While urinary tract infections are not uncommon in the cat, up to 90% of what we call infection is actually idiopathic cystitis. Idiopathic cystitis is an inflammation of the urinary bladder with no known cause. These cases mimic a urinary tract infection, but bacteria cannot be found in the urine. They may even wax and wane making them appear to respond to antibiotics. This condition is very uncomfortable and may cause your cat to urinate in inappropriate places. The urine may contain blood and urination may be in small frequent amounts.

Many factors have been implicated in idiopathic cystitis, including genetics, stress, and a deficiency in the glucosamine lining in the bladder. One interesting theory implicates our keeping cats indoors as the cause. None of these has proven to be a definitive cause in all cases. Many cats respond to anti-anxiety medication or modification of the environment to decrease stress. Injections of glucosamine containing substances have helped some patients. Diet also seems to play a part, and there are now diets that are labeled for the treatment of idiopathic cystitis. These are prescription diets, and as such, must be obtained through a veterinarian.

A thorough workup of the urinary tract, including urinalysis, culture, x-rays and ultrasound are required to rule out other causes of urinary discomfort. These include true infection, urinary crystals or stones and tumors.

For more information on environmental enrichment for your cat, go to or contact us at 330-650-2929.

Dr. Mark

Return to Ask the Vet

Call Us Text Us
Skip to content