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Coventry Animal Hospital Discusses the Medical Emergency of Blocked Cats

By August 20, 2014 Small Animal


The technical name for blocked cats is Feline Urethral Obstruction.

What is Feline Urethral Obstruction? 

Feline urethral obstruction occurs when the urethra (the tube that drains urine out of the bladder) becomes blocked. While this sometimes occurs because of urinary stones obstructing the urethra (urolithiasis), it more often occurs in cats because of “urethral plugs” made up of mucus, protein, and cells. These obstructions make it very difficult for the cat to pass urine.

When your cat is unable to pass urine, the kidneys are no longer able to remove toxins out of the body and maintain a balance of your cat’s electrolytes. This can lead to kidney damage, fatal heart arrhythmias and death. It can take as little as 24 hours for a cat to die because of this condition. This condition is also extremely painful.

Is my cat at risk?

The exact cause of this condition is unknown; and so we don’t know all the risk factors. Males are at greater risk of developing obstructions due to the length and narrowing of their urethra. While it can occur in cats of any age, most affected cats are between 1 to 10 years old. Other risk factors include being overweight, living in multi-cat households, eating an all dry-food diet, having a history of urinary tract infections and having restricted access to the outdoors. One of the most important risk factors is stress. A stressful event (such as a change in something in their environment) is thought to almost always play a role in most cases.

How can I tell if my cat is obstructed?

The first signs to look out for are frequent trips to the litter box while producing very little urine, straining to urinate, blood in the urine and urinating outside of the box. Your cat may also start to cry out in pain as it becomes more distressed.

When should I be worried?

If you notice any of these signs, this is considered a medical emergency and your cat should see a veterinarian immediately! As mentioned above, it is an extremely painful condition that can rapidly turn fatal.

What will my veterinarian do? 

Your veterinarian will pass a catheter (a narrow tube) into your cat’s urethra to relieve the obstruction. Your cat will also be placed on intravenous fluids to correct the electrolyte abnormalities. Pain control, antibiotics and drugs to help relax the urethra will also be started. Your cat will have to remain in hospital for a few days or longer, depending on the severity of the obstruction.


What can I do to prevent this?

While we can’t say how to prevent all cases, there are some things you can do for your cat to reduce the risk of obstruction:

  • Add wet food to your cat’s diet.
  • Provide clean, fresh water at all times to encourage drinking. This is very important! Many cats do not like food floating in their water, so try to keep the water bowl away from their food dish. Consider using a water fountain, as some cats enjoy flowing water.
  • Make sure to keep your cat a healthy weight. If your cat is overweight, talk to your veterinarian about a weight loss program.
  • Provide enough litter boxes (one for each cat in the household, plus an additional one). Keep them clean and in a quiet area. Try different sizes and litters to see what your cat prefers.
  • Decrease stress. Try not to change your cat’s routine, consistency is key! Consider using pheromone sprays or diffusers when anticipating a stressful event. Encourage playtime and have many safe hiding places for your cat to use.
  • If your cat had urinary stones, use a specially formulated veterinary diet to help prevent them from reoccurring.

Please do not hesitate to contact us at Coventry Animal Hospital immediately, if you suspect your male cat is unable to urinate.