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Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

feline lower urinary tract disease

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is the general term used to refer to the various problems connected with the cat’s lower urinary tract. FLUTD can include cystitis, stones or plugs. FLUTD can occur in both male and female cats at any age.

Obstructions connected with FLUTD can occur because of the development of crystals that harden into stones (uroliths). The crystals can be made of magnesium ammonium phosphate (known as struvite) or they can be calcium oxalate. If crystals are detected in the urine by your veterinarian, a specific diet will be prescribed based on the type of crystals in order to alter the pH of the cat’s urine.

Some Signs of FLUTD


Increased or decreased urination

Excessive vocalization


Changes in weight

Loss of appetite

Distended abdomen

Elimination outside of litter box

Frequent trips to the litter box

Crying or straining upon urination

Blood in urine

Change in urine color or odor


Inability to urinate (this is an emergency)

Repeated licking of genital area

Painful when touched in the abdominal area



Odor of ammonia on the cat’s breath

Ability to only void small amounts of urine

black cat on perch

Photo: Pam Johnson-Bennett

Urethral Plugs

Male cats are at risk of urethral plugs. The soft, sandy material, which is made up of crystal fragments and mucous, builds up in the cat’s urethra. Because the male’s urethra is long and narrow, the risk of blockage is greater. If left untreated, this material will build up enough to actually form a plug that blocks the opening of the penis. If this happens, urine is unable to flow out. If the cat is unable to urinate this is an emergency. Male cats die very quickly if they don’t receive immediate emergency veterinary care.

In addition to not seeing any urine in the litter box, you may notice your cat repeatedly licking at his penis. If you feel his body you may detect a distended abdomen. Without emergency veterinary care, the cat will appear lethargic and become dehydrated. Don’t make the mistake of seeing your cat going back and forth to the litter box and just assume he’s constipated. Urethral plugs can cause death in a matter of hours.

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