Judging by the average cat’s lifestyle it would seem difficult to believe that they could get stressed. With a butler and a cook on hand (their owners) it’s difficult to see how they could ever get upset about anything. But that, of course, is looking at the world through human eyes, and not those of a cat. There are those who think that cats came from Mars and have been directing human evolution for the past 2 million years. And making a rather good job of getting us to do their bidding! Joking aside though, one of the more intractable problems that Vets face on a weekly basis is the cat that has got so stressed that it has lead to cystitis. Working out the reason (or reasons) for the stress can be nigh on impossible in some cases. Most cats seem to live in a very ordered and settled situation. It’s part of their magical powers that they get us to arrange a household around them. Consequently, even small changes can be enough to set their world spinning, with all the upset that follows. And that can subsequently lead to a stress-related cystitis.
The signs to look out for
If as an owner you’ve ever had the misfortune of suffering a bout of cystitis yourself, the frequent trips to the bathroom with little being voided, but with a hideous burning feeling every time you go, is the kind of memory you don’t forget in a hurry. It’s not a dissimilar situation for cats. Frequent trips to the litter tray with next to nothing being produced is a tell-tale sign. For those cats not using a litter tray then frequent trips out through the cat flap may be a more subtle sign that something just isn’t right. Urinating in odd places around the house can also give a clue to the condition. It’s important to remember, your cat can’t rationalise that the problem is internal. They just assume that going to the litter tray or their usual place outside causes a burning pain, so that must be the source of the hurt. Hence they will try and go elsewhere to avoid the “nasty” litter tray hurting them! In a cat’s world, that makes sense.
What’s actually happening?
Generally speaking, in stress-related cystitis, the bladder is in spasm. That’s the reason why there’s next to nothing being produced. As soon as the bladder is emptied even a small amount of re-filling can lead to the next bout of spasm with the messages being relayed that the cat “needs to go again”! But in actual fact there’s next to nothing to pass. Sometimes the straining can be such that they pass a small amount of faeces, making an owner think that their cat is constipated.
Is this an emergency?
It certainly can be. The problem is that the signs of a stress-related cystitis are not that dissimilar from those in which there is a bladder blockage. Working out which is which needs a vet. to carry out an examination of your cat. A bladder blockage is very serious and most certainly is an emergency. And getting those cats unblocked can be a very tricky procedure.
How can they be helped?
Initially we need to relieve the spasm in those cats with stress-related cystitis, and so make them more comfortable. Often the stressor (or stressors) simply goes away, so our aim as Vets is to support the cat with a short course of medication – effectively we ride out the storm with some supportive treatment. Not all cats recover quickly though, and some stressors just don’t go away. For those individuals they need alot more help, with a combination of treatment to help when the problem flares, and discussion with owners about lifestyle management to make their cat’s world a little but more like the perfect place it used to be!