It's uncomfortable for your cat and can cause some nasty, smelly problems for you if your cat stops using the litter box, but that's just the start. Complications from a bladder infection, such as kidney infection and urinary tract blockages can kill your feline friend.
It doesn't take long for an untreated urinary tract infection to move on to the kidneys, and that's when it gets dangerous. When your cat's kidneys become inflamed and ineffective at removing toxins from the blood, he can become seriously ill. If the infection still isn't treated, it could lead to kidney damage, failure and even death.
Urinary obstructions can kill your cat within 24 hours. There is a strong link between obstructions and bladder infections. In some cases, swelling or irritation from the infection causes a pre-existing bladder stone or crystal to become lodged in the urethra. On the other hand, a lodged crystal can cause an instant and severe bladder infection. Either way, if an obstruction leaves your cat unable to urinate, he will become ill very quickly. Within 12 hours he will be seriously ill, and if he doesn't receive treatment he could die from the toxins and waste that aren't able to leave his body.
Early symptoms of a urinary tract infection are hard to spot. Cats are great at hiding pain and discomfort and by the time kitty is in obvious pain, the infection is probably serious. Peeing in places other than the litter box, discolored or bloody urine, crying while urinating, strong smelling urine and listlessness are among the first symptoms of an infection. Yowling, limping, hunching over, a swollen and tender abdomen, loss of appetite, vomiting and dehydration are signs of a serious bladder or kidney infection, or blockage.
If it hasn't progressed to the kidneys or a blockage, a urinary tract infection can usually be treated with a course of antibiotics. If your cat has a serious infection that involves the kidneys, he may also need intravenous fluids and monitoring. A blockage must be removed immediately, and your veterinarian may also need to empty your cat's bladder using a needle to relieve the pressure. Most cats will need intravenous fluids for a few days, until the kidneys functioning normally as well as a long course of antibiotics. A special diet may also be prescribed for your cat to help prevent future infections and blockages.