So I have written a lot of articles about feline cystitis, but you’re going to get one more! For some reason, we have been seeing and talking about these guys a lot lately. This issue is truly so widespread, and many cats have bladder inflammation long before they show us signs.
As a quick update, feline idiopathic cystitis (known as FIC and FLUTD) often manifests as peeing outside the box, frequent urination, or blood in the urine. This can be quite dangerous in male cats as it can cause their urethra to block which is an emergency. It often is thought to be a urinary tract infection, but in truth, less than 5% of urinary signs in male cats are caused by a bacterial infection. Take that in. That is not a lot of cats. This means that these guys have bladder inflammation that needs to be cured without antibiotics. It takes things from simple to complicated, yes. But medically we can do better for these cats.
FIC is caused by stress. That is where this article comes in. Telling people their cat is stressed is very offensive, but I’ll tell you why it shouldn’t be. Stress in this case is a physiologic term, not an emotional one. In humans, that is rarely the case, but in our cats, it is all the time.
So how can my cat who sleeps and eats and gets pet all day every day be stressed? Because they are cats. Physiologic stress can come from so many things. It doesn’t mean our cats aren’t happy and it doesn’t mean we are doing anything wrong. Do you know that many of our body’s reactions to good stress and bad stress are the same? So if you have a big event coming up that you are really excited about you can have a lot of the same body reactions as a big meeting that you are trying to prepare for or a big event that you are dreading.
To that effect, the exact same scenario can produce different feelings in different people. Does a huge party with drinking and dancing fill you with joy or dread? Does a small intimate dinner make you feel relaxed or trapped? Do you love having people stop by or does hosting people in your own house stress you out? Does cooking/baking/gardening help you relax or look like a chore? Does running or hiking get your endorphins pumping or feel like a death march? Yes, these are all human examples. But we often expect cats to be cats without thinking about how different they all are.
Cats probably (that is a big probably, knowing a lot of cats) aren’t quite as emotionally complex as humans. However, a lot of things can stress them that don’t seem stressful to us. Weather and humidity changes, schedule changes, interactions with other housemates, food and litter changes all can be stressful. Even good changes can provide some stress to cats.
Essentially this entire article is to let you know that if your cat is diagnosed with FIC and your veterinarian discusses stress, that is not to make you stress. It doesn’t mean that you are doing anything wrong at all. A lot of these can be mitigated with food changes, routine changes, and some behavior changes. Changing from one litter to another can seem ridiculous, but imagine that your toilet seat went from being sandpaper texture to nice and smooth. That would affect your bathroom habits a lot. The reason women get upset with men leaving the toilet seat up is that sitting down in a cold toilet bowl is an unwelcome surprise. If your cat needs a different litter it may be a bigger deal than you think.
Your cat may not seem to want to exercise, but adding in some exercise games may be just what they need. Just like some days, it is hard for me to motivate to walk, but I feel much better once I do. On the other hand, they may just need more interactive time. “Stress” can be a delicate balance in cats that owners know best, you just need to learn to watch for subtle changes. These don’t mean the difference between a happy or sad cat, it just means the difference between a cat that creates inflammation in their bladder and a cat that doesn’t.