Urinary Blockages in Cats

By Compassion Animal Project volunteer, Michelle S.


In our last blog post, we shared the story of Casper, a 3-year-old cat who suffered from multiple urinary blockages during a short period of time. Casper's treatment, a Perineal Urethrostomy (PU), was funded by Compassion Animal Project, and he is now back to being happy, healthy, and playful! Cat owners, specifically those with male cats, should be aware of this condition and how to identify the symptoms to ensure that their pet can receive timely treatment, just like Casper. Read on to learn more.


Why does a urinary blockage happen? Male cats are susceptible to urinary obstructions due to the anatomy of their urinary tract. The urethra runs from the bladder through the penis. It narrows as it enters the penis, and this reduction in size is what makes them susceptible to blockage. A blockage can occur from crystals in the urine, inflammation from a urinary tract infection, mucous, bladder stones, or a blood clot. Left untreated, kidney failure will occur with death following within 1-2 days. The immediate life threatening problem comes from an increase in blood potassium levels which can rise to levels that can cause the heart to stop. Additionally, if left untreated, the urinary bladder itself can rupture.


What are the symptoms of a urinary blockage? Your cat may yowl when urinating, urinate frequently, strain to urinate, or urinate outside of the litter box. In addition, you may observe blood in your cat’s urine, your cat may seclude itself, or it may vomit or stop eating. Your veterinarian will be able to palpate your cat’s bladder and feel if it is firm and distended. Your veterinarian will examine your cat and likely order x-rays and blood tests to determine current kidney function as well as other values (in particular potassium).


How is a urinary blockage treated? Surgery is necessary to treat a blockage when either the blockage cannot be cleared by the use of a catheter, or the cat is experiencing repeated obstructions. In a Perineal Urethrostomy (PU), the surgeon creates a new opening for the penis before the location of the narrowed section in the ureter.


What is recovery like from a PU? Your cat will need 1-2 weeks of isolation in a small room. He will need to wear an Elizabethan collar, and to have his activity restricted in order to keep the incision clean, the sutures intact, and to ensure proper healing. You will have to keep him away from other pets to eliminate the chance of another pet licking the incision. Your veterinarian will likely prescribe a pain reliever for a period of time following surgery as well as antibiotics. It is recommended that you switch to paper litter for the recovery period as clay litter can collect at the surgical site and block the urinary opening.


Additional factors to consider: While a PU removes the life threatening situation of male cats blocking, the underlying factors relating to feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) will still need to be addressed with your veterinarian to keep your cat as comfortable as possible going forward post operatively.


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