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Feline Cystitis

Cystitis is a very common and distressing condition affecting the cat. It is associated with the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty and/or pain when trying to urinate
  • An increase in the frequency of urination, but only producing small amounts each time
  • Blood in the urine

There are a number of possible medical causes, so it is important that your cat is examined by a veterinary surgeon. Also, if your cat is straining and not able to pass any urine there may be a blockage. In these cases, emergency treatment is needed to unblock the bladder.

A high percentage of cystitis cases, however, are said to be idiopathic, meaning that they cannot be associated with an identifiable medical cause. This commonly occurs in cats which have an exaggerated response to stress.

Possible Stress Factors

  • Moving house
  • Building work
  • Inter-cat conflict, especially in multiple cat households
  • New arrivals (pets or people) in the home
  • Owner stress or changes in owner’s work schedule
  • Reduced access to outside areas
  • Boarding in a cattery
  • Travel

Management of the disease

When managing idiopathic cystitis it is important to look at measures that help restore the bladder lining and, where possible, reduce and eliminate stress factors.

Restoring the bladder lining

N-acetylglucosamine is available as an oral supplement called Cystophan that can be given with food. It provides your cat with the building blocks it needs to help support and maintain the bladder lining. Cystophan can be used alongside pheromone therapy.

Pheromone Therapy

Pheromones are natural substances which play an important role in feline communication. When cats rub the side of their face against objects they deposit pheromones which have a calming influence and provide them with a feeling of security when they smell them.

Preparations containing the F3 facial pheromone (Feliway®) are available and these have been shown to reduce tension in cats. They can be used within the home (as a plug-in diffuser) and during transport (as a spray), for example when travelling to a cattery or the vets’ surgery.

Environmental change

Kion And LunaIf there is a cat in the neighbourhood causing your cat stress you can try to stop your cat from seeing the aggressor cat by preventing access to window ledges or by drawing curtains. Remember, cats don’t regard glass as a boundary. In addition, remove anything which may attract the aggressor to your house such as a bird feeder. Cat flaps can be purchased which only open for your cat if you have found aggressor cats coming into your home. You can also scare them away humanely with a water pistol.

Multiple cats?

In multiple cat households the following are also recommended:

  • Create multiple access points for valuable resources such as sleeping areas, litter boxes, food and water.
  • Spread these resources around the house so they are not concentrated in one area. This prevents a dominant cat from preventing access to the resources by other cats.
  • Covered litter boxes may increase bullying in some households.
  • Single cat-sized sleeping perches have been shown to help reduce individual cat stress.
  • Provide escape routes and hiding places to reduce bullying. Cats like to climb and the tops of wardrobes and or cupboards are particularly suitable.
  • Placing cat bells on an aggressor cat can be a useful as the other cats will be warned he is approaching and have a chance to keep out of his way.


WillowIdiopathic cystitis is a very distressing condition. Supplementation with N-acetyl glucosamine (Cystophan) can help support the bladder lining, and the use of pheromones (Feliway®) can have a beneficial calming effect. In addition, if a stressful episode is anticipated (for example cat transport, moving home, etc.) pre-emptive treatment may reduce the likelihood of cystitis occurring. Information on other specific health problems can be found by visiting the website of the Feline Advisory Bureau at www.fabcats.org.