Updated: Apr 20
What is a blocked cat?
A blocked cat means a cat cannot pass urine due to a urethral obstruction. The urethra is a small tube that carries urine from the bladder to the litter box. There are many stages of urethral obstruction from early onset (just pain during urination and frequent urination of small amounts) to later stages (complete obstruction and inability to pass any amount of urine). A urethral obstruction can be caused by urethral spasms, mucous plugs, crystals, and grit in the urine or bladder stones. These spasms and mucous plugs are usually from an unknown origin but are thought to be caused by external factors such as stress, changes to the environment, diet, infectious agents, etc.
Male cats are the predominant culprits in urethral obstructions but it can also be seen rarely in female cats. What are the Symptoms?
Straining repeated in and out of the litter box (usually confused with constipation)
Yowling and crying
Licking rectum/prepuce area
If your cat is displaying these symptoms there is a small window of time to address the blockage before the situation becomes dire and potentially fatal. Any delay may be detrimental to your cat.
Once a cat has a confirmed urinary obstruction, bloodwork is done first to assess the electrolytes and kidney values. The longer a urinary blockage has gone on, the more likely there is an electrolyte imbalance and rapid kidney damage. The cat is placed under sedation or general anesthesia where a urinary catheter is placed to allow urine to pass from the bladder out of the body. Unblocking or passing urinary catheters may be easy or difficult depending on the cause. Cats are usually hospitalized on IV Fluids and the urinary catheter is kept for a minimum of 3 days.
If a cat is blocked once, they will likely block again if lifestyle and diet are not changed.
The best treatments are lifestyle changes: medication tweaks, medical rechecks, and diet changes that try to extend the initial complexity of this disease across months or years.
Another treatment is a PU surgery. Perineal Urethrostomy is basically creating a larger hole for the urine to pass through that would be harder to block. This surgery has a very intense recovery process and the surgery can only be performed on a cat who is stable and currently does not suffer from a urethral obstruction.
Did you know Gio makes struvite crystals?
When Gio first came to the hospital, we did normal diagnostics which illuminated that he was making crystals. Luckily, we caught it before he developed a urethral obstruction.
This is a photo of his first urinalysis. As you can see, there is a lot going on within his urine.
Once we saw the results of his test we immediately changed his diet. With just a diet change, we were able to help break down the crystals and prevent Gio from developing a urethral obstruction. We now have him on his urinary care diet moving forward. If he ever went off the urinary prescription diet, he would be at a very high risk of making crystals and developing a urethral obstruction.
Here are the test results after we changed his diet!
What do I do now?
Routine vet visits including diagnostics (bloodwork, urinalysis, radiographs) are super important to keep your cat healthy. Knowing the symptoms of a urethral obstruction or straining to urinate and acting quickly by getting veterinary intervention, can help get your cat the help he needs as soon as possible.