Feline Interstitial Cystitis: What Cat Owners Should Know About Urinary Tract Issues

Q: You talk about how stress— an influence outside of the urinary tractcould apparently elicit urinary tract problems in cats, whether they currently had urinary tractdisease or not. Butone thing many cat owners may not know is that introducing a new cat to a household can stress the resident cat or cats out and, thus, exacerbate lower urinary tract signs, including accidents outside the litterbox. Could you explain how cats form social groups and what cat owners should know about them?

A: Most successful social groups are formed by related youngsters who grow up together. The cardinal rule in the cat world is that “cats don’t like cats they haven’t known their whole lives.” You can easily count social groups by discovering which cats sleep curled up together, groom each other willingly, rub against one another and engage in nose touching.

It is possible but less likely for cats who don’t know one another to bond, but typically only in an environment where each cat has everything he/she needs without stress or competition in an environment that is stable enough for cats to relax. Cats are rarely happy enough to relate socially unless they feel their territory is safe.

If you have more than one feline social group in your household (and a social group can consist of only one cat), then make sure each social group has their own bedding, toys, litterboxes, and food and water bowls. Also, make sure each social group has enough space to get away from other cats in the household.

Q: We know it’s important to make sure these cats aren't getting bullied by other cats in the household. We know there are ways to help ease stress including environmental enrichment and therapeutic diets. What else is available to cat owners to help cats with FIC?

A: There are key resources that must be provided in enough abundance. These include feeding places (cats are not social eaters and come together to eatonlywhen forced to do so), drinking places, climbing places, litterboxes, resting places, scratching places, escape routes and places to hide alone. The number of bonded social groups or preferred associates dictates how many of all of these resources are required — you need resources for each social group.

Environmental enrichment strategies are composed of animate ones and inanimate ones. Animate social strategies include social stimulation from preferred associates (other cats in the social group), interactions with humans including petting and play, and potentially interplay with other animals, principally dogs living in the home, assuming socialization has been successful.

Play with prey-size toys that move and change shape, texture and appearance as they are played with — simulating the hunting sequence — is an example of inanimate strategies for enrichment. Feeding strategies that alter behavior to more closely mimic hunting, such as hiding food, small “mouse-size” meals and food puzzles, can be helpful as well to enrich the environment, provide mental stimulation and reduce stress.

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