Cat Urinary Blockage: Causes, Treatments, and Tips for Managing Discomfort

Cat Urinary Blockage: Causes, Treatments, and Tips for Managing Discomfort

Cat urinary blockage is a severe condition that requires immediate treatment by a veterinarian. Here’s what you need to know about this common feline condition.

Cats have all kinds of kidney and urinary tract issues, and urinary blockage (also known as urethral obstruction) is an especially common condition in felines. Particularly male cats experience this because they have a longer, narrower urinary tract.

Cat urinary blockage treatment is urgent and necessary because this condition can result in kidney failure and be fatal if left unaddressed. Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms, causes, and treatment for cat urinary blockage.

Symptoms of Cat Urinary Blockage

The symptoms of cat urinary blockage are usually easy to spot. They include:

  • Trying to use the litter box unsuccessfully
  • Vocalizing or crying when trying to urinate
  • Hiding and vomiting

Cats With Urinary Blockage Will Try to Urinate, But Can’t

Someone scooping up cat litter with a shovel in a litter box

The primary sign that your cat has a urinary blockage is if they attempt to go to the bathroom but cannot. If you notice the litter box isn’t being filled, watch your cat closely to see if they approach the litter box. If they have a urethral obstruction, they will still try to pee, digging through the litter and getting into position, but nothing will come out.

Your Cat Might Complain Vocally If They’re Uncomfortable

Your cat may also tell you if he’s experiencing pain when trying to urinate, which is a common indicator of a cat urinary blockage. If you notice your cat making excessive noise when trying to go to the bathroom – meowing, screeching, or crying – then something is probably wrong. Cats are usually quiet and discreet when they use the bathroom, so if you notice a lot of noise, your cat is trying to communicate with you about their discomfort.

Some Cats with Urinary Obstruction May Hide or Vomit

While these symptoms are less common, some cats with urinary blockage may hide from their owners or even start vomiting. If your cat is vomiting from the discomfort of urinary blockage, the condition is serious and needs to be addressed immediately. This symptom usually doesn’t appear until your cat has been blocked for an extended period of time, which increases the urgency of the issue.

Another somewhat common symptom of urethral obstruction is a cat that hides from its owners. Cats are naturally stoic creatures that are somewhat private about their discomfort and pain, so your cat may hide under the bed or try to get away from you if they are feeling unwell.

Causes of Cat Urinary Blockage

Urinary blockage can be caused by a few developments:

  • An accumulation of something that causes the tract to be blocked (urethral plugs)
  • Inflammation
  • Stones
  • Stress can worsen the issue

Urethral Plugs Can Accumulate in Your Cat’s Urinary Tract

Plugs can develop in a cat’s urethra and cause urinary obstruction. Urethral plugs are made from an accumulation of mucus, crystals, proteins, and cells from the lining of the bladder that block the narrow passageway and prevent your cat from urinating.

Inflammation and Spasm Might Cause Urinary Blockage

Muscle spasms and inflammation in the urethra can cause urinary obstruction, as well. Many things can cause a cat’s urethra or bladder to swell or become irritated, and if this irritation becomes serious enough, it can close the urethra entirely and prevent urine from flowing freely.

Urinary Obstruction May Be Caused by Stones Called Uroliths

Stones called uroliths can also block the urinary tract. This is sometimes a single large stone or a collection of smaller ones. These develop because a cat’s urine is highly acidic and concentrated – a condition that can be worsened if their diet is out of balance.

How Stress May Impact Your Cat’s Urinary Health

Stress can contribute to urinary issues in cats, especially urethral spasms. If your cat is undergoing a stressful period, such as a move, or has a generally high-stress environment, it might result in a urinary blockage. Monitor your cat closely for signs of stress and be cognizant of the role it may play in their urinary health.

Cat Urinary Blockage Treatment

Urethral obstruction in cats needs to be treated immediately. Here are the important things to know about cat urinary blockage treatment:

  • The risks of untreated urinary obstruction are serious (and even fatal)
  • A vet visit is crucial
  • Aftercare is important for cat urinary blockage treatment
  • There are strategies to prevent future blockage

The Risks of Urethral Blockage Are Severe

If you suspect your cat is experiencing a urinary obstruction, you need to take them to the veterinarian immediately. The risks of this condition are severe and can be fatal.

A blocked urethra can rapidly result in acute kidney failure or raise the potassium levels in the blood, both of which are very dangerous conditions that can be fatal. Your veterinarian will likely try to identify if these things have happened prior to addressing the blockage itself.

Your Veterinarian Can Treat a Cat Urinary Blockage

Your veterinarian will probably do an x-ray and/or ultrasound to see if your cat does, in fact, have a urinary blockage. Then your cat will be anesthetised. Sometimes, your veterinarian will be able to treat the obstruction by simply massaging the urethra. Otherwise, a catheter can be used to flush out the tube and get rid of the obstruction. These procedures can be risky, though, because the urethral wall is very fragile.

What Happens After My Cat Is Treated for Urethral Obstruction?

Usually, your cat will need to stay at the veterinary clinic for several days and keep using a catheter to ensure the blockage is fully cleared. This also gives their urethra a chance to heal from the trauma of the blockage and the subsequent treatment.

A veterinarian checking and holding a cat

Your cat will need to urinate at a normal rate before leaving the clinic or animal hospital. When you bring them home, your veterinarian will likely prescribe some antibiotics to avoid post-procedure infection, as well as pain medications for your cat’s comfort.

Prevention Methods for Cat Urinary Blockage

Once your cat has experienced a blockage, it becomes more likely it will happen again, so it’s important to take various steps for prevention. Food and water consumption are crucial in preventing cat urinary blockage. If your cat doesn’t seem to be drinking enough water, you might consider a new water fountain or even flavoring some of their water with tuna juice.

Nutritionally, your veterinarian might recommend switching from dry food to canned wet food for a higher level of hydration. There are also specialized cat diets that can help with recurrent urinary issues.

Cat Urinary Blockage Treatment Is Urgent and Necessary

While you can implement various practices at home to keep your cat’s urinary health in tip-top shape, you can’t address a urethral obstruction at home. If your cat is experiencing cat urinary blockage, treatment is vital and urgent. The risks are too severe to take any chances with your cat’s life. Your veterinarian can also provide additional insight into how to prevent future urinary blockages.