Stress & Your Cat’s Bladder: Understanding Feline Idiopathic Cystitis

August 24, 2018
cat health
feline idiopathic cystitis

Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) is a condition of the bladder that is thought to occur in connection with stress and anxiety. There may be factors in the home that are causing stress and anxiety, but these may be subtle, or unexpected, as FIC cats often have a low tolerance for even the smallest stressors. The bladder wall becomes inflamed, and bleeding may occur. The cat experiences bladder discomfort and pain, similar to that associated with urinary tract infections in humans.

This condition is diagnosed based on exclusion of all other medical problems. The clinical signs associated with FIC often mimic other severe, possibly life threatening problems, so seek veterinary assistance right away! Your veterinarian will help you determine whether your cat is suffering from medical issues by performing a physical examination, as well as several laboratory tests. These include blood and urine testing, x-rays and sometimes ultrasound imaging.

Treatment for FIC should include management of pain during active episodes. One major treatment goal is to identify stressors in the cat’s life and to seek ways to reduce stress and anxiety. Your veterinarian may suggest medications that help reduce anxiety, but these alone will not resolve repeat episodes of FIC.

Diet can play an important role in management of FIC. Dietary modification should include providing a veterinary prescription diet that is formulated to promote urinary tract health. These diets are intricately formulated to generate a balanced urinary pH, to reduce inflammation and to increase water intake. Increasing water intake can also be accomplished by encouraging consumption of canned urinary prescription diets. Addition of small amounts of water to the canned food may also be helpful.

Prescription urinary diets may also contain ingredients that safely reduce anxiety, thus helping to limit recurrent episodes of FIC. These ingredients include milk protein hydrolyzate, L-tryptophan and nicotinamide. Your veterinarian will help you select the best food option for your cat.

Your veterinarian will work with you to identify causes of stress. These stressors can be subtle, and there is often more than one. Persistence and dedication to identifying and resolving these issues is needed!

Some examples of potential stressors in the home

  • Insufficient resources to meet the needs of cats in the household
  • Cats in the household that don’t get along
  • Other pets, new pets
  • Movement of people into or out of the household
  • Changes in routines

Without addressing the identified stressors in the household, episodes of FIC will likely continue to occur. This can be challenging, but together with diet and in some situations, anti-anxiety medications, you and your veterinarian can succeed at decreasing your cat’s stress levels and improving bladder health.

This article was sponsored by Hill’s Pet Nutrition and written by feline specialist Dr. Kelly St. Denis, MSc, DVM, DABVP

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