A True Emergency in Cats: Urinary Blockage

Urinary blockage is a true feline emergency.

If you have a cat living with you, you must be aware of and know the signs that indicate your cat is suffering from a urinary tract obstruction. That's because the condition is not only excruciating, but it is also rapidly deadly. And even if your cat doesn't die from it, urinary obstruction can cause irreversible, chronic kidney damage.

What Is Urinary Blockage in Cats?

The tube that leads from the bladder to the outside world—the urethra—is long and narrow in male cats. That means that it's relatively easily plugged up by debris which causes an inability of the bladder to empty. The urine backs up into the kidneys, resulting in damage to that tissue. Rapidly, the body is unable to deal with the toxins building up in the bloodstream because the kidneys aren't working, and widespread organ failure and death occurs.

The condition is extremely painful and all too common. While it can and does occur in female cats, it's much more common in males because of the shape and narrow nature of their urethra. A female cat's urethra is shorter, wider, and less likely to become obstructed.

What Obstructs a Cat's Urethra?

A blockage in a cat's urethra can be made up of bladder stones, mucous, inflammatory cells and bacteria—which are sticky—, crystals, or blood clots. It most commonly occurs when a cat is suffering from cystitis, which is inflammation of the lining of the bladder wall. That results in lots of inflammatory cells, blood, and sometimes crystals in the urine. When those substances collect together and attempt to travel out of the body along with the urine, they can become lodged in the urethra and cause an obstruction.

Signs of Urinary Obstruction in Cats

These are the signs that every cat owner must be aware of. If you ever see your cat exhibiting them, it is a real emergency and time is of the essence. Get to your regular veterinary clinic or the closest emergency clinic as fast as you can.

  • Repeatedly climbing in and out of the litter box
  • Straining while in the box but producing no or very little urine
  • Drips of blood in the litter box or where the cat has been lying or walking
  • Crying, howling, or wailing while in the litter box or in general
  • Licking persistently at the area under the tail
  • Vomiting
  • Refusing to eat
  • Hissing, growling, swatting, or biting when you attempt to handle him
  • Eventually—collapse, unresponsiveness, coma, and death

*Many times, the initial signs of urinary obstruction in cats are misrecognized by the owners as constipation. If you see your cat in and out of the litter box without producing much and crying, visit the vet right away. Don't waste time trying hairball remedies. The doctor will quickly be able to determine whether the problem is a urinary blockage or constipation.

Treatment of Urinary Blockage in Cats

The veterinarian will do a thorough physical exam on your cat and collect blood for evaluation. An x-ray is likely to be taken. If the kitty is not stable, emergency treatment like oxygen and fluid therapy will need to be performed.

Pain medications will probably be given right away. General anesthesia will be administered so the blockage can be relieved. A urinary catheter is inserted through the urethra, dislodging the obstruction, and into the bladder. Usually, the catheter is left in for up to a few days while intravenous fluids and other necessary medications are administered.

Sometimes, the veterinarian is unable to dislodge the blockage with a catheter and surgery is necessary.

Tearing of the urethra or bladder rupture are possible serious complications that sometimes occur due to urinary tract blockage and its treatment.

Home Care After Urinary Blockage Treatment in Cats

Depending on the results of urinalysis and urine culture and sensitivity, your cat might need antibiotics upon arrival back home. A special diet may also be recommended to help decrease the likelihood of a repeat obstruction.

You will need to try and get as much moisture into your cat as possible. Ask your veterinarian about canned food or adding extra water to his canned or dry food. Additionally, a water fountain encourages many cats to drink more because the filters remove offensive tastes and odors from tap water. Plus, cats are evolutionarily wired to prefer running over stagnant water.

When you know the signs of urinary obstruction in cats, you will be able to give your cat a better chance at surviving and escaping long-term kidney damage.

Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at declawing.com is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.