A “blocked” cat refers to a cat that cannot pass urine due to an obstruction which is most common in males. An obstruction can become an emergency right away. It is more common in males because their urethra bends and narrows as it gets closer to the exit. Female cats can also become blocked; however, it is much less likely to occur.
Symptoms of being blocked are straining in the litter box, not being able to urinate, urinating small amounts, crying in the litter box and licking genitals. Obstructions may include plugs of mucus, crystals and urinary stones.
Many risk factors can contribute to urinary blockage. They can include solely eating dry food, being an indoor cat, stress, and being in a multi-cat household. It can also be idiopathic, the meaning of unknown origin.
Why is it an emergency?
The kidneys produce urine to rid the body of toxins and filter the blood. If the urine cannot leave the body then essentially this will not allow the toxins to disappear meaning the body will essentially poison itself and become toxic. If not treated, death can usually happen after 48 hours.
How can it be fixed?
It starts with the veterinarian unblocking the urethra to restore the proper flow of urine. Unfortunately, after the body has been poisoned, medications, fluids and additional procedures must happen to restore the balance. Cats can spend days in the hospital to recover.
Can it be prevented?
Urinary blockages are not 100% preventable where it sometimes occurs from unknown origins. That being said, there are ways to lessen the chance of it happening. Keeping your kitty hydrated will dilute the urine. You can do this by incorporating wet food into their diet and making sure water is readily available. You can also put your kitty on urinary exclusive diet food. Since stress can also cause blockages, it is best to minimize stress around the house. You can do this by having cat trees, houses and perches so they can hide and have spots to play. If there are cats that fight with each other in the home, you can try Feliway diffusers. This product releases calming pheromones to de-stress cats.
The best thing to do is to monitor the litter box and pay attention to your cat. Anything out of the ordinary we recommend they see a veterinarian. If caught early enough blocked cats can become unblocked. If caught too late it is deadly. Use your judgement and when in doubt contact your local vet because it is better to be safe than sorry. Your cat will thank you.
Written by: Adora Wesson, Veterinary Assistant