Updated: Dec 12, 2019
Cats tend to live up to the stereotype of being very finicky and independent. This is highly applicable to their restroom habits. However, it is our responsibility as their owners to be observing our feline companions for any changes in restroom habits. This includes more frequent trips to the litter boxes, longer periods of time spend in the litter box and most notably straining or posturing to urinate. This is because this can be indicative of a blocked cat which is a serious issue.
A blocked cat refers to a blockage or obstruction in the path of urine exiting the urethra of the cat. This blockage can be caused by a variety of substances such as a stone, protein based material or crystals. This condition is so serious because urine is essential in the regulation of the body in any animal be it human or animal. The kidneys adjust the composition of bodily fluids and deposit the remainders of substances such as salt, water, and potassium into the urine. Urine does have the waste products such as urea and other toxins in it, so it is essential that it is removed from the body.
When a cat is blocked there is no urine exiting the urethra or it is the tiniest dribble of urine. Your feline may demonstrate some symptoms that are unique to a blockage including crying and howling, licking of the genitals or below the tail and hiding as well as the repeated straining in the litterbox. It is essential if you see a cat straining and no urine being expelled to seek veterinary attention. This condition becomes more painful as time passes due to the buildup of pressure in the bladder from the urine and the bladder can even rupture. As time passes the toxins accumulate and circulate in the body leading self-poisoning which results in vomiting, weakness, lethargy and death in 48 hours.
Neutered male cats are at the highest risk for developing this condition due to the narrowness of their urethras and even an involuntary spasm of the muscles around the urethra can cause and obstruction. The only way to treat this condition is with veterinary care. To relieve the pressure on the bladder, relieving the blockage and dealing with the biochemical abnormalities because of the toxin build up. This is usually done by inserting a catheter through the urethra and into the bladder. Also, a sterile needle can be inserted into the bladder of a cat and urine can be used to remove urine repeatedly, although this is not necessarily effective in removing the blockage. Treatment for a blockage also involves fluids, pain medications, and then medication to promote normal urinary tract function.
Cats that have had this condition are at higher risk for developing it again. To prevent the reoccurrence of this issue many veterinarians recommend a prescription diet to promote urine pH and bladder environment as well as encouraging water consumption by switching to a wet diet or using a “kitty fountain.” However, it is also to reduce stress in your cat’s environment which can be caused by boredom and a dirty litterbox (which can easily fix), although there are a variety of stressful factors that are unique to each situation such as moving, stray cats nearby and the list goes on and on.
It is always important to monitor cats for changes in habits as it can be indicative of a major health problem such as a blockage. Knowing why it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible is key in avoiding an undesirable outcome and ensuring that our feline friends can enjoy another beautiful day napping in the sun!