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Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC)

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) literally means an inflammation of the urinary bladder in cats of unknown origin. It is also called feline idiopathic lower urinary tract disease (FiLUTD), painful bladder syndrmoe (PBS) or feline urologic syndrome (FUS). FIC has been estimated to affect up to 1% of the cat population.

Despite many years of research, the cause of FIC remains unknown. Factors that may play a role in the development of FIC include viruses, type of diet fed (especially dry food diets with high mineral content), stress, confinement to a strictly indoor environment, and genetic factors (longhaired cats, for example, seem to be more commonly affected). Treatment often involves a change in diet from a dry food to a canned food and attempts to minimize stress in the animals environment.

It's believed that accumulated inflammatory debris and mineral crystals may form a plug that obstructs the urethra of male cats resulting in a life-threatening medical emergency. FIC affects both male and female cats, but female cats rarely develop urinary tract obstruction because their urethra is shorter and wider than the urethra of male cats.

What To Watch For

  • Blood in the urine
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Straining to urinate
  • Distressed meowing while urinating
  • Increased grooming of the genital region
  • Urinating in inappropriate locations (often in cool smooth surfaces such as bathtubs and sinks).

    These symptoms can be mistaken for constipation. Frequent unsuccessful attempts to urinate, distressed meowing while attempting to urinate, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting and reluctance to move are symptoms that may signal urinary obstruction in a male cat and may constitute a medical emergency. Call your veterinarian immediately if you think your cat is showing these symptoms. Complete urinary obstruction can develop into a life-threatening emergency with 48 hours.

    Veterinary Care

    Diagnostic tests are needed to identify FIC and exclude other diseases. Tests may include:

  • Complete medical history and thorough physical examination including abdominal palpation of the bladder. The medical history will include questions about previous urinary problems and type of cat food (dry versus canned) fed to your pet.

  • Urinalysis.

    Additional diagnostic tests may be necessary to distinguish FIC from other diseases that cause lower urinary tract symptoms in cats such as bacterial urinary tract infection (rare in young to middle-aged cats), stones (also called calculi or uroliths), and tumors (rare in cats).

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