When I got up this morning, a urinary blockage in a cat was the farthest thing on my mind. Two hours into my day and we were in a medical emergency.
Could Your Cat Suffer A Urinary Blockage?
What Happened to Us Part One
The first thing Barnet Boy said to me this morning was that our eight year old neutered boy cat Malteser was limping. He also wasn’t interested in eating. The first thing was something to look into but the second comment caught my attention. This cat loves his food!
We have had a tom cat visiting the area and my first thought was perhaps Malteser had been beaten up by him. I couldn’t find any bites or swelling. He didn’t have any obvious pain when the leg he was favouring was pulled around. We thought about just keeping him quiet for a bit to see how he was but something said to me this needed a vet visit. Thank goodness.
Why did I act to get a veterinary opinion?
I can’t tell you exactly what it was that made me decide. He was a bit lethargic, limping and off his food. All of this goes with perhaps having had a fright and could have been down to the tom cat attacking him. But there was something else. He was making a lot of saliva and constantly licking. And when I made him walk he seemed very unsteady, not just because of the limp.
Arriving at the veterinary clinic, my favourite vet Sara was on duty. We chatted a bit as it was the first time I had visited since Christmas. She thanked me for her Christmas gift (a copy of my Stevie Mouse book) and said how much she liked it and how she was mentioned in it.
At that point all was calm and casual. Sara moved his leg around and checked the paw and claws. If a cat has been hit by a car you can sometimes see tell tale shredding of claws. She looked down his throat and immediately saw a lot of redness so the assumption was he had a virus. Malteser had cat flu as a kitten and occasional gets sniffles. But that didn’t explain the limping and the saliva he was producing.
Sara took blood and while that analysis was processing she said we should do an x-ray of his thoracic area to check nothing was going on that we should know about it.
That was when things changed! The x-ray showed his bladder was massive and full of urine. Immediately Sara said it looked like he has a urinary blockage, he is in a great deal of pain. And suddenly it was a full blown medical emergency!
What Is A Urinary Blockage In A Cat?
This is a problem that male neutered cats suffer and it is rare to find it in a female cat. Urinary blockage occurs when the urethra becomes obstructed. The urethra is the tube through which urine passes out through the body. In male cats the urethra is long and narrow. Berkeley Patch has a an article that explains it all in detail. The author says:
I usually describe to owners the difference between male and female urethras by using the example of McDonald’s straws… the female urethra is like a milkshake straw, while the male urethra is like a coffee stirrer. It gives the mental visual of just how much smaller of an opening male cats have, predisposing them to obstruction.
Urinary blockage can be from plugs of bodily material and from crystals forming in the bladder, perhaps from eating dry food which leads to the formation of what are actually called struvite stones.
Why Is Urinary Blockage A Problem?
One possibility is that the bladder could burst. But, if the cat can’t urinate then the kidneys stop producing urine and toxins build up in the body. Kidney failure can occur within 24 hours. The cat can die within 48 hours!
How Is It Diagnosed?
On clinical exam, the bladder will be clearly enlarged. Blood tests will show any problems with kidneys.
What Is The Treatment?
According to PetMD, the pain of urinary blockage is excruciating, the bladder could burst and relief is needed to prevent kidney damage. Often a catheter is inserted and left in place until the problem is resolved. Alternatively, a needle and syringe can be used to relieve the bladder. Intravenous or subcutaneous fluid, pain relief and medication, together with stress free rest are all part of the treatment.
If the cat can urinate on its own after all this then apart from being aware this could reoccur and possibly making some dietary changes (depending on the cause of the blockage) there is nothing further required. If the cat can’t urinate on its own then further draining may be required, or even surgery to widen the urethra.
What Happened To Us Part Two
After an hour at the veterinary clinic, blood tests, x-rays and physical examination revealed Malteser’s bladder was completely blocked with crystals and he was in agony. That was the reason for the salivation, poor little mite. If you remember he presented with a limp and excess salivation!
My vet, Sara, explained this was an emergency and he had to have his bladder emptied immediately. Joined by Chief Vet Stefano, Sara used saline solution and inserted a needle into Malteser’s urethra to try and flush out the blockage. After two attempts her efforts were greeted with success. In the form of a fountain of urine that covered all of us and all the furniture in the room. But the scary thing was, on the examination table you could see tiny crystals that had come out with the urine.
Malteser almost immediately looked better and was moving more easily. He was then put on a subcutaneous drip to rehydrate him. He was also given an antibiotic injection, which coincidentally would also help his sore throat which, of course, was nothing to do with the main problem.
Eventually I was able to bring Malteser home. He is in a back room with his favourite cat hammock on a nice warm radiator. He has special food (to counter the crystals) and lots of water. Most importantly he has a litter box as we need to check he can urinate on his own. About six hours after the treatment he did manage to urinate but we are still not out of the problem zone yet and I will breathe easier tomorrow morning if he has been several times since.
Assuming all is okay tomorrow, Malteser will stay in his ‘hospital room’ for two weeks to allow the special food to help reduce the crystals. He will have constant monitoring in the form of cuddles of course! After that, we will have to discuss how we manage his diet from then on.
Remember, 24 hours before he got sick he was fine and cuddling with us on the sofa. That is how fast this happened! And given the chance of death within 48 hours, don’t take any chances if you are not sure with a male neutered cat! Could your cat suffer a urinary blockage?
After I wrote this blog things seemed to going well but Malt suffered some sort of ‘episode’ as the vet called it and it closed down his colon. He then developed a fecal mass that would not move! For two weeks I took him to the clinic every day to have an enema and/or something down his throat to try and get the feces moving. Eventually he actually used his litter box of his own volition two days running and that has continued. His colon had recovered. Life has returned to normal though Malt is a bit different, a bit slower. He continues to thrive on his special food.
Update 14 December 2020
In September of the same year as the urinary blockage, Malt developed asthma. You can read all about that here. Since then he has had an asthma puffer twice a day alongside tablets. Then almost a year later, November 2019 we were told his kidneys were starting to fail. So he now has special renal food as well. At time of writing this update, I am pleased to say Malt is still going strong. He is a bit odd at times and doesn’t always keep his fur as clean as he should but he is still Malt. He can’t have many lives left and he has cost us a fortune of course. But he is worth every penny.
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!