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Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

Updated on October 20, 2014


Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is a general term used to describe a number of urinary tract issues that your cat can develop. These types of diseases and infections are relatively common in cats, and while some are more serious than others, they need to be treated as soon as possible. FLUTDs can affect any cat, regardless of age, so it's best to be informed, and aware of the signs and symptoms.

This is meant to be general information to better inform you, as a cat owner. My information is taken from various websites (all referenced below). The information is also based on my own personal experience with FLUTD as an owner of three cats, and conversations I've had with my vet. This information is not meant to be used to diagnose, or to replace advice from your veterinarian.

What is an FLUTD?

As mentioned above, FLUTD is a generic term, and it can refer to a number of conditions. Your cat may have a bladder infection, or a partial or complete urethral obstruction, among other things. A complete urethral obstruction is the most serious, and could be fatal if left untreated, as your cat's urine will be building up in his bladder and your cat is unable to urinate. In this case, your cat could die within 24-48 hours, if treatment is not sought. Urethral obstructions are usually caused by crystals in the urine, but can sometimes be caused by a mucus build-up (or mucus plug). Partial blockages are also serious, and can lead to kidney and bladder damage if not treated.

A bladder infection, or urinary tract infection (UTI) can also be serious if left untreated. Just like in humans, a UTI in a cat can lead to kidney damage or failure, if the proper antibiotics are not administered as quickly as possible.

Signs your Cat Might have an FLUTD

Keep an eye out for these symptoms, and see your vet if you suspect something is wrong.

  1. Difficulty/Painful Urinating

    If your cat is making frequent and longer than usual trips to the litter box, this might be a sign of a problem. Check to see if your cat is passing any urine, and how much urine is being passed. Also, check to see if your cat seems to be in pain while urinating.

  2. Blood in Urine

    If your cat is passing bloody urine, this is an automatic sign of a problem.

  3. Foul Smelling Urine

    Yes, I realize that cat urine is by definition foul smelling, but if your cat has an infection, you'll be able to smell a distinct difference, I promise!

  4. Urinating Outside of Litter Box

    Your cat might be associating the litter box with a painful experience, and will perhaps begin to urinate in other places in the house.

  5. Lethargic Behaviour

    Is your cat not jumping up like he usually does? Does he seem to be moving a bit more slowly? Believe it or not, this could be the sign of an FLUTD.

  6. Loss of Appetite

    If your cat is sick with an FLUTD, he/she will probably be eating and drinking less than usual.

The Bottom Line

If you think your cat has an FLUTD, see your vet immediately!

My Experience with FLUTD

Oliver's Urine Crystals and Urethral Obstruction

One morning, in November of 2010, I woke up like any other day. I went downstairs, and got ready to head off to work. Before leaving, I noticed that my cat, Oliver (photo above), was in the litter box. A few minutes passed, and he got out of the litter box, only to return a few minutes later. This behaviour was unusual for Oliver, so when he got out of the litter box a second time, I took the lid off the box, and pulled it into the hallway. I noticed there was no fresh urine. Oliver promptly went back into the litter box, and tried, again, to pee. He couldn't, and again left the litter box. He just looked so sad, and I knew something was wrong.

I called up my vet immediately, and they gave us an appointment a couple of hours away. I took that appointment, and called work, telling them I would be late. I then got a call back from the vet, telling me to bring him in immediately. Not thinking twice, we put him in his cat carrier, and drove to the vet, which thankfully is only a minute up the road.

We were seen right away by a vet, who upon examining Oliver, told me he seemed to have a full urethral blockage, and he could not urinate at all. His bladder was distended (full of urine) and he couldn't urinate. Keep in mind I have 3 cats, so knowing who used the litter box when is almost impossible, and I had no idea how long it had been since he'd urinated.

Did you know? Male cats are more prone to complete urethral blockages, because their urethrae are longer and narrower than their female counterparts.

The vet then explained what would need to be done. They would have to remove the blockage, which may or may not have to involve the insertion of a catheter, and could even involve having to put the cat under using an anesthetic, depending on how severe the blockage is. The vet showed us the cost of treatment (anywhere from $1100-$1800), and we went from there. It was a no-brainer for us - Oliver was going to get treated, regardless of the cost.

We left the vet, and a couple of hours later I got a call from the vet. They had to put him under, and they did have to insert a catheter in order to remove the obstruction. They drained his bladder, and flushed it with a saline solution to clean it out. They checked the urine, and it was full of crystals, which is what had caused the blockage. In fact, she said, "I'm not going to lie to you, this was the worst blockage I've ever had to treat." The vet did have some good news, however. She informed me that there was no blood in the urine, which meant that we had caught it really early. Beyond just the blockage, he had a urinary tract infection (UTI), which would have to be treated with antibiotics.

Oliver had to stay at the vet overnight, and had the catheter in for almost 24 hours. When they removed it, he was able to pee on his own again, and he came home. He had three medications (an antibiotic for the infection, pain medication, and an anti-spasmodic to avoid the urethra from having a spasm and closing up).

Oliver as a Kitten
Oliver as a Kitten

When Oliver Came Home

After-care Instructions

When we brought Oliver home, he was still really lethargic, and a bit traumatized from the whole ordeal. Like I said, he also had quite a bit of medication we had to give him, which we continued for the full course of treatment, which I believe was seven days total.

Oliver was also put on a special diet to dissolve the crystals in his urine, which was the only food he was allowed to eat for 30 days. After that, we had to (and still have to) buy prescription food to prevent this from happening in the future. Thankfully, this food is safe for all of our cats, so we only have to buy one type.

After Oliver came home, he was quite sore for the first few days. In fact, when he went to use the litter box for the first time after coming home, he howled in pain. Oliver is one of the quietest cats I've ever known, so to hear that noise come from him was just heartbreaking. I spoke to the vet about it, and she told me to keep an eye on it, and they could give me more pain medication if needed. Thankfully, the pain seemed to subside after a day or two. Unfortunately, however, he came to associate the litter box with pain, and he had a period of about 2-3 weeks where he was peeing everywhere except the litter box. I knew it was his because of the smell (remember he had a UTI). With a bit of retraining, and some treats, he went back to using the litter box as usual, and has not had trouble with it since.

A month later, Oliver had to go back to the vet and they took a urine sample. All was well, and the crystals had all dissolved. Like I said, he's eating specialty food, and he has not had a problem since. I'm happy to report that he's back to his playful and purring ways!

References - For Further Information

These links are where I got most of my information. They are great resources for cat owners!

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    • deanna6812 profile image

      deanna6812 6 years ago

      @BeyondRoses: Thank you for the positive comments. I hope your cat made a full recovery!

    • profile image

      BeyondRoses 6 years ago

      You express well the signs, and what to expect with FLUTD, a commom illness of cats. I like too, that you express the importance of taking a cat to the vet at once. My cat started to throw up, and suddenly stopped eating or drinking. Had an inflammatory condition that needed immediate attention. Was in the kitty hospital 3 days ... Glad you took care of your Oliver so well. He's sweet cat!