This disorder is known by a number of different names but essentially, what we’re talking about is a cat that has ongoing or recurring cystitis or inflammation of the bladder or urethra, where no medical cause can be found. 

It can be known as chronic cystitis, stress cystitis, sterile cystitis, Feline Interstitial Cystitis, Feline Idiopathic Cystitis or FIC.  It can also be referred to as FLUTD which stands for Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease – this is the umbrella term used for a number of different urinary diseases in cats.  Throughout these pages, I will refer to it as stress cystitis because we know that stress is very often a trigger.

It’s important to bear in mind how painful and miserable having cystitis is.  If you haven’t experienced it as a human then you are fortunate.  We often hear about it being a burning sensation when you urinate.  This is true but also, it’s the feeling of needing to pee and you are at absolute bursting point but when you go, nothing comes out and if it does, only a tiny amount.  It can become excruciatingly painful and be difficult or impossible to think of anything else.    

Signs of cystitis can include difficult or painful urination, a need to urinate more frequently (little and often), blood in the urine which can show as anything from a slight pink tinge to bright red blood in the urine, urinating in places where the cat wouldn’t normally urinate e.g. rug, bed, etc, excessively licking the genital area, unsettled and vocalising or yowling.   Episodes may develop quite quickly, then often naturally subside and resolve over a few days, only to recur again later. In severe cases, the episodes may recur frequently and persist for long periods.

Diagnosis of stress cystitis can be difficult as there is no way to test for it.  However, it is often diagnosed based on what it ISN’T.  So tests will be run to rule out other common bladder diseases such as infection, urinary crystals, bladder stones or changes to the bladder wall.  If these tests are all clear then it may point to stress cystitis.

Stress cystitis can affect cats of any age and is often a recurring disease.  Some oriental breeds are known to have more sensitive or anxious personalities which makes them more likely to suffer from this disorder.  It is also thought that stress cystitis may develop in certain cats that are genetically prone to respond to stress in a slightly abnormal way, and may also have some defect in the bladder lining.  Stress cystitis is also more commonly seen in indoor cats and cats who live in multi-cat households.  Therefore, it would be wise to try to give your cat access to the great outdoors wherever possible and limit the number of cats in the home.