FIC: Feline Idiopathic Cystitis Explained

Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) is an inflammation of the bladder of unknown origin. The name is often used interchangeably with Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). Research suggests that FIC is often a stress-related condition. In some cases, FIC may be viral, dietary or genetic.

Symptoms of FIC:

  • Frequent urination
  • Cat has blood in urine
  • Straining to urinate
  • Inappropriate cat urination

Possible Causes of Feline Idiopathic Cystitis

  • Virus: Microscopic examination of urine samples have shown evidence of a feline calicivirus and researchers believe that it plays a role in FIC.
  • Diet: A diet that consists entirely of dry food may cause FIC. Supplementing or replacing part of each meal with a high quality canned food may help reduce the frequency of episodes.
  • Stress: Isolated, bored cats can develop FIC, as can cats living in a stressful environment. If your cat lives indoors, provide exercise and interaction on a daily basis. A viewing platform in front of a window or an outdoor enclosure helps relieve the stress of indoor living. Be sure your cat has an area where he can retreat from children, dogs and other over-exuberant family members.


Your veterinarian will perform a variety of cultures and tests to determine the cause of your pet's distress. Blood tests, urinalysis and x-rays may be used to exclude other diseases and make an accurate diagnosis.


Once diagnosed, treatment may include dietary adjustment, stress reduction techniques and medications.

  • Water: Your cat should have unlimited access to fresh water. To increase your cat's intake of fluids, add water to canned food or tempt her with unsalted chicken broth, clam juice or tuna water.
  • Food: Switch from an all-dry diet to canned.
  • Stress: Determine the cause of your cat's stress. Cats are not pack animals, but they do benefit from regular interaction. Groom and play with your cat every day and provide an enriched environment that includes toys, viewing and climbing platforms and a scratching post.
  • Medications: If FIC is accompanied by a bladder infection, antibiotics may be prescribed. Anti-inflammatories and analgesics may help as well, but because cats cannot tolerate many types of pain relievers, these drugs should be administered only under a veterinarian's supervision.
  • Urethral Blockage: A Medical Emergency for Male Cats

Cystitis can cause urethral blockage, a serious condition in which the cat is unable to pass urine. This is a veterinary emergency and you should seek treatment at once.

Signs of blockage include:

  • Straining to urinate but passing no urine
  • Obvious pain, possibly crying out
  • Agitation, lethargy

Cause of Urethral Blockage

Accumulated inflammatory debris and minerals in the bladder combine to create a plug that can create a life-threatening obstruction in the urethra of male cats. While male and female cats are both susceptible to FIC, females rarely develop a blockage due to their shorter, wider urethras.

To keep your cat's recurrent cystitis in check, provide him with a safe, comfortable living space, a healthy diet and plenty of attention.