Feline idiopathic cystitis

1st October 2016

Urinary disease in cats is one of the more common problems we see at Bollington Veterinary Centre, with many cats being presented every year with a wide variety of problems.

 Unfortunately many of these cats develop cystitis without any obvious underlying cause. We call this 'feline idiopathic cystitis' or FIC, a disease that’s thought to account for around ⅔ of all cases of lower urinary disease.


6 common Signs of FIC

These are generally the same as for other forms of cystitis, and include the following.

  • Difficulty urinating - look for straining. There may be multiple attempts to urinate with very little or no urine being produced.
  • Blocked bladder – mainly see in male cats and needs to be treated as an emergency. Don’t hesitate in contacting us on {{owner.clinic-main-phone}}.
  • Crying when urinating – this condition can often be painful due to the spasms of the urethra. Your cat may yowl or cry when using the litter tray.
  • Blood in urine – you may notice the litter being discolored. Sometimes you’ll see something resembling clots of blood.
  • Urinating outside the litter tray – you may notice urine around the edge of the tray or perhaps in corners and on carpets around the home.


What causes feline idiopathic cystitis?

Stress is a major factor – there is no doubt that stress in critical in initiating and prolonging the signs of cystitis.


What are the common stress triggers?

  • Multi-cat households – probably one of the most common triggers is when a susceptible cat is housed in and amongst several other cats. They just need their own space and never seem to find it.
  • House cats – cats love being able to go outside and explore, so those that are kept inside due to living near a busy road or in an apartment are at risk from stress.
  • Weather events – sudden snowstorms or heavy prolonged rain will make most cats want to stay inside. They then feel all cooped up and stressed. As the winter approaches, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks.
  • Travelling – it’s rare to come across a cat who feels comfortable travelling in the car. Any visit to the cattery or vets for example could trigger an event.
  • Moving house – it’s estimated that at any time 10% of people are moving house for one reason or another. Cats like to be comfortable with their own familiar surroundings, so a new home will be stressful at first.
  • Builders – there can often be all sorts of upheaval at home, so simple things like home renovations taking place with strange people around can make many cats anxious and at risk.
  • Genetics – it’s thought that cats who regularly suffer from FIC have an inbuilt abnormal stress response. They just don’t handle stress very well.

Helping cats with FIC?

Environmental modification to reduce stress – identify, modify and avoid the specific stress triggers mentioned above.

The most common cause of stress to cats is conflict with another cat in the household. This may be very difficult to identify, but should always be suspected in a cat with cystitis


How can you help your cat?

  • Play with your cat – set some time aside each day to interact with your cat. You can use all sorts of toys, especially homemade ones with scrunched up paper.
  • Time outside – let your cat have some access to the outside world every day, even if you have to use a run or harness and lead.
  • Provide lots of interest in the home - scratching posts, hiding places, perches and toys. It is important that they can explore and have fun.
  • Feline facial pheromones – try using Feliway as a plug in diffuser to help reduce stress and anxiety. Ask us for advice