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Urinary Blockage in Male Cats

Updated on September 2, 2009

Urinary Blockage in Male Cats

 Cats will and always be somewhat of a mystery to us. The veterinary field has the majority of their health issues figured out, but as any cat owner knows, their behavior can still mystify us. The veterinary field deals with a lot of health issues with cats. Among them include, anorexia, constipation, fevers of unknown origin (FUO), upper respiratory infections (URI), urinary tract infections and urinary blockage.

The one health problem that cats are the most vocal about is urinary blockage. This is known as a blocked cat. This problem affects male cats and is very dangerous when not caught in time. When a male cat becomes blocked, you will find him in the litterbox very frequently and he may cry. At this point you might be confused because there is nothing in the litterbox after he has been in it. This is when the cat owner calls the vet. We tell them to please bring the cat in immediately.

When the cat comes to us the first thing we do is feel the bladder. If the cat is blocked the bladder will feel very large and very firm and can be very painful. A normal bladder should feel like a water balloon half full. We then immediately tell the owner what's going on and get permission to "unblock" the cat. This involves some anesthesia.

Before I go into detail about how we unblock a cat I will tell you how it gets blocked in the first place. Male cats obviously have a longer urethra , the tube that goes from bladder to the exit point, and is the reason for the blockage. Some male cats are prone to bladder stones. This can be from the diet or just a genetic phenomenon. When stones start to develop, they make what's called "grit". This is like dirt. This grit is what accumulates in the male cat's urethra. If enough grit builds up it will literally plug up the bladder so no urine can escape. This can be compared to a clogged toilet after your kid flushes too much paper. When the cat is blocked, the bladder will continue to fill with urine. This becomes painful for the cat. If enough time goes by the cat will suffer some major metabolic problems. Their blood electrolytes can be dangerously off and if the bladder gets too full, it can break and leak urine into the abdomen. This will kill your cat.

So how do we get those urethras unblocked? We first have to anesthetize the cat. No cat, no matter how good he is will let us do what I'm about to describe. We then have to extrude his penis an put a very small tube in to find the blockage. This can take a long time since a cat's penis is very small. Once we find the blockage with the tube we try to push saline through to push the grit back into the bladder. This can take some time as well since some blockages are stubborn. When we finally push the grit back in, we immediately empty the bladder. The urine at this point can be very bloody. The doctor then puts an indwelling urinary catheter in place and hooks the end onto a bag. This allows the bladder to continuously empty and allow the urethra to heal. We keep the cat in hospital on IV fluids. The IV fluids are very important in normalizing the electrolytes and flushing the bladder. The cat usually stays in the hospital until the urine is clear. This can take up to 3-4 days. We then remove the urinary catheter and watch to see if the cat can urinate on it's own without any trouble. If the cat is problem free, he can go home. If not, we replace the catheter and do it all over again.

When the cat goes home, we give the owner advice and a prescription for a new diet for the cat. Diet plays a huge role in urine problems. Most urinary stone develop because the cats urine pH is either too high or too low. This can be corrected by diet. A few lab tests can determine the pH of the urine and we decide which food would be best.

Some male cats have frequent urinary blockages throughout their adult life. If a cat has more that 3-4 in a year we recommend what's called a PU. This is when the surgeon turns the male cat into a female. We basically take the urethra out of the equation and make a new exit for the urine. This is a very messy surgery but will help in the long run.

So for those of you with male cats, watch out for frequent trips to the litterbox and listen for any crying. If these symptoms appear get your cat to the vets office immediately. 


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    • sarajayneperry profile image

      sarajayneperry 20 months ago

      I rushed my male cat to tbe emergency vet where they told me he had a blockage and couldn't urinate, he was there for two days anf was sent home with special food and medicine. He started to have "accidents" the day after i brought him home so i called the vet and confirmed as long as he is urinating he is doing alright and to keep an eye on him. Well tonight i noticed he is urinating blood and seems to be in pain , and still dosent use the litter box. Is this a normal reaction in the healing process? Should i be concerned?

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      deni 22 months ago

      I found my kitty in the closet covered with a soapy like substance I thought it was pee. He was so weak and lethargic and I was shocked since he was fine the night before. The vet wanted about $4k to keep him overnight 3 days and I told them I couldn't afford it. They catherized him and removed the urine from his full bladder and discharged him with methadone. I put him to bed and he was weak and purred when I stroked his head. I found him dead 3.5 hours later when IU went back in the bed room. He was stiff and my heart is broken..;( When I picked him up, there was a yellowy substance that came out of him, it did not smell like pee and was thick like mucas I think. I don't know. my mind is thinking the vet overdosed him methadone but I don't know. It was 0.06 (10ml/10/mg). I hope they didn't give him 10mg.

    • Bettina Stepek profile image

      Bettina Stepek 2 years ago from Sandpoint, Idaho

      VERY IMPORTANT I am a vet tech and the main reason for blockages is diet. DO NOT feed tuna or milk to male cats, the calcium and magnesium cause the crystals to form. Look for low phosphorus foods and make sure they have access to plenty of fresh water. Whether you agree with me or not is your choice, but I have seen this as the cause many times so please for kitty's sake heed these words. Side note, I am always upset at the high prices being charged at vets for simple low cost procedures. It is too bad, but veterinary medicine is not what it used to be. Take care!

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      ryan 3 years ago

      Just took my cat in =(

      He was fine 2 days ago. Went outside and found him laying by the front door, panting and very lethargic. He could not even stand, very bloated. Took him to vet asap and they said a blockage. I could not afford the 1300$ for just 24hr of care and he needed a 3 day stay. we made the hardest decision and had to put him down=(

      Rip kieska holmes

      08/06/ in peace bud

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      BB 3 years ago

      Our Sebastien was taken into the vet yesterday after 3 days of just dribble and then total blockage. Diet places a HUGE part in grit or sand in the bladder. Cats do best on a carnivore diet with a few veggies but no carbs. Most commercial pet foods contain carbs and other things that can cause these issues. We were able to get our male cat patially unblocked at home by changing his pH and alkalinity with vitamin c, cranberry extract for cats, and an herb, capsicum. He was boarded for a year when we lost our home and we got him back just in time. He's only 5, but got this anyway. It's costing us 509.32$ usd here in Utah, so please watch what your pet eats. Its very expensive, the surgery here costs 837.48$. I also worked for a vet, grew up on a farm, and rehabilitate wild animals. This is the first cat we've had a problem with. Good luck, sorry for those who have already lost their furbabies :(

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      Josh 3 years ago

      My awesome cat Zeus got blocked. I originally thought he was constipated. After 2 days I took him to an emergency vet and he was unblocked. 7 days later he died from kidney failure. It's ashame that so many vets are scumbags, and refuse to help an animal without payment up front. My cat died because I couldn't afford to get him seen sooner. There is a special place in hell for these supposed animal lovers.

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      Melanie 3 years ago

      Gosh Sharon , sounds exactly the same as I'm currently going though. My 2yr old male was fine, jumping around, then suddenly started squatting on carpet and making an awful noise. I rang vet who said bring him in, that was last night (Thursday). I'm told I should get him back on Sunday but worried about the future. He is not insured and I've been given an estimate of £800 for this. I do self-insure so have money put aside to help and was hoping, providing i keep the diet wet, he will be ok. Interestingly vet said it could be caused by stress, and I am currently trying to sell home so have had lots of viewers when I'm not around. Plus house is much more tidier than the cats are used to!!

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      Sharon 5 Feb 2014 3 years ago

      hi everyone just wanted to say we have a 4yr old cat 1/2 main coon beautiful moggy and up till last friday thought all was fine. He was coming and going in and out of the cat flap ( we also have 3 others that he has grown up with) then it happened. Friday night I came home from work to hear he make the most awful cry sound ever I thought he had been hit by a car - was walking but slow and laying was impossible. Took him to vets left him there they thought pos hit by car also they put him on oxygen gave him strong painkillers then examined him again - found bladder full and blocked tube. To sumerise it all he came home on Monday night fee in total was £531 71 pence .......... ouch came to mind.......... didn't really tell us why it happened just maybe stress - he is the most de stressed cat I have ever known - we have had cats for past 18yrs male also female never had this before app can be common ? so we was told.......... now on meds for rest of week having them in tuna with mix of water to moist it more - have various bowls of water dotted around the house even brought cat milk of which he turnt his nose up at .......... seriously hope he does not go down hill again as not sure if we can afford to do this size bill again so desperate to try options of fluids any ideas would be fab - thank you

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      Darlene 5 years ago

      Trudy...patience and lots of window beds and places to sit and look out windows. If you can leave a window or two open even better so he can smell the air. Neuter him and interact with him inside. Make an outdoor area where he can go but can't escape.

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      planetx 5 years ago

      Trudy, I suggest you to get him neutered he will be more affectionate and never go out.

    • profile image

      Trudy 5 years ago

      Our male cat got blocked. He's never been ill in 8 years, so we were stumped when he started making painful noises. By the time we got him to the vet they said he would have died if we wouldn't have brought him in when we did. He came home yesterday and seemed fine until last night when he wanted out. He is used to coming and going as he pleases and keeping him inside is near impossible! He got out and stayed out all night. He eats food from the neighbors barn cats dish, which is gonna kill him, cause when/if he blocks again we have to let him pass on. Has anyone had good luck with making their outdoor cat an indoor cat? Help!

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      Julia 5 years ago

      My cat is at the vets now having this problem that I had never heard of before. After 4 hours of seeing him profoundly uncomfortable, I thought it best to take him to the vet who is just around the corner from me. They are keeping him in for the moment. I have no idea what it will cost! A lot, I guess, although my vet is not part of a chain. But I am relieved it isn't cancer.

      I will let you know what happened next!

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      JC 5 years ago

      My cat died yesterday because of the blockage. He was at the vets 4 weeks ago where he was treated and seemed to be on the way to recovery. He was a semi feral cat and only came to us for feeding and the very occasional cuddle. We heard him meowing on Monday evening searched everywhere and could not find him. Sadly we found him under a large pile of twigs and leaves where he had gone to rest. Please keep an eye on your pet because we are missing him so much

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      shannon 5 years ago

      My cat Noah had a blockage and I was unable to do anything about it because the vet said it would cost upwards of $2500 or more. She explained that the prognosis is very bad and when you have the procedure to drain the bladder that a lot of times it's starts to spasm right away and that he would be unable to urinate again. This was a very sudden thing. There were no other signs before he woke me up in the middle of the night howling in pain. I applied for a "care card" which I was unable to attain due to student loans. The way a care card works is this-pay it off in 6 months while it accrues no interest or after that it jumps to 25% interest. It was also explained that the doctors do not know why cats gets this problem. I had no choice but to let him go. He is buried in my yard now. I do not know why they do not take payments at the vet for this or why there does not exist any other type of financial arrangement for people in this position. I worked at an animal hospital for two and a half years and I know for a FACT that the only reason prices are so high is because they are high everywhere. Yes, you pay for the care but you only pay for their predetermined price. I could be much lower-this comes from personal knowledge.

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      Cath F 5 years ago

      Just read Jade's comment- mine has the same problem- how is your cat doing??

    • profile image

      cath F 5 years ago

      My cat has been in the hospital twice and they won't give us a financial break- so when he blocks agin we will let him go...I hate the doctors only think about MONEY not the people that love the cat...

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      Sarah Willis 5 years ago

      My Cat, Spike has just had this problem and I am collecting him from the vets tonight, he from what the vets have told me is fine, but might happen and again and could happen more often but I guess with the right treatment he should be okay. Was a very scary time as I thought that he was going to die, but I got him to the vets in time and they have managed to help him, I am so glad that I went with my gut and took him or he could have passed away from this. He means the world to me and I would give anything for him.

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      Jade 5 years ago

      My cat is at the vets with this now. We. Wasent sure if he had a problem with his stomach or if he was blocked. When they have it it kinda looks like they cnt poop and they start to feel poor ty has to go threw this i hope hes going to be ok. Now they have drained the bladder could he die still?

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      WHAT??? 6 years ago

      A PU surgery DOES NOT turn the Male cat into a Female

      What a dope.

      In street terms you wack off his penis - THIS DOES NOT MAKE HIM A FEMALE you bleeding idiot.

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      Jeanne 7 years ago

      To Heather J........I don't think letting go of your cat because of stones is a good cat had the same problems as your cat but he is now recovering after operating to remove his stones and a week of IV and catheter and now is in a much better shape. The vet said he should be able to live normal again except for a new diet. Hes now at home with me still recovering but happy. sorry for your loss....

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      Heather J. 7 years ago

      Please also include the rarer form of urinary blockage, kidney stones. Our cat was suspected to have the common type of blockage and we though everything was going to be fine, but instead he would have needed a painful surgery to remove the stones in the bladder. We were told that this might not or might not buy him time. He'd probably need the surgery repeated, and from the looks of the X-ray, we wouldn't buy him much time at all. We chose to let him go. People need to know that this option exists.