She's only a little cat, but her urinary tract has a lot of equipment: kidneys, ureters, the bladder and urethra. An infection in any one of these parts constitutes a urinary tract infection, or UTI. Antibiotics are necessary for fighting the bacteria from a urinary tract infection, but home remedies can help keep your cat's urinary tract healthy.
One System, Multiple Issues
If your kitty's been drinking more water than normal and making frequent trips to the litter box to deposit small amounts of urine she's exhibiting the classic sign of a urinary tract infection. Since the feline UTI is often confused with feline cystitis -- an inflammation of the bladder -- and feline lower urinary tract disease, you'll need to have the presence of bacteria confirmed by the vet for proper treatment. Tests, including a urine culture and urinalysis, will let the vet know what's happening in your cat's urinary tract. If she's suffering from a UTI, conventional veterinary treatment relies on 10 to 14 days worth of antibiotics to eliminate symptoms and bacteria.
Keeping Bacteria at Bay the Natural Way
Antibiotics will clear up your cat's bacterial troubles, but you can contribute to the health of her urinary tract with some home remedies. Washing your cat in a rinse of lemon, green tea, apple cider vinegar and water will keep her backside clean and minimize the introduction of new bacteria to her urinary tract. Grapefruit seed extract, which acts as an anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-microbial agent, can be mixed into her food. Unsweetened cranberry juice is an acidifier, making the urinary tract system an unwelcoming environment for bacteria. Your cat likely won't care for cranberry juice, so consider cranberry extract, as recommended by Dr. Shawn Messonnier in the "Natural Health Bible for Dogs and Cats."
One of the easiest ways to keep your cat's urinary tract bacteria-free is to keep her urine moving. That means she should be drinking plenty of water to keep her urinary tract flushed, minimizing the chance of bacterial growth. Make sure she has access to fresh water, and if she's hesitant to drink, try using a water fountain made for cats. Adding a bit of flavor to her water, such as chicken broth or tuna juice, may tickle her interest as well. Switching from kibble to canned food will make a big difference, given that kibble has a water content of 5 to 10 percent compared to the 70 to 80 percent water content of canned food.
A urinary tract infection is not the same as feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD. Cats frequently suffer from idiopathic cystitis, where the urinary tract becomes inflamed, resulting in many of the same symptoms as a UTI -- frequent urination of small amounts of urine, straining and blood-tinged urine. Occasionally, struvite or calcium oxalate crystals form, a painful and potentially dangerous condition for a cat. If inflammation or crystals is an issue with your cat, a change in diet may help her urinary tract's health. Dr. Karen Becker of HealthyPets.com recommends minimizing carbohydrates in the cat's diet, as they can contribute to inflammation of the urinary tract. If your cat won't give up kibble, have a discussion with your vet about the right kind of dry food for your cat; different ingredients can promote acidic or alkaline urine, which can encourage different types of crystals.
Whether your cat's experiencing a urinary tract infection or FLUTD, keeping her stress level low will help her recovery. Stress is often a trigger for urinary tract issues in cats, so try to give your feline friend a calm environment. A quiet room with her favorite bedding or extra TLC from you can go a long way to soothe her nerves. Keep her litter box clean so she doesn't hold her urine for extended periods of time. Finally, be vigilant and keep the vet apprised of how she's responding to treatment for her comfort and safety.