Why Urinary Tract Obstruction In Male Cats Is Always An Emergency

Urinary tract obstruction can kill a strong, healthy cat in a shockingly short amount of time. As such, it should always be considered a medical emergency, necessitating immediate treatment at an emergency and/or 24-hour veterinary clinic. However, urinary tract obstruction can be particularly serious in male cats, so you should act with even more urgency if you suspect your male cat is having urinary problems.

What is urinary tract obstruction? 

Urinary tract obstruction occurs when urine cannot pass freely through your male cat's urethra, the tube that funnels urine from the bladder to the cat's genitals.  This condition can prevent your cat from urinating properly and, in severe cases, may make your cat completely unable to urinate.

This urine blockage is most commonly caused by kidney stones, which form in much the same way in cats as they do in humans. If they migrate to the bladder, these stones can cause the urethra to become partially or completely blocked, preventing your cat from urinating. Inflammation of the urethra, or the tissues surrounding the urethra, can also cause urinary tract obstruction.

Why are male cats particularly vulnerable to urinary tract obstruction?

While telling male cats and female cats apart at a glance may be difficult, they are usually quite different anatomically.

In almost all cases, male cats have significantly narrower urethras than female cats; this is a natural consequence of their genetic makeup, but it also means that male cats are significantly more likely to develop urinary tract obstruction than female cats. Mild inflammation or small kidney stones that may pass without issue in female cats can be dangerous or even deadly in male cats since their urethras become blocked much more easily.

Like male humans, male cats are also uniquely vulnerable to prostate enlargement in later life; this is obviously not an issue in female cats, which lack a prostate altogether. If the prostate enlarges sufficiently due to hormonal imbalances, it can press on the urethra and pinch it closed, causing serious urinary tract obstruction.

What are the symptoms of urinary tract obstruction in male cats?

The most obvious sign of urinary tract obstruction in male cats is an inability to urinate properly, so you should be concerned if your cat is visiting the litter box more frequently and passing little or no urine. You should also be worried if your cat starts passing small amounts of urine in places other than the litter box.

The pain of the obstruction may cause your cat to cry out when he tries to urinate, and he may also groom his genitals excessively to try and soothe the pain. If your stricken cat does successfully pass urine, it may be dark, cloudy or bloody. The pain may also cause your cat to refuse food or immediately regurgitate any food that he does eat. 

If your male cat shows any of these symptoms of urinary tract obstruction, you should take him to an emergency vet clinic as soon as humanly possible to have the condition treated. If he is left untreated, he can suffer from kidney failure which can kill in a matter of days; with prompt treatment, most male cats with urinary tract obstruction make a good recovery.

Contact a clinic like Wakeley Veterinary Hospital for more information.