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Urinary Blockage

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

A urinary blockage in cats is ALWAYS an emergency. When your cat urinates, they are removing all of the waste their kidneys have filtered out. When your cat is unable to urinate, all of that waste quickly builds up in the body and can have fatal consequences if not addressed quickly. This blog will cover the different causes of a urinary blockage, signs your cat may be blocked, and how your veterinarian corrects a urinary blockage.


It is important to note that male cats have a much narrower urethra than female cats, and are at significantly higher risk for urinary blockage than females. If you notice your male cat posturing to urinate without producing any urine, contact your veterinarian or local emergency clinic immediately. The most successful urinary blockage patients are the ones who are seen and treated as soon as symptoms appear.

What is a urinary blockage?

A urinary blockage refers to any obstruction of the urethra. This obstruction prevents the normal passing of urine, which can lead to an enlarged, painful bladder, abdominal discomfort, and a build-up of toxins in the body.

What causes a urinary blockage?

An obstruction may be caused by bladder stones, crystals, or a thick mucus called ‘matrix’. While bladder stones or crystals can sometimes be linked to diet or lifestyle, the origins of matrix or why it forms are still unknown. Factors such as stress, low water intake, obesity, and diet can also increase a cat’s susceptibility to urinary blockages.

What are the signs or symptoms to watch for?

Urinary blockages are more likely to occur in cats that have a history of urinary issues, such as urinary tract infections, bladder stones, or crystals. Signs that your cat may be experiencing urinary issues include:

  • Inappropriate urination outside of the litter box

  • Frequent urination

  • Straining to urinate

  • Foul-smelling urine

  • Blood in urine

  • Increased water intake

Signs that your cat’s urinary issues have escalated to a blockage include:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Crying or howling

  • Unable or straining to urinate (without fully relieving bladder)

  • Excessive licking or grooming near tail or genitals

  • Hiding

Cats who are not immediately treated for a urinary blockage may experience the following symptoms after 24 hours of being blocked:

  • Vomiting

  • Loss of appetite

  • Muscle weakness

  • Lethargy

If untreated, a urinary blockage is fatal. The build-up of toxins in the body can cause irreversible damage in as little as 24 hours, and death usually occurs within 48 hours of being blocked. Urinary blockages can take a turn for the worst in as little as a few hours, making this an emergency that requires immediate attention.

How do you diagnose a urinary blockage?

If your cat has been experiencing symptoms of a urinary blockage, your veterinarian will examine your cat to confirm the diagnosis. Your veterinarian will palpate the abdomen to determine how full your cat’s bladder is. A full, painful bladder is often a telltale sign of a urinary blockage. Your veterinarian will also recommend a urinalysis to determine if pathogens or crystals are present, blood work to assess any organ damage, and radiographs to look for bladder stones.

How do you treat a urinary blockage?

Relieving your cat’s bladder is the top priority. Your veterinarian will place an IV catheter to start your cat on fluids and prepare for sedation. Once your cat is sedated, your veterinarian will remove the obstruction by using a urinary catheter to clear the urethra and relieve your cat’s bladder. Once the obstruction has been taken care of, your vet will move on to managing any negative effects the blockage has had on internal organs.

Your vet may wish to keep your cat overnight to continue administering IV fluids and any other medications that may aid in their recovery. Your cat may be given pain control medication to relieve discomfort, and antibiotics to treat infection. Your vet will also talk to you about aspects of your cat’s life that may have predisposed them to a urinary blockage and discuss diet and medication options to avoid another blockage in the future.

Will my cat get blocked again?

Some cats who experience a urinary blockage will go on to live a normal life afterwards and never experience a blockage again. Other cats are not so lucky and may experience more blockages in the future. To minimize the risk of your cat blocking again, it is important to adhere to special diets or medications recommended by your veterinarian. There are certain diets made specifically for cats with urinary issues that promote urinary health and can be used to treat urinary crystals.

If you have questions or concerns about your cat’s health, or have noticed any strange litterbox habits lately, give us a call at 972-347-6100 to schedule a time to meet with your veterinarian to discuss.


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