My Male Cat Recently had a Urinary Blockage

by Brittany
(Williamsburg, VA)

I have an orange male cat (about two years old) that my husband and I adopted a year ago. In January of 2011, I noticed that he was urinating frequently and also urinating outside his box (a few drops would come out). I took him to an emergency vet who x-rayed him. The veterinarian found no stones and his bladder was empty, so he prescribed antibiotics and we were sent on our way. The problem cleared up in a few days.

Now, in February 2011, I left my cat with my parents for a few days. Both my husband and I were out of town. When I came back, three days later, my family stated that my cat had been spraying since I left. My sister had just cleaned out his kitty litter box and stated that there had been a good amount of urine in it. However, as I watched him for a few hours, I noticed he was trying to urinate frequently and nothing was coming out. The following morning, we went to a regular veterinarian who diagnosed him as being blocked and kept him over night. An ultrasound showed no stones but did show "grit" in his bladder and it looked like his urethra was blocked with a mucus plug.

I am supposed to be going out of town in a month to meet up with my husband for a few days in New Orleans, again leaving my cat with my parents. My vet said we needed to start him on Kitty Prozac and use pheromone diffusers and collar to keep him calm while I am gone because, according to her, it was my leaving that caused him to become anxious and upset leading to his blockage. I am extremely nervous to leave him again, not only because of the damage it does to our bank account, but because my parents work full time and will not be able to keep an extremely close eye on him and I am afraid boarding him will be much the same. Will these treatments properly modify his behavior?

Dear Brittany,

Thank you for writing in with concern for your cat and his feline urinary problems. Without a little more information, it will be difficult to say whether your cat’s current treatments will be sufficient for him long-term.

You indicated that your cat’s urethra was blocked or obstructed. Urinary obstructions result from a cat illness, although stress can bring on the symptoms. In general, though, the cause of a cat urinary obstruction is not behavioral or emotional. The “grit” that was seen during the cat ultrasound may have been urinary crystals, which are quite common in male cats around your cat’s age. Did your veterinarian do a urinalysis in addition to x-rays and an ultrasound? A urinalysis would diagnose this condition most effectively.

If your cat does have crystals, his current treatment regimen, which is geared toward keeping him calm and reducing his stress, will not completely address the medical cause for his urinary problems. While the Kitty Prozac (an oral pheromone treatment) will likely help keep his urethra from tightening excessively, it will not help dissolve any crystals in his bladder. Pheromone diffusers, such as Feliway, will again assist in reducing stress, especially while you are traveling, but will still not resolve any underlying problem with crystals in your cat’s bladder. Prescription diets are considered the most useful in treating cat urinary crystals.

I would encourage you to pursue a urinalysis with your veterinarian, if one has not been done already, prior to your next time out of town. Urinary obstructions can be fatal if not caught early, and treating your cat’s stress exclusively will not necessarily prevent another blockage or other cat urinary problems. Fortunately, though, if your cat does have urinary crystals, once the type has been diagnosed by a veterinarian, the proper preventative care regimen can be established quickly and easily, usually consisting of prescription diet, more drinking water, and possibly some prescription medications.

All the best,
Dr. Neely

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