This is a catch-all term for a variety of etiologies that result in cystitis type signs.  Cystitis type signs include frequent attempts to urinate, prolonged attempts to urinate, pain with urination, blood in the urine and urinating in unusual location.  A cat may have one to all of the above symptoms.  It is extremely important that veterinary attention be sought immediately if no urine is being produced as some cats, especially males, can have a urethral plug preventing urination and this is life-threatening.   Diagnostic steps include urinalysis, urine culture, urinary bladder imaging (with ultrasound, radiography, etc), and blood testing.  In some cases, evidence of a bladder stone, bacterial infection, bladder neoplasia, or bladder malformation can be found and these types can be more specifically treated.   In the majority of cases where these causes are excluded, the term idiopathic lower urinary tract disease is appropriate.  The term feline interstitial cystitis is a subgroup of these reserved for those cats that have frequent recurrences of clinical signs or persistence of clinical signs chronically. Feline interstitial cystitis is thought to be due to abnormal neuron function (local and CNS) associated with the urinary bladder.  Since the underlying cause of interstitial cystitis is unknown, treatment is directed at many fronts.  Stress is thought to play a significant role in recurrent symptoms.  The Ohio State University website, www.vet.ohio-state.edu then go to Public and Animal Heal Information, Indoor Cat Initiative http://ww.vet.ohio-state.edu/docs/indoor_cats. has a good discussion involving cat behaviors and stressors.  A short list of potential stressors include # , size, cleanliness of catboxes in household, type of litter, # of other cats and pets in household, relationship with owner, the cat’s ability to play and hunt and  scratch and hide and spend time alone as it desires in its environment, changes in the household, travel, moving, etc.

Therapy for interstitial cystitis can be frustrating as not all cats respond to one therapy every time.  Treatment consists of

1.  Identifying and eliminating potential stressors

2.  Encourage increased fluid intake – Feed WET food only.  Always keep fresh water available.  Consider feline drinking fountains as cats prefer moving water.  Use tuna juice, clam juice, soups to encourage further water intake

3. Provide feliway to enhance cat’s mood, reducing stress. see Feliway.com

4. Use of mood enhancers, such as amitryptylline or fluoexetine can be used with veterinary guidance.

5. Glycosaminoglycans such as cosequin helped in one study.

6. Pain relief with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories such as adequan, meticam, piroxicam or true pain relievers such as buprenorphine, torbutrol can also help.

Treament #1 and 2 are the least costly but require time and commitment.  Recognize that optimal treatment will not cure your cat.  A more realistic goal is to reduce frequency and severity of the episodes.