Why can’t my cat pee?

Most people know how horrible it feels if you're desperate for the bathroom but can't go! It's just as distressing for everyone concerned if your feline friend is struggling to pee and can only manage a dribble. Or even worse, nothing comes out at all.

The vets at Joii want to help you recognise the signs of a bladder blockage in your cat so you can seek help when it’s needed.

What is a blocked bladder?

Anything which narrows the urethra can lead to a blocked bladder. This includes debris, crystals in the urine, stones, tissue, inflammation, muscle spasm or tumours.

Who's at most risk?

Neutered male cats are more likely to have problems peeing than females, this is because they have a longer but narrower urethra.

Other cats at a higher risk include:

  • Young, overweight and indoor cats
  • Stressed and anxious cats
  • Any cat who eats dried food and doesn't drink enough water

Why is a blocked bladder bad?

A cat won't survive more than 4 or 5 days without prompt treatment if their bladder is blocked. This is because all the harmful waste products that are normally expelled through urine start to build up in your pet's bloodstream.

If this continues, vital organs like the heart and kidneys stop working as they should. The bladder can even burst if it gets too full and a burst bladder causes peritonitis, which can be deadly.

It’s important to recognise the warning signs so that the problem can be identified and treated quickly.

Signs of a blocked bladder in cats

You may notice your cat going to pee, getting into position and nothing coming out. Other signs include:

  • Repeated visits to the litter tray
  • Dry litter trays, sometimes with spots of blood
  • Straining and crying out when trying to pee
  • Peeing small amounts in unusual places
  • Symptoms of depression
    • May avoid human contact
  • Not eating or being sick
  • Slow heart rate (might feel this as you stroke their chest behind the front left leg)
  • Very lethargic

Remember: The problem will be harder to spot in cats who pee and poo outdoors!

What to do if your cat can't pee?

Call your nearest vet! Your cat needs urgent veterinary care which will include:

  • Unblocking the bladder as soon as possible
  • Getting fluids into their veins to flush out the harmful waste products
  • Getting medicine to treat the illness
  • Finding and treating the underlying cause

Despite being a serious condition, the outlook can be good if your cat receives quick treatment and measures are taken to stop their bladder blocking again.

Recovery and reducing the risks of a blocked bladder in your cat

Unfortunately, once a cat has experienced a blocked bladder, there is a chance they can block again. There are steps you can take to prevent this happening which include:

  • Make sure your cat always has plenty to drink
    • You can encourage this with flowing water
    • Wet food can also help with hydration
  • Keep them slim and active
    • Avoid extra treats
    • Play games with them
  • Use calming diffusers and supplements to reduce your cat's stress
  • Try to avoid changes and events which are stressful or take steps to minimise these

Is your cat peeing more than usual?

Sometimes your cat might visit the litter tray more than usual because they need to pass more urine. Our pets usually pee more because they’re drinking more, which could be caused by certain illnesses that cause increased thirst in our feline friends. For example, diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease.

Urinary blockages in cats can be scary for everyone involved but quick treatment offers immediate relief. Always speak to a vet if you have any concerns or questions about your cat.

Looking for more cat advice?

We’ve written some handy cat advice guides, to help you unlock the secrets of your mysterious moggy.


Need cat insurance?

Cat insurance can help cover the cost of veterinary treatment if your cat gets injured or falls ill.


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