When all diagnostic procedures like urinalysis and imaging techniques fail in confirming a diagnosis in cats with urinary problems, the condition is termed as Idiopathic Lower Urinary Tract Disease. This condition is also known as Feline Interstitial Cystitis. It is in fact a diagnosis by exclusion of other conditions like presence of bladder stones. The symptoms that one generally observes in such cases are inappropriate urination without any urgency and increased frequency of urination. The result of the urinalysis is usually normal and the urine is sterile with occasional traces of blood. As no cause is evident, the symptoms are normally attributed to behavioral problems due to stress. However, it should be understood that it is a medical problem that falls under the general category of non-obstructive feline urinary tract infection.

It also needs to be understood that no medical cues are obvious in such cases. Even when some symptoms and cues surface, they are subtle in nature and evade normal observation. To identify such issues you may check the hair in the area around the abdomen. If it has been chewed it is probably an attempt to relieve the pain that the cat is experiencing. Sometimes there are verbal indications of pain when the abdomen is palpated.

A recent hypothesis suggests that Idiopathic Lower Urinary Tract Disease is caused by alterations in the interactions between the nerve supply, the protective layer that lines the bladder and the urine. The reason behind the explanation is supported by findings that reveal that certain nerves within the bladder can be stimulated by:

The brain in response to stress
By local causes within the bladder like inflammation or concentrated urine.
Irrespective of what stimulates the bladder nerves, they release certain neurotransmitters that induce local pain and neurogenic (stimulated by nerve tissue) inflammation.

Some defects in the protective layer that lines the inner walls of the bladder could also be the cause behind Idiopathic Interstitial Cystitis. The inner walls of the bladder are lined with a mucus layer that prevents bacteria and crystals from adhering to the bladder walls. Defect in this protective layer increases porosity, which allows noxious substances in the urine to cause bladder inflammation that leads to idiopathic feline urinary infection.

A strong similarity is seen between interstitial cystitis in humans and a cat. This has led some veterinarians to believe that the therapies used to treat this bladder disorder in humans, may also be effective for treating idiopathic urinary tract infection in cats.

Signs of idiopathic feline lower tract urinary disease normally vanish regardless of treatment. However, these infections are prone to recur frequently. Treatment modalities are thus focused on the prevention of subsequent recurrence of symptoms. Many diets that profess formulations meant for ‘urinary health’ may be able to prevent the formation of bladder stones. However, there is no evidence that these so called special diets have ever reduced the incidence of idiopathic feline lower urinary tract disease.

Courtesy of Tess Thompson,