My cat is straining in the box….again!

Feline idiopathic cystitis, also known as feline lower urinary tract disease are both terms that describe the following symptoms:
So how do we sort out the causes of these symptoms?
What this tells us is that the majority of adult cats with the above symptoms have bladder inflammation with an unknown cause, also know as Feline Idiopathic Cystitis.
Here are some things we know about this condition:
Prevention of Future Episodes
Increased water consumption
By increasing the amount of water consumed by the cat, the bladder is more distended and the urine is more diluted. Canned cat food is 80% water so simply switching to canned foods will increase a cat’s water consumption. Also, filling the water bowl while the cat is watching or getting a drinking fountain encourages the cat to take a drink. Canned cat food is vital to your cat’s overall health, visit this great website for more info on switching your cat to canned cat food and why that is so important…
Environmental enrichment
One might think a cat has plenty of toys and seems relaxed and well-adjusted but the reality is that the cat’s natural environment of living in the forest and hunting and eating mice regularly throughout the day is a far cry from sitting on a sofa, eating processed foods, and eliminating waste in a plastic box filled with clay. Most cats are fine with the domestic lifestyle but the FIC cat is special and has special sensitivity. Stress can be minimized by allowing choices for the cat in terms of where to play, rest, eat, and eliminate.
Here is a summary of recommendations that have been published:
Our clinic cat, Sassy is a great example of a cat with idiopathic cystitis. Sassy showed symptoms of straining to urinate, urinating outside her litter box, and had blood in her urine. Her urinalysis and urine cultures showed no infection present and no bladder tumors or stones were seen on her ultrasound. She was started on a canned food only diet but she continued to have cystitis flare ups. Her condition was so severe we took surgical biopsies of her bladder to find out what was going on. Her biopsies came back as inflammation and she was started on an oral steroid and Dasequin. In spite of everything we tried to help her she continued to have problems. After consulting with Dr. Buffington, the founder of The Indoor Cat Initiative ( we started focusing on making her life as stress free as possible. We increased her toys and play with her more often, we allowed her to choose the cat litter and litter box she liked the best, and provided her with a heated bed, allowing her to choose if she wants to sleep in warmth or in her soft regular bed.
Ellie came to us for an exam because she was urinating frequently in her litter box, but only produced small amount of urine. She was vocal and just acting unusual. We submitted her urine sample to culture for bacteria and it came back negative. With a urinary tract infection ruled out we recommended increasing her water intake with a drinking fountain and starting on canned food. Days later her owner reported Ellie is back to normal and doing great!
Many people are surprised to find that environmental enrichment has been effective in prevention since it does not involve medication or diets but it is important to remember that what makes a cat vulnerable to this condition is that they are sensitive to stress and it is triggering the cystitis.