Urinary catheterization facilitates urinary tract colonization by E. coli and increases infection risk. Here, we aimed to identify strain-specific characteristics associated with the transition from colonization to infection in catheterized patients. In a single-site study population, we compared E. coli isolates from patients with catheter-associated asymptomatic bacteriuria (CAASB) to those with catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI). CAUTI isolates were dominated by a phylotype B2 subclade containing the multidrug-resistant ST131 lineage relative to CAASB isolates, which were phylogenetically more diverse. A distinctive combination of virulence-associated genes was present in the CAUTI-associated B2 subclade. Catheter-associated biofilm formation was widespread among isolates and did not distinguish CAUTI from CAASB strains. Preincubation with CAASB strains could inhibit catheter colonization by multiple ST131 CAUTI isolates. Comparative genomic analysis identified a group of variable genes associated with high catheter biofilm formation present in both CAUTI and CAASB strains. Among these, ferric citrate transport (Fec) system genes were experimentally associated with enhanced catheter biofilm formation using reporter and fecA deletion strains. These results are consistent with a variable role for catheter biofilm formation in promoting CAUTI by ST131-like strains or resisting CAUTI by lower-risk strains that engage in niche exclusion.