Blood in cat’s urine

Question:

I think my two-year-old cat has a urinary tract infection; she's urinating in my laundry basket and the urine looks bloody. I asked my vet if I could get some antibiotics and she said no, I needed to bring her in for an exam and tests. Why can't I just pick up medication?

Answer:

There are several reasons your veterinarian won’t dispense antibiotics, the most important one being that your cat very likely does NOT have an infection! In young, otherwise healthy cats, bloody urine is usually a symptom of idiopathic cystitis, also known as feline lower urinary tract disease. It is not truly a “disease,” rather it is a group of clinical signs that represent an inflammatory syndrome of unknown cause.

Cats with this problem can show a variety of symptoms: straining and painful urination, blood in the urine, urinating outside the litter box, and urinating very small amounts frequently. Diagnosis is a process of ruling out other causes of the symptoms, and may include tests such as urinalysis, urine culture, x-rays, and abdominal ultrasound, depending on the duration and severity of her clinical signs.

Although antibiotics will not treat this problem, there are other treatments that can help: pain relievers, fluid therapy, and medication to reduce urethral spasm may alleviate your cat’s discomfort and restore litter box use. The good news is that episodes typically only last a few days, but the bad news is that cystitis tends to recur.

Stress and diet are potential triggers for recurrence, so talk to your veterinarian about your cat’s home environment, and ask for food recommendations. Cats with this problem ideally should be fed exclusively canned food, usually formulated to reduce urine pH and prevent formation of urine crystals.