A cat, facing the camera, stands with one paw in its litter box

Urinary Obstruction in Cats

Male cats frequently develop an obstruction of the urethra, which is the duct that transports urine out of the body from the bladder and through the penis. These obstructions are often a result of mucous, crystals, and even tiny bladder stones that bind together to form a plug. The opening in a male cat’s urethra is so narrow that a small amount of debris is required to cause a full obstruction and an inability to urinate. A urinary obstruction is a medical emergency and there should be no delay in seeking veterinary care.

Symptoms To Look Out For

There are multiple causes of urethral obstruction in cats, and it is often multifactorial. The most common cause, however, is an inflammation of the urethra.

Causes of Urination Problems in Cats

Diagnostics and Tests

Physical examination and bladder palpation. Your veterinarian will feel your cat’s bladder and attempt to express urine. A urinary blockage will cause the bladder to be hard and firm like a nectarine. It is difficult for most pet owners to feel for the bladder correctly and if there is any question about whether your cat has a blockage, they should be taken to the vet for evaluation as soon as possible.

Diagnostic tests that may be needed to determine the cause of dysuria include:

Initial Treatment and Hospitalization

Discharge from the Hospital

Your cat will stay in the hospital for several days before the catheter is removed. They will then be closely observed for re-blockage and will not be allowed to leave the hospital until they are able to urinate a normal volume. There can be some urinary leakage in between normal urination and this may persist for several days to weeks.

Monitoring and Treatment at Home

Once at home, your cat will need to be monitored CLOSELY over the next several weeks.

Your cat is at risk for re-blocking, especially over the first two weeks at home.

There is still inflammation and pain associated with urinating during this time and they are still at risk.

Tips for Preventing Re-blockage

Follow-up Care

Follow-up may require long-term medical management. Also, subsequent radiographs may need to be taken or repeat ultrasound examinations. Frequent examinations of the urine and repeat cultures will be required to monitor for infections and response to antibiotic management.


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