Signs of lower urinary tract (LUT) disease in domestic cats can be acute or chronic, and can result from variable combinations of abnormalities within the lumen of the LUT, the parenchyma of the LUT itself, or other organ system(s) that then lead to LUT dysfunction. In the majority of cats with chronic signs of LUT dysfunction, no specific underlying cause can be confirmed after standard clinical evaluation of the LUT, so these cats typically are classified as having idiopathic cystitis. A syndrome in human beings commonly known as interstitial cystitis (IC) shares many features in common with these cats, permitting comparisons between the two species. A wide range of similarities in abnormalities has been identified between these syndromes outside as well as inside the LUT. A variety of potential familial and developmental risk factors also have been identified. These results have permitted generation of the hypothesis that some of these people have a disorder affecting the LUT rather than a disorder of the LUT. This perspective has suggested alternative diagnostic strategies and novel approaches to treatment, at least in cats. The purpose of this review is to summarize research investigations into the various abnormalities present in cats, to compare some of these findings with those identified in human beings, and to discuss how they might modify perceptions about the etiopathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of cats with this disease.
Dedication: I dedicate this contribution to Professor Dennis J. Chew, whose collaboration, patience, and support made it all possible.