) in cats is the first step towards preventing them. Certain conditions can increase a cat's risk of developing UTIs. They may affect the body's ability to fight off infections or lead to changes in urine composition that support bacterial growth. Common culprits include:

  • Diabetes mellitus: The increased sugar content of a cat’s urine allows bacteria to flourish.

  • Kidney disease: Cats with kidney disease produce very dilute urine, which may make it easier for bacteria to survive.

  • Hyperthyroidism: An underlying cause for the increase in UTIs in cats with hyperthyroidism hasn’t yet been uncovered.

  • Bladder stones: Some types of bladder stones are associated with bacteria.

  • Cancer: Tumors within the bladder may become infected.

  • Urinary catheterization: Placing a catheter into a cat’s bladder can result in a UTI.

  • Surgery: Surgery on the urinary tract can lead to infection.

  • Immunosuppressive medications: drugs that lower a cat’s immune response can make UTIs more likely.

  • Anything that alters urination—anatomical abnormalities, behavioral issues, or anything else that makes it hard for a cat to urinate normally—can result in a UTI.

Home care tips: supporting your cat’s urinary health

Keeping your cat's urinary system healthy is a vital part of their overall well-being. There are several home care strategies you can implement to support your cat's urinary health and potentially prevent the occurrence of UTIs. 

Keep your cat hydrated

grey and white adult cat with green eyes standing near food and water dishes. not approaching dish, seems to have lost appetite.

First, make sure your cat stays hydrated. Cats naturally have a low thirst drive, so encouraging them to drink more water can help prevent urinary tract issues. Consider adding more water bowls around the house or investing in a cat water fountain, which can entice cats to drink due to their preference for running water.

Feed your cat a balanced diet

Diet plays a significant role in urinary health as well. Feeding your cat a nutritionally complete and balanced wet food can help increase their water intake. Some pet food brands offer formulas specifically designed to support urinary health, which might be worth exploring if your cat is prone to UTIs or other urinary tract issues. These diets are formulated to maintain a proper urinary pH and can help prevent the formation of bladder stones.

Clean the litter box regularly

In addition, you should keep the litter box clean and accessible, since dirty or hard-to-reach litter boxes can discourage proper urination habits.

Stay on top of wellness exams

Lastly, regular veterinary check-ups are essential for the early detection and prevention of urinary tract issues. Even with the best home care, some cats may still develop UTIs or other urinary problems, so it's important to catch and treat these issues early. Your vet can also provide personalized advice on diet and care tailored to your cat's specific needs.

By implementing these home care tips, you can play a significant role in supporting your cat's urinary health, potentially reducing the risk of UTIs and ensuring your furry friend stays happy and healthy.

When to see a vet for your cat's UTI

The practice cat sits on a table in the reception area in a Veterinary Hospital.

Remember, if you're ever in doubt about your cat's health, it's always better to err on the side of caution and consult with your vet.

Knowing when it's time to take your cat to the vet is crucial for their health and well-being, especially when dealing with potential UTIs and other urinary problems. While some signs might seem minor at first, they can quickly escalate into more serious health issues if left untreated.

If your cat is showing any of the earlier mentioned signs of a UTI, such as straining to urinate, crying out in pain, or urinating more frequently than usual, it's time to schedule a visit to the vet. And remember, cats that can’t produce much urine at all need to be seen immediately.

How vets diagnose and treat UTIs in cats

Your vet can conduct a series of tests to diagnose a UTI accurately, including a urinalysis, urine culture and sensitivity tests, bloodwork, and possibly ultrasounds or X-rays to check for bladder stones or other underlying conditions. These tests are essential for determining the best course of treatment, which might include antibiotics for bacterial infections, dietary changes, or even surgery in severe cases of bladder stones or blockages.

It's also worth discussing preventive care during your visit. Regular check-ups can help you catch issues like UTIs early, before they become more serious. Your vet might also recommend changes to your cat's diet or environment to lower the risk of future UTIs.

The cost of UTI treatment in cats

The financial aspect of treating urinary tract infections (UTIs) in cats can vary widely based on the severity of the condition and the required treatments. Initial vet visits for diagnosis might include costs for urine tests, cultures, bloodwork, and possibly imaging such as X-rays or ultrasounds if a blockage or stones are suspected. These diagnostic steps are vital for determining the best treatment plan, but they can add up quickly.

Treatment costs depend on the underlying cause of the UTI. If antibiotics are prescribed for a bacterial infection, the cost might be relatively low. However, if your cat requires specialized food, ongoing medication, surgery, or treatment for an underlying health problem that led to the UTI, the expenses can become significant.

It's also important to consider the potential for recurring UTIs, especially in cats with chronic conditions or those who have experienced UTIs previously. Ongoing treatments, dietary changes, and regular vet visits for monitoring can contribute to the overall cost of managing your cat's urinary health.

How cat insurance can help

Pet Insurance and Emergency Vet Care

This is where cat insurance can be a lifesaver. Buying an insurance policy can help you manage the costs of unexpected veterinary care,* including the diagnosis and treatment of UTIs and other urinary problems. Cat insurance not only provides financial support* but also peace of mind, knowing that you can afford the best possible care for your furry friend.

Ultimately, understanding the potential costs involved in treating UTIs can help you prepare and make informed decisions about your cat's health care. And with the right support and preventive measures, you can minimize the risk of UTIs and ensure your cat remains healthy and happy.

*Pre-existing conditions excluded. See your policy for details.

David Teich
Lead Editor

David oversees content strategy and development at ManyPets. As Lead Editor, he focuses on delivering accurate information related to pet care and insurance. David’s editorial background spans more than a decade, including a pivotal role at Digiday, where he wrote content and managed relationships with media and tech companies. As an Associate Editor at Cynopsis Media, David wrote the Cynopsis Digital newsletter and interviewed executives and digital marketing experts in the TV industry. His background also includes film journalism. His diverse experiences in journalism and marketing underpins his role in shaping content within the pet care industry.