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July 31, 2012 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Litter box problems? Your cat may have a urinary tract obstruction.

By Victoria Swanson More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Paws & Awws Blog Series

If you are a cat owner, you may very well know exactly what a Urinary Tract Obstruction (UTO) is. Sadly, this common aliment affects more male cats then female cats and some dogs can also have a UTO, although it isn't as common.

What Is a UTO?

A UTO is caused by a blockage effecting a cat's urethra or bladder due to inflammation or compression.

What are the symptoms of a UTO?

A cat may strain to urinate or produce little to no urine each time they go to the bathroom. It is sometimes mistaken for constipation because a cat will be hunched over in pain and visiting the kitty box often. Their urine may appear dark or bloody. They will be in excruciating pain when trying to urinate and your pet often may cry, stop eating, or become very depressed, and vomiting may occur.

What can cause a UTO?

Here are some things that may cause a UTO:

  • Urinary Tract Stones or Crystals
  • Urinary Disease (particularly common in female cats)
  • Prostate Disease (male cats)
  • Tumors, Lesions, or Scar Tissue in the urethra area
  • Dehydration (not providing access to water)
  • Diet (variables play a role in the increase of a UTO through diet)
  • Obesity.

Because male cats are more susceptible to this problem, the sex and age of a cat plays a factor as to why certain cats are more at risk in having this problem.


Seeking immediate veterinary care is imperative if you see your cat displaying any of the above symptoms. Sadly, if medical treatment isn't sought, cats can suffer from renal failure (inability to eliminate urea and other waste products) and kidney failure, both life threatening.

A veterinarian may perform a blood test, physical examination, urinalysis, and check the urine cultures for bacteria to find out if your kitty is suffering from a UTO. X-Rays or an ultrasound will help them determine the cause of obstruction.

It is important to share with your vet any symptoms that you have witnessed your cat experience; this will help them with their diagnosis.

Treatment for a UTO

For a male cat, treatment involves relieving the bladder and penis by removing the blockage after sedating the cat. Typically a catheter is used to drain the bladder, but also mechanical manipulation of the penis is used to help remove the blockage as well.

For a female cat, the treatment involves relieving their bladder and urethra by using a catheter.

Your cat will then be given intravenous fluids to treat the any kidney issues that were caused by the UTO. Antibiotics and a special diet will most likely be prescribed. Diets should be low in magnesium, and urine acidifies may also help. For male cat's that suffer from repeated UTO's, surgery may be required to remove the penis to prevent future obstructions, females do not have this option.

Cats that suffered from a UTO are more likely to have repeat obstructions.

What else can I do to help my cat that suffers from a UTO?

Providing a clean litter box is helpful in the recovery process as well as a stimulating environment to keep your cat active.

  • Provide a scratch post
  • Raised Walkways for them to explore or hide
  • Access to different types of toys
  • Provide a stress free environment - cats easily stress out over change

Cats strive with routine, structure and play. They have a natural predatory and hunting instinct that should be utilized by playing games if you have an indoor kitty.

Your vet may provide an anti-inflammatory drug to help reduce pain or an anti-depressant to avoid stress related incidents for your kitty.

Introducing a new cat or dog to a cat that suffers from reoccurring UTO's is probably not a good situation to put them in. A household that is loud or active can be a stress trigger as well, activating a possible UTO.

I hope this helps your cat find relief immediately if they are suffering from a Urinary Tract Obstruction.

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