Help! My Cat Is Peeing Everywhere: Cystitis

Updated May 19, 2021

Cystitis in cats is a fascinating disease. How many other illnesses are more common after rainy weather or moving house? Or how about the fact that it usually isn’t caused by infection?

What Is Cystitis?

Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder, the organ that stores urine from the kidneys. It could be the most common disease of cats. Bladder inflammation causes the classic signs of:

  • Pain on urination
  • Frequent urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Passing small amounts of urine
  • Urinating in inappropriate places

What Else Could It Be?

Cystitis is hard to tell apart from other causes of cats urinating inside. The differences are:

Cats with cystitis often seek out sinks, baths or showers. They don’t usually pee on things, and puddles on the floor usually look like the picture at the top.

Urine marking cats, on the other hand, usually spray on both horizontal and vertical surfaces, plus furniture and things left on the floor.

If puddles are larger than in the picture, visit our page on why cats drink and wee too much.

If your cat is a boy, please read our special advice on urinary problems in male cats. It just might save a life!

The diagnosis is great assisted by the collection of a urine sample for testing.

Lifestyle Factors Associated With Cystitis

In New Zealand in 1997, researchers surveyed risk factors for cats with cystitis. Here’s what they found:

  • Being overweight
  • Inactivity
  • An indoor lifestyle
  • Living with another cat or fighting with cats
  • Eating a dry diet
  • Using a litter tray instead of outdoors
  • A higher number of rainfall days in the month prior
  • A house move in the past 3 months

If some of this seems strange, it might make sense in a minute.

What Causes Cystitis?

It’s clear that cystitis has a lot to do with the interaction between a cat and its environment such as food, water, litter and stress. More than this we don’t know. That’s why its full name is Feline Idiopathic Cystitis or FIC.

In people, cystitis is usually caused by bacterial infection, causing many cats to get unnecessary antibiotics. There are certainly occasional infections, usually in elderly female cats, but the majority of young cats with cystitis have no infection.

A useful way of remembering what you need to do is to imagine that there is something in the urine of cats that damages the bladder wall. Diluting it and getting rid of it are the answer.

How To Prevent or Treat Cystitis

A vet visit is necessary to make sure it’s really cystitis and to get the right medication. You also need the vet to rule out a urinary blockage. Then:

Dilute The Urine

This is most important. Dilute the urine by increasing your cat’s water intake. The easiest and most effective way is to stop using dry foods. You can do this by using only tins and pouches or by pre-soaking dry biscuits with warm water. It’s a good idea to make changes gradually so your cat gets used to them.

It’s possible but much harder to get a cat to drink more: follow the link to read some tricks.

Make The Urine Less Harmful

This one’s easy. Reduce potentially harmful substances in the urine by switching to higher-quality diet. Every vet knows that cystitis happens less the more you spend on cat food. I use a Hills Science Diet.

Even better, substitute some of your cat’s diet for natural foods. The New Zealand study found that these had a protective effect. Personally, my cat gets a raw chicken neck a day.

If these changes don’t work, switch to a veterinary prescription diet. Cystitis foods are clinically proven to be more effective at resolving symptoms.

Reduce Stress & Anxiety

Stress is almost certainly the reason why cats who live with other cats get cystitis more. Stress may cause cystitis either by reducing the amount a cat drinks or reducing their toilet visits. This leads to urine that’s both over-concentrated and sitting in the bladder for too long.

Cats need to feel completely uninhibited to go to the toilet whenever they want. Just like when people don’t get on in a share house, cats may choose to stay in a room rather than create friction. Add extra litter trays where the affected cat hangs out so they don’t have to run the gauntlet to go to the toilet.

Get help if your cat seems anxious or unhappy. Follow this link for a discussion on anxiety in cats.

Encourage Frequent Urination

Any time a cat holds on for too long, cystitis is more likely. This is probably why bad weather, indoor lifestyles, litter tray use, inactivity, and obesity are associated with cystitis.

An ideal litter box is around twice the size of regular ones with deep litter. Scents and covered boxes probably don’t matter with daily cleaning. There’s no rule about which cat litter to use except to make sure your cat likes it. Litter tray hygiene is also important. You need to keep it as clean as your cat requires.

It’s also worth remembering that if cats start going outside the box, the smell of urine may keep them coming back. This page has advice on cleaning up cat pee.

As for obesity and inactivity, I won’t nag. Just check out our pages on positive tips to help cats lose weight and ways to keep cats active indoors.

In conclusion, some good news. There’s one other finding from the New Zealand study you should know. The only other protective factor identified was having been to the vet in the previous 12 months.

Why? The answer may just be in all that nagging we so generously provide every year. However, it’s also probably because cystitis is a disease strongly linked to a cat’s environment. It’s likely that people who visit the vet frequently are more switched on about their cats’ needs.

adult ocicat

Thanks to Winston for inspiring this article!

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here. The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

14 Replies to “Help! My Cat Is Peeing Everywhere: Cystitis”

  1. My cats have access to 2 floors of the house upstairs. They have 3 litter trays, cleaned daily.
    To go outside they have to come down to the catflap and pass where the 2 dogs are. The dogs do not go upstairs, One of them dislikes the dogs, hence pees everywhere, has done on and off for 5 years.. She has had pain relief for stress cystitis. This works for a short while.
    The cats food and water is upstairs away from the dogs. We also have 4 children so not a quiet home. Any suggestions to stop her peeing all over the house will be greatly appreciated.
    A few years ago the vet said rehome. This seems extreme, however it is also not fair on the cat feeling continually stressed.

    1. Hi Stephanie. A situation like yours would probably combine two causes, being stress and urinary retention, since the cats are likely to hang on a bit too long in order to avoid running the gauntlet. Therefore, anything you can do to get them to be able to feel freer to make their way outside or come down for attention would be beneficial. I’m sure you’ve already thought of this, so I’m not expecting any easy answers other than anxiety medication.

  2. Help!!!!
    My 2 cats in the last few weeks have started weeing in the house its stressing me right put and im trying not to shout at them.
    I have heard sometimes stress can cause this. 3 weeks ago my husband n I separated and he’s moved out the house.
    Could this be the reason they have started doing it, and how do I stop it.

      1. My vet said my cat has cysitis gave him pain medication and capsules for inflammation. It went away and came back, then I started giving him only wet food, now he has it again. The neighbours cat comes in our garden and my cat watches her from the window. My cat is an indoor cat, could this be stressing him out. He’s peeing everywhere around the house I am forever cleaning behind him. He used to drink plenty of water while on hes dry food but he won’t touch it now since he’s been on wet food. Instead he keeps wanting to pee in hes water bowl. HELP

      2. Hi Diana. It’s actually good news that he’s not seen to be drinking so much on the wet food, as it suggests he’s getting enough water from his diet (which is to be expected). You are right that the problem could be caused by stress. Has a urine sample been tested to prove that it is actually cystitis? The signs of urine marking from cats roaming around and cystitis are very similar, though of course of course cystitis can be secondary to stress too. It’s very important to give your cat some relief by reducing his sight of the other cat, regardless of the cause.

  3. Hi Andrew! My cat eats the CD urinary care biscuits in the morning and the wet food at night – should we stop these biscuits or are they OK as they’re specifically made for this purpose??

    1. Hi Jesse. CD is a suitable food for cystitis in cats, and will even work well in many in the dry form. Although wet food is better, if you’re getting a good response to biscuits there’s no need to change.

  4. My male indoor cat suddenly start marking everywhere inside the house. The issue already drags up to 1 month. Currently :
    1. Near to my house, there is one renovation in progress
    2. There is stray cat pass through our house but he does not mark
    I also make sure the litter box is clean and provided an additional litter box. The marking area I clean using a home ingredient.
    I also bring him back to my hometown and the best thing is he does not mark and used the litter box accordingly but when I go back to our home he starts to mark. I don’t know the reason and how to prevent it anymore

    1. Hi Sue. Our page on why cats urinate inside is probably more useful for you. In particular, the fact that your cat only does it at one house suggests a behavioural cause such as the presence of the stray cat (they don’t need to be marking to cause stress to the resident).

  5. My cat used to get blood in the urine very frequently. Atibiotics and dry diet given by vet stops it for a while but it used to come back. After some observation we decided not to give any dry diet at all. Only canned food. My kitty has completely recovered and doing very well now. One sign to watch out… after eating dry food with Starch) if cat feels very sleepy then there is a chance that the dry food shoots up the sugar level causing host of other problems.

  6. We have a ginger 8 year old neuterd male. We picked him up off a road after being run over by a line of cars. He was only 5 or 6 weeks old. It was in an industrial area so was feral. Took him to Vet.
    Back hind leg # in 3 places and blood in urine. During his first 5 months of life he had 4 major ops. 3 Pins in back leg., desexed.
    He spent most of that time in a large pen with supervised playtime at home.
    Vet said his bladder was badly bruised and to keep an eye on urine.
    We were told to give him a diet of dry special urine biscuits and wet food, made up of 60% prescription dry and rest wet. He prefers dry food. He drinks well. Gets arthritis injections for leg. Prefers to use outside for toileting when at home and happy to use kitty litter when at our beach shack. He is happy to stay inside. He tells us when he has used his kitty litter to ensure immediate clean up. He has had one episode of cystitis requiring overnight care. I watch carefully for pink tinge in urine. He can be stubborn at home and holds on until he can go outside to toilet. He is inside approx 20 to 22 hours a day. He is an only cat plus 2 dogs. My question is after reading this is “Is he eating too much dry food”? He is checked by Vet yearly, but not very coooperative due to early regular visits and hospitalization. Otherwise a very affectionate loving ginger boy.

    1. Hi Trish. Most people would say that any amount of dry food is too much for cats prone to cystitis. If you visit the linked page on obstructions I advise training cats to enjoy the prescription dry diets soaked in warm water. Most people find this a successful compromise.

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