What Cat Owners Need to Know about Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (It Can Be Excruciatingly Painful and Deadly!)

October 4th, 2016 by Daniel Mudrick

Did you know that up to 1 out of 10 cats will develop a feline lower urinary tract disease in their lifetime?

Despite being a mostly preventable disorder, feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is a very common and troublesome problem in mature cats. It occurs equally for both sexes, but male cat owners should know that it can present immediate danger to males.

What Symptoms Should I Watch Out For?

Since cats hide their pain and the symptoms of FLUTD are not always obvious, it can be difficult to notice when something is wrong. Here are the symptoms to watch for:

  • Straining to urinate

  • Increased frequency of urination

  • Bloody urine

  • Urinating outside of the litter pan

  • Crying when trying to urinate either in or out of the litter box

  • Excessive licking of the genital area

If a male cat is “blocked” or unable to pass urine, we recommend taking him to an emergency veterinary hospital immediately for treatment. His life could be in imminent danger.

What Is a Urinary Blockage and Why Is It so Dangerous for Male Cats?

pexels-photo-129753-largeFLUTD in male cats is critical because the male’s urethra is long and narrow. This makes him prone to blockage by crystal plugs or stones. When this occurs, your cat cannot urinate and the toxic waste normally excreted by his urinary system quickly builds up to deadly levels. 

When a blockage occurs, the bladder becomes grossly enlarged (can become grapefruit-sized), and understandably, the cat suffers extreme pain. 

Blocked cats eventually show signs of:

  • Straining to urinate and passing small amounts of urine outside the litter box
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting, collapse, and death

Without veterinary attention, this can be fatal in a short amount of time. Early diagnosis and treatment is vital to save an affected cat’s life.

Click here to read our hospital story of Maverick, a 4 year old male cat who we treated for a urinary blockage.

How Do I Prevent My Cat from Developing FLUTD?

There are some simple precautions pet owners can take to drastically reduce the chance of their cat developing a urinary tract disease.

We recommend:

  • Allow access to plenty of fresh water in a shallow bowl, kept full – many cats prefer refrigerated, filtered water. Keep at least one source of water in a location away from the food bowl.
  • Encourage urination – change the litter box daily; some cats will use it less if it is dirty.
  • Encourage exercise – provide toys for mental stimulation, and prevent obesity.
  • Feed a veterinary diet that discourages both of the common crystals.
  • Feed at least half of your cat’s food in canned form with water added to increase total water consumption, which significantly dilutes the urine. We call this a cat’s daily “soup”.

Knowing what preventive steps to take and what signs to watch out for can save your cat’s life. If you do notice your cat exhibiting any of the symptoms of FLUTD, we urge you to contact an emergency vet right away.


We are a 24/7 emergency animal hospital with a vet always physically on site. If you think your cat may have FLUTD, don’t hesitate to call us right away at 905-855-2100. For preventive steps, book an appointment to discuss your specific cat’s needs.

Get your cat in the carrier and to the vet without anxiety. See our free tip sheet on stress-free cat travel.

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About Daniel Mudrick

I'm the owner and founder of Clarkson Village Animal Hospital, a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital that's open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Clarkson Village Animal Hospital has always been a dream of mine, and by caring for one patient at a time, the hospital has continued to grow. During those rare times when I'm not at the hospital, I'm at yoga, hiking, gardening, and spending time with my family. I also enjoy reading to stay current on the most recent advances in veterinary medicine.

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