Stress plays a significant role in triggering stress cystitis.  For this reason, modifying the environment to help reduce stress is key in the management of this disease.  As well as this, encouraging drinking so that your cat urinates more frequently can also make a difference. 


Environmental Triggers

If an environmental trigger can be identified, this will give you the best chance of success with this disease.  When the symptoms started, was there a change in the household?  A new pet, moving house, even moving furniture, a member of the family moving in or out, had you been away on holiday?  Cats are very sensitive animals and even something that appears minor could be the trigger.  The single most common stress factor for a cat is conflict with another cat in the household. This may be very difficult to detect, but should always be suspected in a cat with stress cystitis.

In situations where there doesn’t seem to be an obvious cause, it could be changes that you can’t see or understand.  For example, if it is a multi-cat household, there may be changes in the dynamics of the group.  The neighbour’s cat could be coming into the garden, or even the house while you’re at work or asleep. It could be that you are stressed and your cat is picking up on this.

In some instances, you may be able to identify a stress trigger that can be minimised or is no longer an issue.  Where a stress trigger is suspected, if there’s any way to reduce the occurrence of this then this should be done. 

Most often, unfortunately, the trigger is something that can’t be identified or avoided too easily so the next step is to manage the environment to help reduce your cat’s stress levels. 

It’s important to note that even if you can’t do anything about the trigger, identifying it still gives you an advantage in that you will know what may trigger an episode in the future.  


Environmental Management

Our goal here is to create a calming, yet enriching environment for your cat to reduce the recurrences of stress cystitis or help to resolve a current episode. 

Indoor cats are surprisingly susceptible stress.  It is thought that this is because they have little to occupy themselves.  They ultimately lack environmental enrichment which can cause them stress.  Simple things like making a reasonable amount of time each day to play with your cat using different toys and getting them to run around.  Allowing the cat time outside – depending on the reasons the cat is indoors only, it may be that this is done using a cat harness and lead or investing in an enclosed run. Ensure there are plenty of other things of interest for the cat.  Cats like to view things from up high so a cat scratching tower with different levels and hiding places and a place to sit at the top can be great for a cat to feel like they have control of their space. 

In multi-cat households, make sure your cat with stress cystitis has their own quiet, safe space they can go to get away from the other cats in the home.  This could be a bedroom with the door slightly ajar and a space under the bed just for them, or it could be somewhere up high where they can easily see who’s around from a vantage point.  It could be that your cat’s favourite place to sleep needs to become off limits to the other animals in the home.  Ensure your cats can eat and urinate far away from each other and in a quiet area where there isn’t a lot of hustle and bustle.  This may mean multiple bowls of food and multiple litter trays. It’s important that a cat with stress cystitis has the opportunity to go to the toilet regularly so that they aren’t holding onto their pee for too long.  A covered litter tray can be great at helping a cat with stress cystitis feel less vulnerable when going to the toilet.  

In all situations, using the synthetic feline facial pheromone Feliway® may be of help – either as a spray on bedding and furniture and/or as a plug-in diffuser to help reduce stress and anxiety.  This can have a significant positive affect on the anxiety of your cat.


Water Intake & Diet

The most important thing when supporting your cat through this disease, is to ensure your cat has plenty of access to fresh water.  

In addition to fresh water, you can help increase their water intake by feeding them mainly wet food.  Cats have an amazing ability to get water from food so providing a food that is already higher in water content (in gravy or jelly for example) is a great way to increase their fluid intake.

Although wet food is ultimately the best option for a cat with stress cystitis, it also has some disadvantages.  It can be a much more expensive option to feed them ONLY on wet food and it also can go off quickly when left out in a bowl.  As most cats tend to graze on small portions of food throughout the day (as this is what they would be doing in the wild), feeding your cat dry food in addition to wet food would be a good compromise if they are a grazer.  You can also add some water or gravy to the dry food to increase the water content, but only if your cat will eat it this way.  We all know how fussy they can be!  

Your vet may have mentioned special veterinary diets which can help with stress cystitis.  This food helps by supporting your cat’s bladder health while also containing ingredients to help manage stress. 

More information about the foods available can be found here {link to foods} as well as tips on how best to change your cat onto this food and how to get a fussy cat to eat it. 



Stress cystitis is a painful condition so if your cat is showing signs of discomfort, some pain-relief from your vet may be valuable but will not cure your cat if the underlying causes are not addressed.

If your cat is having recurring episodes of stress cystitis and the underlying cause is not known or cannot be managed, then your vet may feel they are suitable for short or long-term anxiety medication.

There is also an injectable drug called Pentosan (or Cartrophen) which is not licensed for use in cats (currently in Australia) but many vets will use it ‘off-label’ as it is believed it may protect the bladder lining from irritants in the urine.  However, opinions vary on its effectiveness for stress cystitis.



If you know your cat, you will likely know when an episode has resolved and your cat returns to their normal, happy selves.  You will also hopefully know when your cat starts behaving strangely and an episode is beginning. 

If it has been some time between episodes and an obvious stress trigger cannot be identified, it is wise to get your cat checked at the vet.   It is not impossible for a cat who has a history of stress cystitis to later develop other bladder diseases which can be more clearly diagnosed and treated.