Being able to pee is a critical aspect of an animal’s life, and if they can’t urinate, there are many complications that follow. This is a common problem that we see in cats and is also known as being “blocked”. This is a life-threatening emergency, as cats can get very sick and often die without treatment. The most common culprits are middle aged, indoor, overweight, neutered male cats.
Singing in the shower is one thing, but yowling in the litterbox is a serious matter. Some common clues that your cat is having trouble urinating can be: the cat is straining to pee with just a few drops coming out (it might be red in colour), vocalizing in the litterbox, and acting painful (hunching their back up or wincing when their abdomen is touched). If you see any of these symptoms, be sure to call your veterinarian immediately.
Once the cat is brought in to see a veterinarian, it can be determined how bad the blockage is and how sick the cat is in order to decide on the best treatment plan. The main goals are to get the cat stable and unblock the urethra so that the animal can pee comfortably. This usually requires a few days in hospital with lots of supportive care to ensure that the cat can urinate well on its own.
There are many causes for why cats become blocked in the first place, but one of the most common is crystals or stones that build up in the bladder and get stuck on the way out. This makes it just about impossible for the cat to urinate, and is very painful. Stone formation is often related to diet. Another common cause of urinary blockages is general inflammation of the bladder that can cause a lot of blood and other cells to build up, and when combined with the narrowing of the exit tube this can make it very difficult for them to urinate. This is often related to stress in the cat’s life.
When a cat becomes blocked once, unfortunately they can become repeat offenders—especially if the underlying cause is not addressed. Decreasing stress in your cat’s life is important, so being a ‘cool cat’ is not just a catchphrase anymore. Any household changes like new people, new animals, renovations, or any big change in routine can cause stress. There are options available to help decrease stress if any change is anticipated, so talking to your veterinarian before the stressful event happens is a great idea.
Another important part of the equation is diet. It certainly is true that you are what you eat, and there are many excellent food options available for cats. There are some foods that have evidence supporting their use for preventing the formation of stones, and for overall urinary health. Be sure to contact your veterinarian to discuss what diet will work best for your pet.
Remember that if you see your cat straining to urinate, this can be an emergency and your veterinarian should be contacted right away!
Dr. Sydney Routley is a 2012 graduate of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. She was raised in Fort St. John and first started working at the North Peace Veterinary Clinic as a student back in 2004.