Have you ever heard of a ‘blocked cat’? Generally, this refers to a urinary tract obstruction, something blocking the outflow of urine. This is one component of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease or FLUTD.
In most cases, a sand-like crystalline material is responsible for the blockage in the urethra. This syndrome affects only male cats, usually between ages 1 and 10. A larger bladder stone could cause the problem in a female.
Symptoms include straining to urinate, crying in the litter box and eventually lethargy (reluctance to move). Cats may still eat and defecate, but in less amounts. The most important sign is that no urine is produced. A urinary blockage is very painful and can even lead to death if the obstruction lasts more than two days.
Cats normally urinate 2 to 3 times daily. If you notice little to no urine in the litter box for two days in a row, see your veterinarian. If your cat is straining without producing any urine, it is an emergency. There are several 24 hour emergency veterinary hospitals in the Milwaukee area.
In order to relieve the obstruction, a urinary catheter must be passed under sedation or anesthesia. Often the catheter is left in place and your cat must stay at the veterinary hospital. If your cat is very sick, blood work and other tests will be required.
Relapses or ‘re-obstructions’ are common. No medications are required, but a special prescription diet is used to help prevent the crystal formation that results in the sand-like substance. A cat that has had a blockage needs to be on a special diet for life. In severe cases, surgery is used to widen the opening for urine to come out.
Though no one knows for sure why the crystals form in some cats and not others, both weight and diet are risk factors. Keeping your cat near his ideal weight, feeding high quality dry and canned foods, and minimizing stress are the best ways to maintain your cat’s urinary tract health. A urine sample can be checked by your veterinarian to look for crystals and other abnormalities.