Urinary tract conditions are common in cats and can range from urinary tract infections to bladder and kidney stones. Cats who have had a urinary problem in the past are more likely to experience a recurrence in the future.
The presence of blood in a cat’s urine can be quite concerning for pet parents. There are a few different causes of blood-tinged urine in cats. We’ll look more closely at those causes and explain what steps you should take towards receiving a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Blood in a Cat’s Urine: What it Looks Like
Blood in cat urine is usually relatively easy to identify, but its appearance can vary. The majority of the time pet parents will notice a pink tinge to their cat’s urine. Small drops of bright red urine, urine with blood clots, or rarely, very dark urine may also be seen.
While it is relatively easy to identify blood in the litterbox, there are brands of litter that are made specifically to help pet parents detect urinary problems. Pretty litter is just one of these brands, which has crystals that change color when blood is present. This can help pet parents detect issues early so they can seek appropriate veterinary care.
Causes of Blood in Cat Urine
There are several reasons why cats may have blood in their urine, ranging from mild to more serious conditions. Here are some common causes:
Cystitis. Cystitis in cats is inflammation in the bladder. This is often idiopathic, meaning that the cause of the inflammation is unknown. Oftentimes, changes within a cat’s environment can cause stress, which can manifest in bladder inflammation and blood-tinged urine. This often starts out as a mild issue, however it does have the potential to cause significant problems if left untreated.
Bladder stones. Bladder stones in cats begin as crystals, which develop in urine due to diets high in minerals, such as calcium or phosphorus, or due to highly concentrated urine. Crystals clump together and solidify, resulting in the formation of stones. If left untreated, bladder stones can cause significant pain and irritation to the bladder lining, which can result in blood in the cat’s urine. Depending on the size and number, stones can also prevent urine from emptying from the bladder, which is a serious medical concern and should be treated immediately.
Urinary blockages. Male cats are predisposed to urinary blockages due to their anatomy. Small crystals, blood clots, protein, or mucus can become lodged in the urethra, which is the narrow tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. This can result in either a partial or full blockage of this tube and prevent the bladder from emptying. With this condition, pet parents may notice small drops of blood-tinged urine or no urine at all. A urethral obstruction is considered extremely serious as it can lead to severe kidney damage and death if left untreated.
Urinary tract infection (UTI). Another cause of blood in a cat’s urine is an infection. While urinary tract infections only affect around 5 percent of younger cats, they are common in cats over 10 years of age. They occur when bacteria gain access to the urinary tract. As a result, the bladder becomes inflamed as red and white blood cells move in to fight the infection. This usually manifests with blood-tinged urine and frequent, inappropriate urination. It is a very serious and uncomfortable condition.
Bladder tumors. Less commonly, bladder tumors can cause inflammation and subsequent bleeding which can discolor a cat’s urine. Bladder tumors are a serious condition and can potentially lead to urinary obstruction depending on the tumor’s location in the bladder.
Abdominal trauma. If cats experience trauma within their abdomen, they may pee bright red urine. Typically, these cats will have various other symptoms apart from just urinating blood, but they are important issues to be aware of.
Underlying disease. Rarely, an underlying disease, such as a clotting disorder can cause blood in cat urine. This can be from toxin ingestion or from an autoimmune condition.
Other Symptoms to Watch For
While they are very good at hiding their illnesses, most cats with blood in their urine understandably do not feel very well. Pet parents may notice behavioral changes in their cats, such as hiding or refusing affection. Cats who are usually warm and friendly may suddenly seem agitated or aggressive due to their discomfort. They may not want to eat, drink, or play like normal.
Pet parents may also notice changes specific to urination. Cats will often cry out in pain or strain while urinating. They may also exhibit inappropriate urination, which means pet parents may find puddles on the floor, on rugs, or on bedding materials. Urinating small amounts frequently is also a common sign to watch for.
Male cats with bladder inflammation may only pass very small amounts of urine or none at all. Pet parents may also notice their male cats straining to pee, which is a medical emergency that requires immediate veterinary attention.
Diagnosing the Cause of a Cat Peeing Blood
To diagnose the cause of blood in a cat’s urine, a veterinarian will gather history about your cat and perform a thorough physical exam to identify any abnormalities. They will also collect a urine sample for testing.
Through this testing, your veterinarian can look for the presence of red blood cells, white blood cells, crystals, or bacteria, all of which can signify underlying urinary issues, such as inflammation or an infection. If bacteria and inflammatory cells are identified, a urine culture can also be done. This helps the veterinarian identify which bacteria is present and what antibiotic treatment will be most effective for your cat.
In some cases, the veterinarian may choose to perform an X-ray or an ultrasound to get a closer look at your cat’s bladder. These tests can be helpful in detecting bladder tumors and bladder stones. Bloodwork may also be done to check for other underlying diseases, which can cause stress in cats and lead to urinary issues.
How to Treat Blood in Cat Urine
Depending on the cause of the blood in a cat’s urine, several treatments are available. For example, if the bladder is inflamed, a veterinarian will provide pain relievers to keep your cat comfortable while the bladder heals. If an infection is present, an antibiotic will be necessary to fully resolve the issue.
Urinary catheterization, which is a procedure during which a tiny tube is placed into the urethra to help urine exit the body, may be helpful in cats who have blockages or a large amount of bladder stones. For either of these conditions, surgery may also be necessary.
How to Prevent Blood in a Cat’s Urine
While not all urinary problems in cats can be prevented, here are some ways to stay on top of your cat’s health.
Decrease your cat’s stress. Because most urinary issues in cats are caused by stress, creating a calm and relaxing environment is essential in preventing these conditions. Using Products, such as sprays or diffusers, can be helpful because they release calming pheromones into the environment.
When there are multiple cats in one household, there is potential for stress and conflict. It is important to provide each cat a safe, private space that he can retreat to freely. Likewise, if two feline housemates do not get along well, it is best to keep them separated at all times. Cats need plenty of opportunities for vertical play as a form of enrichment, and cat trees are a great way to meet this need.
Keep your cat’s litter box clean and private. Litter boxes should be cleaned daily and placed in quieter areas of the house for added privacy. A good rule of thumb is to have one more litter box than the number of cats in the household. This decreases stress and competition which reduces the risk of urinary issues.
Provide fresh water. Offering your cat plenty of fresh, clean water and encouraging frequent drinking can dilute the urine so that crystals are less likely to form and lead to inflammation or stone formation as we previously discussed. Considering using a water fountain for your cat’s bowl can entice them to drink more.
Consider a dietary change. Cats who have a history of urinary tract conditions may also benefit from a diet change. Many commercial brands have created specialized formulas to dissolve bladder stones or prevent crystals from forming in the urine. Feeding wet cat food instead of dry food can also increase water intake and further dilute the urine.Keep regular veterinary appointments. Lastly, regular visits to the veterinarian for preventative care can help detect abnormalities within your cat’s urine before they cause a problem. For example, if crystals are detected during routine urine testing, the veterinarian can prescribe a medication or special diet to dissolve them before they form into stones and cause a urinary tract issue.