Blocked Bladder Emergency in Cats

by Chantal Moreton, BVSc


When it's raining and cold in the winter, who wants to go outside unless they really have to? Our feline friends seem to think the same but most have to go outside to go to the toilet! This can turn into a real problem, especially for our male feline companions.


If a cat's urine concentrates in the bladder and they are not on a nutritional diet or they are genetically predisposed, sometimes bladder stones/crystals can form. When small enough, these can pass down the urethra (the tube from the bladder through the penis to the outside world) but sometimes, they get stuck. This causes much pain for the cat as urine cannot pass from the body and means an emergency trip into the vet clinic.


Typical signs that a cat has a blocked bladder: constant licking at back end/penis, general discomfort, pain when being picked up, straining in the garden/litter tray (which can sometimes be mistaken for faecal constipation), passing only small dribbles of urine sometimes with blood.

If your cat displays any of these signs, do not hesitate in getting him seen by your vet – the only treatment option is an immediate general anaesthetic and the passing of a urinary catheter up the penis to relieve the blockage. If the blockage is severe and a catheter cannot be passed, sometimes surgery is needed to open the bladder itself and unblock internally or if the cat is constantly blocking, a urethrostomy is needed – where the end of the penis is surgically removed to create a permanent opening.

A hospital stay of a few days and follow up treatment is usually required to get these boys back to normal. Often because of the toxins that build in the body when urine cannot be eliminated, the kidneys can be affected and cats can feel quite nauseous but if the cat is seen soon, these problems can be reversed. On discharge from the hospital, the cat will be started on a specially formulated diet that helps prevent the stones/crystals from reforming and medication to help repair his damaged bladder and urethra.


To try and help prevent your male cat from experiencing this nasty problem: ensure they are on a good quality diet – several brands of cat food are formulated to prevent crystal formation (please check with the staff at the Veterinary Centre to make sure your cat is safe), always have a good supply of water so urine does not become concentrated and if your feline companion doesn't like going outside especially in the winter, have a clean litter tray inside so they can relieve themselves in comfort!! If your cat does not drink much water and is on a totally dry diet, it may be advisable to add wet food to the mix. Again talk to your veterinarian about what is best for your cat.

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