Blocked Cats – It’s An Emergency!

Urinary blockage, or urinary obstruction (UO), is a common disease that male cats are prone to. Whilst it may not sound too severe, a urinary blockage is incredibly painful and in some cases can be a life-threatening condition. So what is it, what are the symptoms to look out for, and how can we treat it? This blog explores.



What is Urinary Blockage?


Aforementioned, urinary blockage/obstruction is a painful, potentially life-threatening condition that is common in male cats, however, it may also affect dogs and female cats.


A urinary blockage occurs when a cat’s urethra (the tube that drains urine from the bladder to the penis and out of the body) is blocked by an inflammatory material. When the urethra is blocked and urine can't exit the body, and therefore the bladder can become overfilled. If the blockage goes on too long, the kidneys may start to swell and become damaged, leaving the bladder to potentially rupture or tear.


Male cat urinary blockage is quite common (accounting for up to 10% of feline cases presented to small animal referral and emergency clinics to be exact)! It is especially common among neutered male cats (due to them having narrower urethras — so narrow that involuntary urethral muscle spasms can block the flow of urine). Therefore, it’s important to know the signs of the condition. The sooner a cat receives proper treatment, the more likely they are to have a healthy recovery.


Cats that are blocked often show the following signs:

  • Straining repeatedly in the litter box but not passing anything (often mistaken for constipation)

  • Crying or howling

  • Licking at the genitals/below the base of the tail

  • Hiding


Treating Urinary Blockage


If your cat has a urinary blockage, they will likely have to be hospitalised immediately for emergency treatment. The veterinary staff may then place an intravenous catheter for fluid therapy and provide the necessary medicines to your cat.


Your cat will then be sedated for a urinary catheter to be placed to relieve the obstruction and empty their bladder. The catheter is left in place for numerous days to let the urethra heal and let your cat recover. Most blocked cats are hospitalized for multiple days.


Once your cat is urinating by themselves, normally, you'll be able to take them home. The vet will likely prescribe them antibiotics, pain medicine and/or medicine to relax the urethra, as well as recommend a therapeutic food formulated for urinary health.


Preventing Male Cat Urinary Blockage


  • Water consumption plays a vital role in flushing debris from your cat's system and preventing blockage. If your cat doesn’t drink much, try offering them water from a drinking fountain instead of a bowl.

  • Nutrition can also play a part in preventing urinary blockage. If your cat has previously suffered from urinary health issues, then a therapeutic cat food may help dissolve your cat's crystals or make it less likely they form new ones and maintain a healthy urine pH that contributes to overall urinary health. You can contact your vet to find out more about this.

  • Stress is another major factor in feline urinary tract disease-related conditions. So it is important to consider your cat's stress levels when evaluating urinary issues. Cats are susceptible to stress-related lower urinary disorders which includes cystitis and urethral spasms, which can result in blockage. Reducing a cat's stress may lower their chances of urinary tract diseases, including urethral blockage.


Helping with stress:


  • Provide your cat with plenty of toys for stimulation.

  • Make sure to keep at least one more litter box in the home than you have cats and space allowing, make sure to separate these litter boxes throughout the house. Also, ensuring litter trays are cleaned daily.

  • Provide your cat with a cat tree or safe space in the house, they can often enjoy alone time and can get overwhelmed from being handled too much. Cat's also enjoy being high up where they can see things and it gives them the privacy they want.


Unfortunately, once a male cat has a urinary blockage, there's a higher risk of it happening again. If you suspect your cat has a urinary blockage, please contact us as soon as possible on 020 8459 4729.


Order Dr Hannah Parkin's Amazing Guide To Caring For Your New Puppy.
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