November 15th, 2013
By Nicole Forsyth, RedRover President and CEO
Did you know if you have a male cat, he is at particularly high risk for developing a urethral obstruction sometime in his life, and that this condition can be fatal in three to six days if untreated?
Urethral obstruction occurs when minerals or other materials that have built up in the kidneys are released and become lodged in the narrow urethra, which makes it difficult or impossible for a cat to urinate. It is a common emergency diagnosis we see in our RedRover Relief program and is largely preventable. Your cat is more at risk if he is overweight, only eats dry food, or eats a diet high in calcium, protein or salt.
So how can you prevent urethral obstruction?
Step 1: Maintain your cat at a healthy weight, feed a high-quality cat food and avoid giving your cat table scraps.
Step 2: Ensure your cat gets plenty of water; they don’t naturally drink much. Their wild ancestors received most of their water through the prey they caught and ate. Switching to mostly wet food can help your cat get enough water. Increased water intake will dilute and help filter out the minerals that can become lodged in a cat’s urethra, and it can prevent other illnesses that are common in cats, like kidney disease.
What to do when your cat won’t eat wet food
If your cat is as finicky as my cat, Milo, feeding him or her wet food may be difficult. To address this try:
• Heating up the wet food for a few seconds in the microwave
• Using a plate or shallow bowl. (Some cats don’t like to bump their sensitive whiskers!)
• Mixing a little bit of wet food with their regular dry food
• Using similar flavors that they are used to eating
• Offering different kinds of wet food
If your cat still won’t eat wet food (like my Milo), try giving your cat a broth, like unsalted tuna water, clam juice or meat broth. This is what I do for Milo, and he loves it!
Recipe: Tuna Broth for Cats
• Mash together one can of unsalted, dolphin-safe tuna (in water) with 3 cups of additional water.
• Let the mashed tuna and water sit for 15 minutes.
• Pour broth into covered ice cube trays. It is okay if you get some of the tuna in with the broth, but your cat will likely still just lick the broth and not eat the tuna.
• Freeze the broth.
• When ready to use, defrost or heat up one broth cube to room temperature before giving to your cat. For the best success, feed your cat the broth before his regular dry food.
Signs your cat may have a urethral obstruction
• Straining to pee
• Frequent urination
• Blood in urine
• Painful urination (cat cries out)
• Urinating outside the litter box
• Excessive licking of genital area
• Attempts to urinate but can’t
• Cries, moves restlessly or hides because of his discomfort
• Loss of appetite
• Sudden onset of excessive drinking
If your cat shows any of these symptoms, take him or her to a veterinarian immediately. A complete urethral blockage, where minerals or other material become stuck in the urethra and make it impossible to urinate, can be fatal in 24 hours. You can sometimes detect whether a serious blockage is occurring by feeling your cat’s lower abdomen for a full, hard bladder.