Urinary Blockage in Cats

A urinary blockage can quickly become a life-threatening condition in your cat, so urgent veterinary attention is important to ensure her health. One way you can do this is to know the clinical signs of this condition, so you’ll be able to help your cat when she needs critical care.

How Urinary Blockages Occur

Feline urinary blockages most often occur in male cats, although they can affect both males and females. Causes can include urinary stones or a condition called feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC). FIC can be caused by a virus, a dry food only diet, stress or lengthy confinement. 

Signs of a Urinary Blockage

Cats that have urinary blockages often look uncomfortable as they try to use the litter box. They will make frequent trips to the box and will usually strain to eliminate, but little urine is actually produced. They may also have accidents outside the box (usually on a cool or tiled surface in the bathroom), and they may also groom their genital area frequently.

Other indications of a urinary blockage can include bloody urine, distressed vocalizations during urination, lethargy, appetite loss and vomiting. The last three signs indicate a serious medical emergency may soon occur, so contact your veterinarian’s office immediately if you see this combination of clinical signs in your cat.

Urinary Blockage Diagnosis

The signs of urinary blockage are similar to those of other urinary problems in cats. To determine the cause of your cat's problem, your veterinarian will perform a physical examination and conduct routine tests, such as blood panels, urinalysis and urine culture. However, urine samples may be difficult to collect if your cat's bladder contains numerous crystals. X-rays may be recommended to help with the diagnosis, and your cat's feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus status may also be checked during diagnosis.

How Urinary Blockage Is Treated

After your vet determines that your cat is suffering from a urinary blockage, he'll catheterize the cat to drain the urine from the bladder. Your cat may also require antibiotics for infection or medication to alleviate pain.

In extreme situations, your male cat may require an operation called a perineal urethrostomy, which enlarges his urethra to prevent buildup of urine in his bladder. This surgery is not without complications and side effects, which is why some veterinarians consider it a last resort treatment.

A more long term treatment plan for your cat may include a special diet or ongoing medication to help prevent blockages from forming in the future.

How to Prevent Urinary Blockages

Once your cat has had an episode of urinary blockage, you may be able to prevent further recurrences of the condition by taking a few simple steps, including:

  • Providing a clean litter box
  • Providing an appropriate number of litter boxes, which is especially important in a multi-cat home
  • Setting up the boxes in a quiet area of your home
  • Providing adequate opportunities for your cat to use the box
  • Offering clean, fresh drinking water for your cat at all times
  • Maintaining your cat at a healthy weight
  • Feeding a canned food only diet
  • Feeding frequent, smaller meals
  • Monitoring your cat for signs of another episode of urinary blockage
  • Minimizing stress in your cat's environment.