The stones are accumulating in the urethra.

The stones are accumulating in the urethra.

Blocked Urethra in male cats – an Emergency situation

Schmoozer is a beautiful shorthaired cat who lives with his mum, Francis in an apartment. At first when Schmoozer kept visiting the litter tray and scratching at the litter without anything happening his mum thought he was constipated. Unfortunately for Schmoozer, he was straining because he could not urinate.

Schmoozer had developed a condition called urethral obstruction in which tiny bladder stones block the end of the penis, making urination impossible.

A urinary catheter being placed (male cat)

A urinary catheter being placed (male cat)

This is a potentially life threatening condition where the body’s waste products can’t leave the body. The resultant build up of urine waste can lead to a poisoning of the system and life threatening heart rhythm disturbances. Death can occur within 3 days of a completely obstructed cat. So, it pays to distinguish between constipation and an inability to urinate.
It is important to note that lower urinary symptoms in male cats can indicate a urinary blockage that is an emergency. If you’re not sure your cat is able to express urine, assume it could be an emergency and call  us at once.

The treatment and life saving procedure involves emptying the bladder and flushing the system of the waste products. This procedure is usually performed under general anaesthesia. A tube or catheter is used to push the stones back into the bladder. The urine is then removed and the catheter is sewn in place to allow the bladder to continue to flush. The catheter allows the bladder to recover from the trauma of being overstretched and unable to empty. It is left in place for a few days. Intravenous fluids are used to increase the production of urine and to allow bladder flushing to occur. The intravenous fluids also work to correct any electrolyte or salt imbalances.

The next step in Schmoozer’s treatment is to dissolve the stones that are present and to treat the underlying cause of their formation. It is also important to prevent their reoccurrence.

A catheterised cat in hospital with a urine collection bag attached

This condition falls under the umbrella of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorder. In this condition, cats are seen:

  • to strain unproductively in their litter tray
  • make multiple trips to the litter
  • dig lots of holes
  • urinate in unusual places eg on the bed, on the kitchen bench, in the bath tub.
  • Lick at their genitals excessively
  • Urine may be blood stained or contain small clots

It is a condition that is seen in both male and female cats but is more common if your cat is overweight, lazy, indoors with a diet high in supermarket brands of dry food.

Why does it occur?

A urinary tract infection where bacteria infects the lining of the bladder. Can be identified with a urine test and microscopic examination.
Bladder stones or crystals. The crystals form from the accumulation of salts and minerals in the urine. They are more likely to form if the urine is very concentrated, urine is not voided regularly or if the diet is high in supermarket dry foods.
Polyps, cancers or other less common bladder problems. May require a bladder ultrasound to assess.
Idiopathic non-infectious cystitis – sounds horrible but translates into a condition that has no particular cause has been found. The above three causes have been checked and do not exist but the same clinical signs occur.  It is often related to stressful conditions or abrupt changes in the lifestyle of a cat. Normally these cats are nervous and have higher levels of anxiety than their non-affected friends.

How can we prevent this from occurring?

Reduce anxiety in cats by:

  • providing one litter tray for each cat in the house and one extra. This allows the cats to urinate freely without fear of “invading” the territory of a housemate.
  • Feliway ( – this is a synthetic pheromone that simulates the chemicals produced by cats when they are relaxed and in a comfortable, risk free environment.
  • Play sessions

Water intake: Provide adequate water. Encourage fluid intake using chicken stock. This is easily made by covering a small piece of chicken meat with water and microwaving until cooked. Allow to cool and give stock and shredded chicken together.

Diet: avoid cheaper supermarket dry foods. These contain a lot of cereals and magnesium. Both of these things can encourage bladder crystal formation. Special prescription diets ( Hill’s s/d, c/d and u/d )are available that are specifically designed to dissolve and prevent a variety of different urinary stones.

Weight loss: Cats with lower body condition are far less prone to developing FLUTD. They tend to far more active than overweight cats and this will reduce the incidence of FLUTD occurring. Embarassingly, overweight cats have larger fat rolls around their penis area and this can increase the risk of poor urine flow and obstruction.

Surgery: In cases of  severe or recurrent obstruction in male cats, surgery may be required to remove the end of the penis – turning the penile opening into an opening more like a female.

Remember, this is a potentially life threatening condition that can be easily distinguished by a physical examination. In all cases a urine sample should be obtained to examine for an infection or any inflammation. Peace of mind is far better than  counting the number of trips your cat makes to the litter tray.

Schmoozer was started on a special diet to help dissolve the crystals in his urine. He has a feliway diffuser in his home and he has since lost weight and has been passing good streams of urine into his litter tray. Both Schmoozer and his mum are much happier and more relaxed.


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