Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC)

     Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) is an inflammatory disease of the bladder that is fairly common in cats. This condition has also been referred to as feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) and feline urologic syndrome (FUS). Cats with this disorder will have various clinical signs related to abnormal, painful urination. It is important to learn about FIC so that you can recognize if you cat is having problems at home and needs medical attention.

     The definitive cause of FIC is unknown, but various risk factors have been identified which make certain cats more prone to the disease than others. Most cats with FIC are indoor kitties that eat dry food, are members of multi-cat households, and may have had a recent stress in their life (new pet introduced, moving, etc). Often times, they are overweight and may have other medical conditions. The most common age of onset is between 2-6 years old, though cats of any age can get this disease.

     Cats with FIC show various clinical signs related to abnormal, painful urination. They may strain in the litter box, pass small amounts of urine frequently, or have bloody urine. Some cats will urinate outside the litter box.

     If your cat is showing the above signs, they should be evaluated by a veterinarian. A physical exam will be performed and blood and urine tests may be recommended to rule out medical conditions like kidney disease or urinary tract infections. An abdominal ultrasound may be needed to look for bladder stones or other abnormalities that could be causing your cat’s problems. If none of these tests diagnose a problem, then your cat is likely suffering from FIC.

     Dietary modification is the most important component of treatment. Your cat should have free access to water and should be encouraged to drink. It may be helpful to provide a pet water fountain or allow a faucet to drip because many cats prefer running water to drinking from a bowl. Your cat should also start eating wet (canned) food and may require a special urinary tract diet – ask your veterinarian for details.

     Treating FIC also involves lifestyle changes for your pet. Reducing environmental stresses is an important component to treatment. There should be at least 1 litter box for each cat in the house and they should be easily accessible and in a safe, quiet place. New pets should be introduced gradually to allow time for your cat to get used to their new friend. Environmental enrichment is also an important component to decreasing stress. Toys and climbing posts help give your indoor cat opportunities for exhibiting their natural behaviors. Pheromone therapy may be helpful in conjunction with environmental enrichment. Pheromones are chemicals like hormones that are used for inter-animal communication. Products like Feliway® may help decrease anxiety for your kitty and are available as room diffusers or sprays.

     If diet and lifestyle changes are not sufficient to decrease your cat’s clinical signs, medical therapy may be indicated. There are drugs available to help with inflammation, bladder control, and anxiety. Your veterinarian will prescribe whatever medications are necessary to make your cat as comfortable as possible.

     It is important to distinguish FIC from a lower urinary tract obstruction. Male cats are predisposed to lower urinary obstructions because their urethras are very narrow. Stones or mucus can get plugged in the urethra and block the flow of urine that is trying to leave the bladder. A urethral obstruction is a medical emergency that requires veterinary attention immediately. If you are ever concerned about your cat’s health, please contact a veterinarian for advice.

Kerry Thode, DVM


  1. Colette O'Keeffe says:

    Thanks for the great and helpful article. My cat was diagnosed wirh FIC 10 months ago, and thanks to the prompt and thorough treatment from the Encina emergency team and his vet Dr. Johnson, he is doing very well. Follow up education for me as a guardian is much appreciated.