Cystitis problems in cats – a real painJanuary 28, 2010
A cat suffering with a bout of cystitis is almost as distressing for an owner to watch as it is for a cat to go through. Cats appear in real pain with this condition. Worrying for Vets though is that in over half (or more) of the situations presented there is no specific, obvious cause. For these ‘problem cystitis events’ we conveniently put them in to the group called ‘idiopathic’ – which is just another way of saying ‘we don’t know’. Several recent studies have suggested that stress may play an important role in the development of idiopathic cystitis.
Typical signs of cystitis
For many owners, the signs of cystitis are all too obvious – tell-tale wet patches in the corners of a living room, bedroom or bathroom. For those cats using litter trays an increased frequency of visits to the tray may also alert of a possible problem. Often in these cases though there is little evidence of a cat actually having passed anything- indeed on many occasions a cat is brought to the Veterinary Centre with an owner suspicious of constipation as nothing is being produced, despite many minutes of straining, hovering over the litter. Yowling may accompany such ‘efforts’ as well – a sure sign of the distress a cat is feeling. Over-grooming in the lower belly region may also give a possible clue to the level of upset that repeat bouts of cystitis is causing.
It would seem reasonable to assume that in these idiopathic cystitis situations a cat’s bladder should be so full that it is causing immense upset and discomfort. In fact quite the opposite is often the case. The bladder itself is quite small due to spasm – it just can’t fill. The reason why it is so important to get a cat checked over is because the self same signs are often present when the bladder is full to bursting. This is a lot more dangerous a problem and needs immediate veterinary attention to avoid an imminent crisis.
Help to manage the problem
For owners with cats that are prone to idiopathic cystitis, one or two trips to the Vets will alert them to the likely situation. Sometimes tests are needed to be certain that there isn’t an underlying infection causing the problem. Sadly though, infections are present in a lot less than 2% of cases. Blockage due to crystals or stones in the urine is another reason for cystitis, and this is the case in 10-25% of cats suffering with the condition. For the vast majority though the problem is one of behavioural stress.
Trying to work out what ‘stressor’ is the main reason for a cat developing these painful cystitis bouts is often very difficult. Indeed, in many cases a reason just can’t be found. The main focus in the initial part of the painful phase of a bout of cystitis is to stop the pain. This is often achieved with some kind of anti-inflammatory treatment in the form of an injection or tablets, with follow-up treatment for a short period if necessary. In some cases the ‘stressor’ reason for the bout of cystitis seems to go away, and in these cats no further help is needed. In others though the problem just keeps coming back at varying intervals. For these cats, more tablets or injections is just using a sticking plaster mentality for a much deeper rooted issue. For such cats more work is needed to try and help them through their stressful episodes.
One such form of help is the cat friendly pheromone diffuser – Feliway. This is a bottled version of the same, odourless, pheromone that cats deposit on their owners when they rub their face against us. Its use in cats suffering with idiopathic cystitis is directed at helping a cat to feel more at ease in its own environment. The theory behind its use is to allow the pheromone (or scent) to drift in to the cat’s atmosphere (your home) and reduce stress in this way. Fortunately for us these pheromones are odourless and just require the diffuser to be plugged in to a wall socket and left on permanently. Not in all cases is the answer quite so simple, and in some cats help is more difficult to come by. Generally though, even in very distressed cats some form of relief from the pain of idiopathic cystitis is available.
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