Is your male cat excessively licking his hind-end/ prepuce, ‘walking funny’, yowling, posturing to urinate outside the box, and frequenting the litter-box often? If so, your beloved feline may have a urethral obstruction. This is a veterinary emergency and your cat must be seen immediately. Urethral obstructions are not only painful to your pet, but can also cause severe kidney injury and life-threatening electrolyte abnormalities. If your cat is blocked, he will need to be placed under heavy sedation so that a urinary catheter can be placed to relieve the obstruction. It is then strongly advised to hospitalize your pet on aggressive fluid therapy and pain management for at least 24 hours in an attempt to reduce the chance of re-obstruction.
Urethral obstructions are actually a fairly common issue with younger, male indoor cats. If no stones, infection, or masses are diagnosed, your cat is most likely suffering from a condition termed ‘feline idiopathic cystitis’ (FIC). This is a condition that is not fully understood, however it is thought that stressful situations are implicated. Stress may result in inflammation of the urinary bladder wall. Early signs of FIC include inappropriate urination, straining to urinate, and blood in the urine. If severe enough, inflammatory cells, mucus, and crystals may form a plug that then leads to a mechanical obstruction of the urethra.
Feline stress can range from a dirty litter-box, not enough litter-boxes (it is actually recommended to have a litter box for each cat in the house-hold plus one extra!), new environment, new people or animals, owners traveling out of town, to insufficient environmental enrichment. Your cat may need to be placed on a urinary specific prescription diet for the remainder of his or her life in order to reduce the risk of re-obstruction. This diet will acidify the urine and has been proven to dissolve struvite stones or crystals in under 30 days.
Increasing water (canned food, water fountains, etc) intake is also essential and will help dilute the urine and therefore reduce the risk of obstruction. Even with a perfect environment and diet, unfortunately some cats will obstruct again. For repeat offenders, some owners will elect to pursue a surgical procedure (perineal urethrostomy) to widen the urethral exit. If you our concerned about your cat’s urination habits please call or visit us at the Veterinary Referral and Emergency Center of Central Oregon.