Thanks to cats’ natural instincts to hide signs of weakness so well, symptoms of illnesses sometimes go unnoticed by cat owners. Therefore, any subtle changes in behavior or appearance are great reasons to get your cat to the vet.
Anyone that owns a male cat should be aware of the condition called urinary blockage, better known as a “blocked cat.”
A blocked cat is what it sounds like: a life-threatening emergency condition in which a cat cannot pass urine due to an obstruction.
Let’s take a quick anatomy lesson to understand the male cat’s urinary system.
The urine flows down the ureters (tubes) from the kidneys to the bladder. It’s then excreted through the urethra, a tubular structure which leads urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.
Unlike in the female cat, whose urethra is shorter with a larger diameter, the male cat’s urethra has a bend in the tubular structure where it becomes very narrow within the penis. So when a male cat gets blocked, the narrow urethra becomes obstructed and prevents urine from being passed.
What exactly causes the blockage? Most often, material in the urine comprised of cells, protein, crystals and/or stones formed from minerals can build up to form a “plug” that obstructs the urethra. Some males that are more at risk are those on a dry food diet, overweight, or have a history of urinary issues.
So why is a urinary blockage so dangerous? The body needs to excrete urine to get rid of substances that can become harmful when they begin to accumulate. The kidneys are unable to remove toxins from the blood and it can take as little as 24 hours for the toxins to build up as the bladder becomes hard and painful.
Owners often mistake the frequent trips to the litter box and straining as constipation. When toxins build up you might notice decreased appetite, depression, and vomiting.
Other symptoms may be walking abnormal due to the painful hardening bladder, yowling when straining to urinate, or discolored urine from blood. The number one sign of a blocked cat is if your cat is frequently visiting the litter box and only passing drops of urine (spotting) or nothing at all!
There is a very small window of time before this condition can cause death; it can be a matter of days. Treatment varies depending on the condition of the cat and the severity of the blockage, so always contact your vet immediately if your cat is just not himself.
by Adriene Buisch
Special to the Baltimore Guide