Male cats have a tendency to develop stones or debris in their urine that can become an obstruction in the urethra, the tube that connects the bladder to the penis.  A urethral obstruction prevents urine from exiting the body and can become a painful and dangerous condition in just one or two days.  A complete blockage (no urine can getting through) can cause irreversible damage to the kidneys and can even cause death.

Signs of a urethral obstruction include:

  • using the litter box often
  • straining to urinate with no or little resulting urine
  • unusual accidents in the house
  • constantly licking his bottom
  • vocalizing more than usual, especially when using the litter box
  • depression
  • weakness
  • lack of appetite
  • dehydration (lift up the neck skin, it if doesn’t return to normal quickly your kitty is dehydrated)
  • collapse

Some cat owners think these behaviors indicate constipation.  While that is a possibility, it is safer to assume an obstruction since the condition can become life threatening quickly.

Your veterinarian will attempt to remove the obstruction.  Often unblocking the animal is successful and the cat can return to normal function after hospitalization and IV fluids.  However, sometimes blockage is a reoccurring problem, or the obstruction is too large to remove, and your kitty will need surgery.  The surgeon will perform a perineal urethrostomy.  The surgery involves removing part of the penis to enlarge the exit for urine out of the body.

“Lucky” will be hospitalized for several days, and often a catheter will be left in place overnight or longer. Afterward, “Lucky” may be treated with antibiotics, urinary antiseptics, and urinary acidifiers. Post-operative care at home will require you to carefully observe “Lucky” and his litter box habits.

Diet is a key component in decreasing the likelihood of an obstruction if crystals or stones were the cause. Free access to water is a must. In addition, wet food, that is low in magnesium, seems to decrease the formation of crystals and provide increased hydration to flush the kidneys and remove debris.  Because many cat owners feed this type of diet, urethral obstructions is less common than it used to be.

The moral of the story…diet and exercise are the age old answer.