How to Tell If Your Cat Has a UTI

How to Tell If Your Cat Has a UTI

Medically Reviewed by Taylor Froiland, PharmD, RPh
Written by Adam McCown, PharmD

Cats are clean and orderly animals. That’s one of the reasons why cat parents love them so much. They are constantly cleaning themselves, they always use their litter boxes, and they are not quite as slobbery as their canine siblings often are. Healthy cats are clean cats, and if your feline friend starts having accidents outside of their litter box, that is probably a sign that something is wrong or they are suffering from some type of health issue.

It may or may come as a surprise to cat owners that their four legged friends can suffer from a lot of the same or similar health problems that disrupt our own daily lives. One of these health problems are urinary tract infections. If your cat has a UTI, it may cause them to act out of the ordinary, lead to them having accidents, and cause a significant amount of pain, stress, and discomfort.

Urinary Tract Infections in Cats

If your cat is having accidents around the house, your first step should be to rule out any medical causes. Although this behavior may be the result of a behavioral problem or that they just don’t like their litter box for some reason, if the cause is a medical issue or condition, you’ll want to catch it as soon as possible.

Problems that affect your cat’s lower urinary tract will prevent them from emptying their bladder fully or correctly and, in extreme cases, cause a potentially fatal blockage of their urethra. If your cat has a UTI, then they are suffering from a condition that falls under the umbrella term, Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD).

FLUTD is a collection of clinical symptoms, including frequent or painful urination, bloody urine, and frequent licking of the urinary opening. This condition may be caused by a urinary tract infection, but could also be caused by bladder stones or crystals, urethral obstruction, inflammation in the urinary bladder, or other abnormalities within their urinary system.

A cat UTI, specifically, is an infection of the urinary system, bladder, or urethra. If you let the infection go without treatment, the bacteria causing it can cause serious damage to your cat’s cells and spread to affect their kidneys and other vital organs.

How to Tell If Your Cat Has a UTI: Signs and Symptoms

There are many symptoms of cat UTIs, in addition to abnormal behavior. These symptoms might include:

  •   Difficulty urinating – Urinary tract infections in cats will typically lead to straining while urinating, which can eventually cause more severe situations like formation of bladder stones or a urethral plug.
  •   Frequent urination – Cats with UTIs or FLUTD feel the urge to urinate often but will only be able to pass a small amount each time.
  •   Painful urination – A telltale sign of urinary tract infections in cats is pain while urinating. If your cat cries out or moans while trying to go to the bathroom, they may have a UTI.
  •   Irritability – If your cat has a UTI, they may act more irritable and easily annoyed than usual.
  •   Excessive licking – If you notice your cat is licking their genital or abdominal areas more than normal, it could mean they have a urinary tract infection. This is their attempt to soothe the pain they are experiencing from the UTI.

Additional symptoms of UTIs may also include lethargy, strong odor of ammonia in urine, vomiting, increased water consumption, and a hard, distended abdomen.

How to Diagnose a Cat UTI

If you notice that your cat has any of the above symptoms, then it is best to bring them in to see the vet as soon as possible. Once there, they will perform a urinalysis, which is a detailed examination of the properties of your cat’s urine. This analysis will determine whether your cat has a UTI and what type of bacteria is causing the infection.

The most common microorganism that causes urinary tract infections is called Escherichia coli. However, there are other possible culprits for UTIs and your vet will need to determine exactly what type of organism is the cause in order to prescribe the proper course of treatment. If they are unable to determine the organism from the urinalysis, your vet may order a complete blood count (CBC) in order to see if their symptoms may be due to a different underlying disease or infection.

Prevention and Treatment of UTIs in Cats

If the veterinarian diagnoses your cat with a urinary tract infection then they will most likely prescribe a type of oral antibiotic to treat it. The type will depend on the specific microorganism that is behind the infection. The sooner treatment is started, the better chances your cat has of getting rid of the infection before it causes any serious damage.

What’s better than treating UTIs in cats is preventing them from occurring at all. You can try to accomplish this by giving your cat a well-balanced diet and keeping a close eye on them for any signs of changes in behavior. You should also create a healthy environment by making sure your cat’s litter box is properly cleaned, playing with them often, and giving them access to windows. The cleaner and happier they are, the lower the chances are that they will develop any type of infection, including a UTI.


The most important thing for your cat is to provide a healthy environment and be mindful of their behavior. If you notice something out of the ordinary, call your vet or take your kitty in to see them. If your vet prescribes an antibiotic or other medication, follow their administration instructions carefully.

If you need to fulfill a prescription to treat your cat’s UTI, you can do it conveniently online at Express Vet Pharmacy.