Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I have a 4-year-old cat who had a bladder blockage a few days ago. I got to take him home from the vet today. What can I do to prvent this problem from happening again?
Siouxsie: Wow, you’re lucky that you realized what was going on and got your cat to the vet right away. Blockages can be fatal within just a few days because toxins build up in the body and damage the organs.
Thomas: We don’t know how much your vet told you about urinary tract blockages, so we’re going to give you a very quick overview of how cats get blocked.
Siouxsie: First of all, blockages are a lot more common in male cats because they have longer, narrower urethras (the tube that sends pee from the bladder out through the penis) than female cats.
Thomas: Blockages are caused by a buildup of little tiny stones made of either struvite or calcium oxalate crystals. Blockages can also be caused by a plug made of mucus, which can result when the bladder gets inflamed.
Siouxsie: A lot of vets have noticed that cats that eat a dry-food diet tend to be more at risk for bladder stones or other urinary problems.
Thomas: You see, cats as a species originated in the desert, and we have a very low thirst drive. We’re designed to get the moisture we need from the food we eat — so if we eat an exclusively dry diet, we may not get enough water to flush any crystals or sediment out of our bladders.
Siouxsie: My sister Sinéad got a couple of urinary tract infections, and here’s what the vet told Mama to do in order to keep her from having any more UTIs.
Thomas: First of all, always provide lots of pure water! If you have hard water or you get your tap water from a municipal water supply, run your water through a purifier. The easiest and least expensive way to do this is to invest in a pitcher filter or a filter you attach to your faucet
Siouxsie: Getting rid of the chlorine or other minerals that cause hard water can make that water’s acid-alkaline balance more neutral and eliminate nasty tastes that keep cats from drinking.
Thomas: The vet also said Mama shouldn’t feed us seafood-flavored cat food, ever. Tuna and other seafoods can irritate some cats’ bladders and may contribute to the development of stones or crystals.
Siouxsie: Make sure your cat’s litterbox is clean, and use unscented litter. Dirty boxes and chemical scents can cause a cat to be reluctant to use the box.
Thomas: Feed your cat a grain-free canned food. Grains can irritate some cats’ bladders and cause inflammation.
Siouxsie: Canned cat food will also help your cat get enough water in his diet. As we said, cats are designed to get the water they need from the food they eat.
Thomas: Try to minimize your cat’s stress by keeping his environment as stable as possible.
Siouxsie: If your cat gets more than three bladder blockages, your vet may recommend a surgery called a perineal urethrostomy, which involves shortening the urinary tract by removing the penis and making the urethra drain directly out the cat’s backside, just like a girl cat does.
Thomas: Jeez, just thinking about that makes me want to clench my back legs and curl my tail around me VERY tightly!
Siouxsie: But if you’re able to prevent urinary tract blockages by feeding your cat good-quality grain-free canned food and providing filtered water for him to drink, the odds are good that your kitty won’t have to go through this.
Thomas: For more information about urinary obstructions, including diagnosis, symptoms and treatment, we recommend this Petplace article — it has lots of information and it’s written in language that ordinary people can understand.