It's hard to imagine not being able to pee, but that's what can happen to your male cat if his urethra becomes blocked by crystals or stones. A blockage is always a veterinary emergency, since obstructed cats can die without prompt treatment.
When a cat becomes blocked, there's an obstruction in his urethra, the tube from which urine comes out of his bladder into his penis. While a urinary blockage can occur in a female cat, it's much more common in male cats because their urethras are so much narrower. The blockages consist of mucous, struvite or calcium oxalate crystals or stones, produced in his bladder. Once the bladder's blocked, the urine backs up into the bladder, not only causing pain but also damaging his kidneys.
If Puffy experiences trouble urinating, you'll see him going in and out of the litter box, straining to pee. He'll lick his genitals, trying to ease his discomfort. You might hear him yowl when he's trying to urinate. If he's not totally blocked, you might see drops of bloody urine. He might also leave small amounts of urine outside of the litter box. He'll stop eating and become lethargic. If untreated, your cat develops kidney failure, which kills him within a few days.
Your vet can easily feel your cat's full bladder. She'll try to remove the blockage by sedating your kitty and flushing it out through a catheter placed into his urethra. If she's successful, the catheter stays in place for a few days until his urine flow goes back to normal. Your cat also receives intravenous fluids to rehydrate him and get his urinary tract and kidneys back on track. If your vet can't remove the obstruction via the catheter, surgery is necessary to get rid of the blockage. If your cat requires surgery, not only will the vet remove the obstruction but she'll also clean any stones or crystals out of the bladder. Most cats recover well. Your vet will prescribes a special veterinary diet to prevent future crystal or stone formation.
There's no way to totally guarantee that your male cat won't become obstructed, but certain dietary measures can reduce the likelihood. Since dry foods might be a culprit in the formation of stones or crystals, feed your cat wet foods. Make sure he always has fresh, clean water available. If there's more than one cat in your household, try to provide a litter box for each feline. Keep the litter boxes very clean.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.