Recognizing and Treating Urinary Obstruction in Cats

by beaconpet
Causes of Urinary Obstruction in Cats

If you have a furry feline friend at home, it’s important to be aware of the potential risk of feline urinary tract obstruction. This emergency occurs when the urethra becomes blocked, blocking the passage of urine. Male cats are especially susceptible due to their longer and narrower urethra. Look out for signs such as frequently going to the litter box without urinating, straining to urinate, lethargy, drinking a lot of water, loss of appetite, loud crying or pacing, and blood in the urine . If you suspect your cat may have a urinary tract obstruction, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately. Treatment usually includes hospitalization, fluid therapy, catheterization, and medications. To prevent future problems, BeaConPet recommends regular veterinary checkups, feeding a balanced moist food, providing clean water, keeping the litter box clean and preventing obesity are all important. By staying informed and taking proactive measures, you can ensure that your feline friend stays healthy and happy.

Causes of Urinary Obstruction in Cats

Causes of Urinary Obstruction in Cats

A urinary obstruction in cats occurs when the urethra, the tube responsible for carrying urine out of the body, becomes blocked and urine cannot pass through. There are several causes of urinary obstruction in cats, including:

Urinary stones

One of the primary causes of urinary obstruction in cats is the formation of urinary stones, also known as uroliths. These stones can develop anywhere along the urinary tract, including the kidneys, bladder, or urethra. When the stones block the urethra, it prevents the urine from being excreted, leading to a urinary obstruction.

Urinary tract infection

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can also contribute to urinary obstruction in cats. Bacterial infections in the bladder and urethra can cause inflammation and swelling, narrowing the passage for urine to flow. If left untreated, UTIs can lead to the formation of urinary stones, exacerbating the obstruction.

Bladder tumors

While relatively rare, bladder tumors can be a cause of urinary obstruction in cats. Tumors can grow within the bladder, obstructing the flow of urine. These tumors can be benign or malignant, further complicating the situation. In some cases, surgery may be required to remove the tumor and alleviate the obstruction.

Inflammation or trauma

Inflammation or trauma to the urinary tract can result in swelling and narrowing of the urethra, leading to urinary obstruction. Inflammation can occur due to various factors, such as an allergic reaction, an autoimmune condition, or the presence of crystals in the urine. Trauma to the urinary tract can also occur from accidents or injuries.

Congenital abnormalities

Some cats may be born with congenital abnormalities that predispose them to urinary obstructions. These abnormalities may include a malformed urethra or ureter. Cats with these structural abnormalities are more susceptible to developing urinary obstructions throughout their lives.

Understanding the causes of urinary obstructions in cats is crucial for prompt diagnosis and treatment. If you suspect your cat may be experiencing a urinary obstruction, it is essential to seek veterinary attention immediately to prevent further complications.

Risk Factors for Urinary Obstruction

While urinary obstructions can occur in cats of any age or gender, certain factors may increase their risk. These risk factors include:

Male gender

Male cats are more prone to urinary obstructions compared to females. This is because male cats have a longer and narrower urethra, making it easier for blockages to occur. The anatomy of their urinary tract predisposes them to obstructions, especially those caused by urinary stones.


Urinary obstructions can occur at any age, but older cats are more susceptible. As cats age, their bladder muscles become weaker, making it more challenging to fully empty their bladder. Incomplete voiding can increase the risk of urinary obstructions.

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Obesity is a risk factor for various health issues in cats, including urinary obstructions. Excess weight can put additional pressure on the urinary tract, leading to narrowing and blockages. Additionally, obesity is often associated with a sedentary lifestyle, increasing the risk of urinary issues.


Inadequate water intake can contribute to the formation of concentrated urine, making it more likely for urinary stones to develop. Dehydration can also lead to decreased urine production, increasing the risk of blockages. It is crucial to ensure your cat has access to fresh water throughout the day.


Stress can have a significant impact on a cat’s overall health, including their urinary system. Cats may develop urinary obstructions in response to stressful situations such as changes in their environment, the arrival of a new pet, or the presence of unfamiliar people. It is important to provide a calm and stable environment for your cat to help mitigate stress-related urinary issues.

While these risk factors can increase the likelihood of urinary obstructions, it is essential to note that cats without any predisposing factors can still develop obstructions. Regular monitoring of your cat’s urinary habits and overall health is crucial for early detection and intervention.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Urinary Obstruction

Identifying the symptoms of urinary obstruction in cats is crucial for prompt action and treatment. The following signs may indicate a urinary obstruction:

Frequent but unsuccessful attempts to urinate

If your cat is making multiple trips to the litter box without producing any urine or only producing small amounts, it may be a sign of a urinary obstruction. The blockage prevents the normal flow of urine, leading to unsuccessful attempts at urination.

Straining to urinate

Straining or squatting for an extended period while trying to urinate is another notable symptom of a urinary obstruction. Your cat may exhibit discomfort or pain while attempting to urinate due to the narrowed or blocked urethra.

Lethargy and weakness

When experiencing a urinary obstruction, cats may appear lethargic, weak, or depressed. The obstruction disrupts the normal urinary flow, leading to a build-up of toxins in the body. This can result in decreased energy levels and overall weakness.

Increased water intake

An increased thirst and water consumption can indicate a urinary obstruction in cats. The body tries to compensate for the reduced urine output by prompting the cat to drink more water. However, increased water intake alone cannot resolve the obstruction.

Decreased appetite

Cats with urinary obstructions may experience a decreased appetite. The discomfort or pain associated with the obstruction can cause a lack of appetite. Additionally, the build-up of toxins in the body can also affect the cat’s desire to eat.

Restlessness and vocalizing

A cat with a urinary obstruction may exhibit restlessness, pacing, or excessive vocalization. These behaviors can indicate discomfort and pain due to the blockage. The cat may seek different positions, attempt to urinate in unusual places, or vocalize their distress.

Presence of blood in the urine

Blood in the urine, known as hematuria, is a significant symptom of a urinary obstruction. The blockage can cause irritation and damage to the urinary tract, resulting in the presence of blood in the urine. Hematuria can be visually apparent or detected through urinalysis.

If you observe any of these symptoms in your cat, it is crucial to seek immediate veterinary attention. A urinary obstruction is a medical emergency that requires prompt diagnosis and treatment to prevent further complications.

Immediate Action to Take

Immediate Action to Take

Upon suspecting a urinary obstruction in your cat, there are a few immediate actions you can take before seeking veterinary assistance. These actions can help alleviate the cat’s discomfort and provide essential information to the veterinarian. Remember, these actions are not substitutes for professional veterinary care, and contacting a veterinarian should always be the priority. However, the following steps can be taken when waiting for veterinary guidance:

Contacting a veterinarian

The first step is to contact your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary clinic. Explain the symptoms you have observed and follow their guidance regarding the next steps. They may instruct you to bring the cat in immediately or provide further instructions.

Restricting access to food and water

While waiting for veterinary guidance, it is advisable to restrict your cat’s access to food and water. A blocked urinary tract cannot properly eliminate urine, so the accumulation of more fluids can worsen the situation. It is crucial to follow your veterinarian’s advice regarding fasting duration and resuming normal eating habits.

Monitoring the cat’s behavior

Observe how your cat is reacting to the situation. Note any changes in behavior, such as increased restlessness, discomfort, or distress. This information is vital for the veterinarian in determining the severity of the obstruction.

Preparing for a veterinary visit

Before heading to the veterinarian, gather any relevant information, such as the cat’s medical history, recent changes in diet or environment, and any medications the cat may be taking. Prepare a carrier for transport and ensure you have a safe and secure means of getting to the veterinary clinic.

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Taking these immediate actions can help facilitate a smoother veterinary visit and potentially provide valuable information for the veterinarian’s assessment. However, it is important to prioritize professional veterinary care to ensure the cat’s health and well-being.

Diagnosing Urinary Obstruction

Upon arriving at the veterinarian’s office, the veterinary team will perform various diagnostic procedures to confirm the diagnosis of a urinary obstruction. These procedures may include:

Physical examination

The veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination of your cat, focusing on the urinary system. They will assess your cat’s overall condition, check for any signs of pain or discomfort, and palpate the abdomen to identify any abnormalities or blockages.


Urinalysis is a vital diagnostic tool used to evaluate the urine for the presence of abnormalities. The veterinarian will collect a urine sample from your cat and analyze it for the presence of blood, crystals, bacteria, or any other indications of infection or obstruction.

Blood tests

Blood tests may be conducted to assess the cat’s overall health and identify any underlying conditions that could contribute to the urinary obstruction. These tests may include a complete blood count (CBC) and a blood chemistry panel to evaluate organ function.

Radiography or ultrasound

Radiography or ultrasound imaging may be used to visualize the urinary tract and identify the location and severity of the obstruction. These imaging techniques can provide detailed information about the structure of the bladder, urethra, and surrounding tissues.


In some cases, a cystoscopy may be performed to directly visualize the urinary tract. This procedure involves inserting a thin, flexible tube with a camera attached (cystoscope) into the urethra and up into the bladder. It allows for a detailed examination of the bladder and urethra, aiding in diagnosis and further treatment planning.

The combination of these diagnostic procedures helps determine the presence and cause of the urinary obstruction. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, appropriate treatment options can be discussed and implemented.

Treatment Options for Urinary Obstruction

The treatment of urinary obstructions in cats typically requires hospitalization and intervention from veterinary professionals. The following treatment options may be implemented:


Hospitalization is often necessary to closely monitor the cat’s condition and provide immediate medical intervention. This allows the veterinary team to administer necessary treatments and evaluate the cat’s response to them. The duration of hospitalization will depend on the severity and complexity of the obstruction.

Fluid therapy

Fluid therapy plays a crucial role in the treatment of urinary obstructions. Intravenous fluids are administered to rehydrate the cat and promote urine production. The increased urine production helps to flush out any blockages present in the urinary tract. Fluid therapy also helps correct any imbalances in electrolyte levels.

Urinary catheterization

In many cases, a urinary catheter will be inserted to remove the obstruction and allow urine to flow freely. The catheter is carefully guided into the urethra and up to the bladder to bypass the blockage. This procedure is performed under anesthesia to ensure the cat’s comfort and safety.

Medication to relieve pain and inflammation

Pain management is an essential aspect of treating urinary obstructions. Medications such as analgesics or anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed to alleviate discomfort and reduce inflammation in the urinary tract.

Surgery to remove blockages

In more severe cases or when other treatment options are not effective, surgery may be required to remove the blockages. Surgical intervention may involve removing urinary stones, excising tumors, or correcting structural abnormalities that contributed to the obstruction.

The specific treatment approach will depend on the individual cat’s condition, the severity of the obstruction, and the underlying cause. The veterinarian will determine the most appropriate course of action to ensure the cat’s well-being and the resolution of the obstruction.

Potential Complications and Risks

While prompt treatment typically leads to successful outcomes, urinary obstructions in cats can potentially result in complications. These complications can include:

Bladder rupture

Severe obstructions and pressure build-up in the bladder can lead to bladder rupture. A ruptured bladder is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate surgical intervention to repair the damage and prevent further complications.

Kidney damage

Obstructions that prevent the normal flow of urine can potentially cause kidney damage over time. The kidneys may become inflamed, infected, or experience reduced functionality due to the accumulation of toxins. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential in preventing permanent kidney damage.

Fluid and electrolyte imbalances

The obstruction and subsequent fluid therapy can impact the cat’s fluid and electrolyte balance. It is crucial for the veterinary team to carefully monitor these levels and provide appropriate support to avoid further imbalances or complications.

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Urinary tract infections

Urinary obstructions can increase the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs). The presence of blockages, urine stasis, and compromised immune response make cats more susceptible to bacterial infections. Prompt treatment of the obstruction and administration of appropriate antibiotics can help address UTIs.

It is important to note that complications and risks can vary depending on the individual cat’s condition and response to treatment. Veterinary professionals are equipped to handle and mitigate any potential complications, ensuring the best possible outcome for your cat.

Recovery and Post-Treatment Care

Following the successful treatment of a urinary obstruction, proper recovery and post-treatment care are crucial for the cat’s overall health and well-being. The following measures should be taken:

Monitoring and assessing urination

After the urinary obstruction is resolved, closely monitor your cat’s urination habits. Ensure that the cat is urinating regularly, producing a normal amount of urine, and not exhibiting any signs of discomfort or straining. Any changes in urination patterns should be promptly addressed with the veterinarian.

Administering prescribed medication

If your cat has been prescribed medication to manage pain, reduce inflammation, or prevent infection, it is essential to administer the medication as directed. Follow the veterinarian’s instructions regarding dosage, frequency, and duration of treatment to optimize the cat’s recovery.

Dietary changes

In some cases, dietary changes may be recommended to prevent the recurrence of urinary obstructions. Your veterinarian may suggest a specialized diet formulated to support urinary tract health and prevent the formation of urinary stones. Feeding a balanced moist food diet can help increase water intake and promote overall urinary system health.

Follow-up veterinary visits

Regular follow-up visits with your veterinarian are essential for monitoring your cat’s progress and ensuring the continued success of the treatment. These visits allow the veterinarian to assess the cat’s urinary health, address any concerns, and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

Preventing future obstructions

Taking preventive measures to reduce the risk of future obstructions is crucial for your cat’s long-term health. This includes implementing lifestyle changes such as providing fresh water, maintaining a clean litter box, and ensuring your cat engages in regular physical activity. Regular veterinary check-ups are also essential for early detection and intervention.

By prioritizing the recovery and post-treatment care of your cat, you can help mitigate the risk of future urinary obstructions and ensure their continued well-being.

Preventive Measures for Urinary Obstruction

Preventive Measures for Urinary Obstruction

While you cannot completely eliminate the risk of urinary obstructions in cats, certain preventive measures can significantly reduce the likelihood of recurrence. Consider the following preventive measures:

Routine vet check-ups

Regular veterinary check-ups are essential for maintaining your cat’s overall health and detecting any potential urinary issues early. During these check-ups, the veterinarian can assess your cat’s urinary system, perform necessary tests, and provide guidance for preventive measures.

Balanced moist food diet

Feeding your cat a balanced diet that includes moist food can help promote urinary tract health. Moist food increases water intake, dilutes the urine, and helps prevent the formation of urinary stones. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the most appropriate diet for your cat’s specific needs.

Providing fresh water

Ensure your cat always has access to fresh and clean water throughout the day. Hydration plays a vital role in urinary tract health, as increased water intake helps prevent the concentration of urine and the formation of urinary stones. Regularly clean and refill your cat’s water bowl to encourage adequate water consumption.

Maintaining a clean litter box

A clean and well-maintained litter box is crucial for urinary tract health. Regularly scoop the litter box to remove waste and clumps, ensuring that your cat has a clean area to urinate. Additionally, providing multiple litter boxes in different locations can reduce stress and encourage regular urination.

Exercise and weight management

Maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise is important for overall urinary system health. Obesity can increase the risk of urinary obstructions, so engaging your cat in interactive play sessions and encouraging physical activity can help prevent obesity-related issues.

By implementing these preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of urinary obstructions in your cat, ensuring their long-term health and well-being.

When to Seek Veterinary Assistance

While preventive measures are essential, it is crucial to know when to seek veterinary assistance if you suspect a urinary obstruction in your cat. Prompt action can help prevent complications and ensure timely treatment. Consider the following situations when veterinary attention is necessary:

Persistent or worsening symptoms

If your cat’s symptoms, such as straining to urinate or lethargy, persist or worsen despite your efforts, it is essential to contact your veterinarian. These persistent or worsening symptoms may indicate a more severe obstruction or the presence of complications that require immediate attention.

Inability to urinate at all

An inability to urinate at all is a clear sign of a urinary obstruction and requires immediate veterinary assistance. A complete blockage not only causes extreme discomfort but can also be life-threatening if left untreated.

Lethargy or weakness

If your cat appears lethargic, weak, or unusually inactive, it is crucial to have them assessed by a veterinarian. These signs may indicate a systemic infection, electrolyte imbalances, or other complications resulting from the urinary obstruction.

Distended abdomen

A distended or enlarged abdomen can be indicative of a serious urinary obstruction. This swelling occurs due to the inability of the bladder to empty, leading to urine accumulation. Seek veterinary assistance promptly if your cat’s abdomen appears distended.

Severe pain or discomfort

If your cat is exhibiting signs of severe pain, discomfort, or distress, it is essential to contact your veterinarian immediately. These signs may include vocalizing, pacing, restlessness, or attempts to urinate in unusual places. Severe pain requires immediate medical intervention.

Proactive monitoring and recognition of these signs can help ensure your cat receives the necessary veterinary assistance when needed. Early intervention is vital in successfully managing urinary obstructions and preventing further complications.

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