Please note that some posts contains affiliate links & I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links Find out More

Cat Urinary Blockage, Feline Urinary Tract Disorders & The “Stoned” Cat

by | Oct 12, 2012 | Cat Behavior & Care | 15 comments

Has your pet ever suffered from a cat urinary blockage? Do you know about FLUTD? Maybe you’re puzzled why your cat suddenly pees outside the box? Does he have a cat urinary blockage? How can I stop my cat from peeing on the carpet?

If you’re asking these questions, you’ve come to the right place. Feline lower urinary tract disorders (FLUTD) can cause deadly cat urinary blockage. It frustrates cat owners—and also the cats! A cat urinary blockage can be deadly, so it’s vital to recognize the signs of a feline urinary tract disorder.

Cat Urinary Disorders

Your cat has always been faithful to the litter box. After all, you trained your kitten to use the litter box from the beginning. But suddenly your adult cat, Tom, leaves damp messages on the carpet, Sheba cries and squats right in front of you, and bloody urine puddles in the bathtub. This is different from urine spraying, and is a cry for help.

Some litter box problems can be easily solved with these tips. When your well-trained cat suddenly begins missing the mark, that can be a sign of a health problem. Any health issue requires veterinary help.

cat urinary blockage

Cats with urinary tract disorders often spend lots of time just sitting in the box.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorders (FLUTD)

Cats are known to suffer from a group of disorders, including stones, as a part of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease or FLUTD. Male and female cats are affected equally.  Urinary bladder stones occur in only about 20 percent of cats suffering from LUTD.

Actual “stones” of pebble-size and larger can develop. More commonly the tiny mineral deposits (called urolithiasis) are microscopic to sand-size. A mucous-crystal matrix can plug the urethra and prevent the bladder from emptying and cause cat urinary blockage. Just think back to your childhood, remember a never-ending car trip with no bathroom access. Multiply that discomfort tenfold to understand how the blocked cat feels.

Signs of Cat Urinary Blockage

Signs of urinary stones may include any one or combination of a break in housetraining, dribbling urine, straining in the litter box or spending lots of time “posing” with little result, bloody urine or urine with a strong ammonia smell, crying during urination, or excessively licking the genitals.

Diagnosis is based on these symptoms, urinalysis, and/or X-rays to reveal stones in the urinary tract. Without prompt medical attention, the blocked cat will die when toxins build up in the bloodstream, the kidneys stop working, or the bladder ruptures.

FLUTD & Creating Kitty Urinary Crystals

Not all stones are the same. Crystals and/or stones form when specific minerals and organic substances are present in the urine in the right concentrations. In addition, the urine must be the right pH (acid/base balance). It also must stay in the bladder long enough for crystals to form. Consider pancake syrup in a pan–if it sits still long enough, crystals form. Therefore, formation of stones depends on volume of urine, concentration and type of minerals, frequency of urination, and genetics.

Cats evolved as desert creatures, and consequently conserve water extremely well. They may urinate only once every 24 to 48 hours. That means urine sits in the bladder for long periods and becomes more and more concentrated. Cats also drink sparingly, and seem to prefer to get water from their diet rather than lapping from a bowl. These instinctive tendencies predispose felines to develop bladder stones. Some kinds of crystals like struvite can be managed easily with diet. Others like calcium oxalate stones are a challenge–and diets that prevent one actually promote the other kind. Yikes!

The cause of feline crystals often can’t be identified. Diet can play a role in the formation of certain types of feline stones. And because up to 70 percent of cats have repeated episodes of stones, diet has become the standard way to treat and in some cases prevent them.

Urinary Crystals 

A dozen years ago, 80 percent of feline bladder stones identified as struvite and developed in part due to alkaline urine. Pet food manufacturers learned to counter this by creating acidic urine (and therefore prevent struvite formation) by adjusting the formulation of cat diets. Bless their furry lil’ hearts! Nearly every commercial cat food on the market today has been designed to reduce the chance of struvite formation, by increasing the acidity of the urine.

When the diet has undergone expensive tests to prove this effect, the label may say, “for urinary tract health.” Honestly, though, all of the major cat food brands do pretty much the same thing. They just haven’t spent extra money on these tests and so legally can’t place a claim on the label.

The Struvite Solution?

A percentage of cats still develop struvite stones despite eating good foods. Special veterinary diets can dissolve existing stones and/or prevent formation of new ones, and most of the major pet food manufacturers offer therapeutic options. Therefore, if your cat hates the first food offered, ask about another therapeutic alternative. Diets only work if the cat eats them.

Cats that become blocked from urethral plugs–crystals mixed with mucus that get stuck in the urinary track–typically are unblocked with catheters to reestablish flow from the bladder. But repeated catheter use may cause scar tissue in the urethra that makes the problem even worse. Perianal urethrostomy surgery may be an option for these cats. The procedure shortens the male cat’s urethra—removes the penis—which creates a wider conduit for release of urine so the urethra doesn’t block as easily even if crystals continue to form.

More Urinary Crystals & Calcium Oxalate Conundrum

Today calcium oxalate stones are becoming most common. Struvite seems to affect younger cats while calcium oxalate more often impacts aging felines. In fact, some calcium oxalate uroliths, especially those in the kidneys, may not cause obvious health problems for months to years. As the cat ages, the bladder becomes less elastic and may not empty totally each time the cat urinates. Over time, this may lead to increased susceptibility to infections and large bladder or kidney stones.

The change in commercial diets to reduce struvite actually promoted a rise in calcium oxalate stones. These struvite-prevention diets increase blood-acid levels, which also tend to leech calcium from the bones. Calcium spilled into the urine can form calcium oxalate stones. Calcium oxalate stones most typically block the ureters–the conduits leading from the kidneys to the bladder–and if too big to pass, require surgery to remove.

FLUTD & Stopping the Stones

So, what can a cat lover do? Be alert for signs of distress. Consider a blocked cat a life-threatening emergency and see your veterinarian immediately. Do your best to reduce cat stress, since that can predispose kitties to repeated episodes.

If your cat has been diagnosed with FLUTD, your doctor likely will analyze the crystals (if present); determine if an infection is involved and prescribe medication and recommend an appropriate diet. Remember that an old cat with calcium oxalate crystals should NOT eat a food designed to prevent struvite, or vice versa. In addition to diet change, avoid giving any kind of mineral or vitamin C and D supplementation to cats, which can predispose to calcium oxalate formation.

Dilute With Water

Increase your cat’s water intake by feeding canned diets, which typically feature 70 percent water. Cats seem to drink more when the water remains fresh or running. Provide a feline drinking fountain, available from pet products stores. More water helps dilute the urine and encourages the cat to use the litter box more often. That way the bladder doesn’t remain full for long periods of time.

While filtered or bottled water isn’t routinely recommended, it probably won’t hurt and might help especially if it encourages your cats to drink more. Try flavoring the water with liquid drained from water-packed tuna or a bit of no-salt chicken broth. All’s fair in keeping cats healthy–sometimes despite themselves.

Seren was always remarkably healthy and (knock wood!). She never missed the litter box until she reached age 20 or so. Karma-Kat hasn’t had issues thus far, either.. What about your cats? Have they had problems missing the box? Crystal issues? What has been your kitty experience with regard to lower urinary tract issues?

YouTube Button

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!


  1. Cody-Cat Chat (@CatChatCaren)

    Excellent article. I went through something similar with my first cat, Bobo. He began throwing up white foam for HOURS. Turned out he had SIX kidney stones and he required emergency surgery (be careful…one emergency vet wanted $3000 the one I took him to who did a fabulous job charged $1500!). Had I not opted for immediate surgery he would have died.

    Guess who else has OXALATE stones based on the type of kidneys that I have……..ME!!! I have medullary sponge kidneys…it is a congenital condition that will never go away 🙁

    • amyshojai

      Oh no! So do you have to avoid certain foods or take special medication to manage the condition?

      Glad you found a good (and more economical) veterinary service for Bobo. I remember when I was a vet tech and we had a cat that repeatedly blocked, and we ended up doing the P/U surgery on him. The article I wrote about that for Cat Fancy (years ago!) was one of the first that I had published–and I can still hear the relief in the vet’s voice when she told the cat’s owners, “Yes he’s fine now–he’s peeing a river!”

  2. Karyl Cunningham

    “Cats also drink sparingly, and seem to prefer to get water from their diet rather than lapping from a bowl.”

    Clearly nobody ever told Simba that. LOL You add fresh water to the bowl, she HAS to be the first one to it. I consider this a good thing since the vet said drinking more water will help keep the cystitis at bay. The basic gist of what I was told is that they are finding her type of cystitis may have something to do with holes in the lining of the urinary tract. So far they haven’t found much in the way of treatment, only that diazepam helps them relax and get through it faster with less pain. I forget what he said they were trying in lab tests… something directly inserted via catheter that seemed to be working, same thing they tried adding to diet that didn’t work (it was whatever that lining’s made of, and I forget now, it’s been so long since she had a flareup) – but he kinda cringed at the thought, something about cure being worse than the disease. I gotta agree with him on that one.

    It should also be noted that ESPECIALLY if you see that your male cat has a blockage, call the vet IMMEDIATELY. While it isn’t as dire for females, males can die within hours from this.

    I was on vacation for Simba’s first flareup, came home to find her peeing blood and PANICKED. About clobbered my sister for not noticing and telling me (she felt bad, of course, and drove us to the vet in the morning).

    • amyshojai

      Seren loves drinking from her Cat-It water fountain, too. *s* It’s become a ritual for her.

      The idiopathic cystitis (sometimes referred to as interstitial cystitis) can be very tough to manage. No crystals, just lots of pain and inflammation, and yes, stress related so drug therapy can help relieve anxiety. They’ve tried a number of treatments for this. The chondroitin/glucosamine oral meds have been said to help some cats.

      • Karyl Cunningham

        Thankfully she hasn’t had a flareup since she got used to Anubis being here. At first it was worse because she was all hissy over the new cat in the house, but ever since about 6 months after he moved in, she hasn’t had another issue. 🙂

  3. Molly

    Many years ago (40??) YIKES! Was the only time I’ve had a cat develop urinary health issues. Peeing in the sink and the urine was red. I took him to the vet. The vet probably gave me something to give him which I don’t remember, but I’ll never forget his long term advice: “add salt to his dry food so he will drink more water.” For many years I did just that. I shudder to think what that was doing to the systems of my cats over the years. I did not see any urinary issues after that, but suspect it may be because I had predominately female cats. I now know that an all wet food diet, high in animal protein with water added is really the way to go for prevention and certainly a “must” for any cat prone to urinary problems. I have used the fountains but my cats didn’t show much interest in them, and ultimately keeping them clean wasn’t worth the effort. Although my cats drink very little since they get a lot of water in their food, I do notice that when they do drink, it’s out of bowls I place in high traffic areas … for example a bowl that they walk past often.

    • amyshojai

      Molly, I remember hearing the advice to “salt the food” too and it wasn’t 40 years ago, either! Yes, we know lots more now. And my cat also likes drinking as a social activity. So I have water bowls at each sink, and TWO fountains at the vanity in my office bathroom. 🙂

      • Molly

        Interesting! Then it’s not just my faulty memory. 😀 WHEW! I just caught one of my cats drinking out of a cup of water I keep to dip the grooming comb in. The love new and interesting things in new places to investigate. Which might actually be an interesting exercise in getting them to drink more.

        • amyshojai

          The other day Seren-kitty decided to drink out of my ice tea glass. She’s wired enough without caffeine! *s*

  4. Joanie

    Bless you, Amy, you seem to always know exactly what I’m worried about at the moment. My cat has started veering away from the water dish, and I’ve been telling myself it’s simply because it’s turned cooler and she has canned food each day. And while I go through this same “should I worry?” session every year on this, your post today gave me the calm I needed right now. Thanks so much!

    Oh, and I am enjoying Lost and Found!


    • amyshojai

      *s* Hi Joanie, glad I could help. And delighted to hear you’re enjoying LOST AND FOUND.

  5. Brenda

    We had a VERY close call with our dear who had these problems — a stone got stuck in his penile urethra. In retrospect there were clues (hugging my husband’s leg but being unable to say what his beef was for one example), but we were moments away from having lost him forever when we realized there was a urinary problem and whisked him away to the vet. We were leaving for a long Friday afternoon/evening away and I happened to notice he was STILL in the litter box, called The Perfect Vet and got his nice partner, also a good vet, and she said it had better be checked. Off we went IMMEDIATELY and the beginning of a very long month for all. He was totally blocked and it was STUCK. Fortunately we live close to the vet ER so when we had to run back and forth we knew the way fast. (The story was long and more complicated, including that he went psycho with one type of sedative and the vet tech warned us against touching him at that point but I pulled him out of the cage anyway. (We were there to run him to The Perfect Vet who has handled these cases without operations, only diet.) His eyes were glowing red at the back of the cage and he was growling when I picked him up, seemed not to remember me. He had somersaulted across the room before we got there poor dear they said. (Anyway, naturally I figured a few scratches or bites would be fine for me as long as we saved him so I picked him up and we got him across town to the vet and he saved the day and everyone lived happily ever after thus far a year and a half later.)

    Biggest lesson learned: you need to know what they are trying to say & if you don’t there is always a potential big problem you haven’t translated . This happened at a time that he was always beefing about his sweet feral outdoor relatives traveling through his property (he’s indoor, they are outdoor). This was one reason we didn’t get the earlier hints before the pivotal last chance came.

    • amyshojai

      Wow, Brenda, what a close call! Yes, understanding what the pet tries to tell us is key. So glad you and your great vets managed to take care of this! My Seren had a similar bad anesthesia experience…some cats react very poorly to certain agents, and now she has that flagged on her vet chart.

  6. Patricia Hubbard

    Very informative article. None of my cats over the past 40+ years ever had any stones but oh yes I did have one that decided to tee-tee in my clean dish drainer once and I saw it was bloody – took him to the vet and got medicine to clear it up. He also told me to put my cats on distilled water and none of my cats have ever had another infection.

    • amyshojai

      Patricia, cats seen to KNOW when they’re in trouble–and often will squat right in front of the person to say “I hurt, help!” Glad he only had that one instance.



  1. Litter Box Problems? 7 Reasons Cats Snub the Box & What To Do - […] When your cat has been faithful to the potty and suddenly develops problems, your veterinarian should be the first…

Leave a Reply


Recent Posts


It’s Adopt A Dog Month! If a new fur-kid is in your future, remember that more goes into adopting a dog than picking the “prettiest” or just plopping food in a bowl. I’ve written about shelter adoptions before, but here are more specific tips. Follow these do’s and don’ts to ensure your furry love connection lasts past the honeymoon and endures for the lifetime of that pet.

10 DO’s & DON’Ts for Adopting a Dog (or Cat)

Don’t adopt too early. Kittens and puppies adopted too young bite and claw more than those corrected by Mom and siblings. Wait to adopt furry until they are at least 8-10 weeks old for pups and 12 to 16 weeks for kittens…

What Makes Humans Happy? And Where Do Pets Fit In?

When we look at the principles of Positive Psychology (the study of what human wellbeing and fulfillment is made of – including happiness) it’s easy to see why so many of us attribute our happiness and wellness to our pets! I’ve frequently written about how pets show love, and what dogs want out of life. So why not explore what makes humans happy, too?

Read on to learn about th 5 Elements of Human Well-being According to Positive Psychology…

How to Prepare for a Disaster: Pet Preparedness & Tips

With the latest hurricane and more on the way, it’s time to revisit your pet disaster plan. You do have one, right? After Katrina and Harvey, everyone should understand the importance of disaster preparation.

I posted this in June for National Pet Preparedness Month. September is Disaster Preparation Month. Hurricane Ian drives home the importance of having a disaster plan not only for yourself when Mother Nature throws a tantrum but also to keep your pets safe. Whether you must deal with tornadoes, floods, landslides, typhoons, wildfires, or other emergencies, there’s a rule that we must always PLAN FOR THE WORST.

And then pray it doesn’t happen. For those going through issues now, refer to these resources:

Florida Animal Shelter Emergency Response
Mobile Phone: 941-525-8035.
Office Phone: 863-577-4605.

Florida Animal Shelter Emergency Response

American Humane Red Star Disaster Response

American Red Cross

Disaster Assistance and Emergency Relief (Government)

What Cats Want Out of Life & What Cats Need

Whether you share your pillow with a kitty, or care for feral, stray or community cats, always consider what cats want out of life. I’ve written about what makes humans happy, as well as what dogs want out of life, and it’s time for the cats. We love our cats all year long, but sometimes lose sight of what cats need out of life. It’s important to channel your “inner kitty” to learn how to keep the purrs rumbling 24/7 to provide what cats need.

Dark Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Books Galore! Booksweeps Giveaway, Emily Kimelman & More!

👀 I spy a steal…If you haven’t read my first September & Shadow Thriller, you can enter to win it on BookSweeps today — plus 55 exciting Dark Mysteries, Thrillers & Suspense books from a great collection of authors… AND a brand new eReader 😀

I’ve teamed up with fantastic authors to give away a huge collection of mysteries and suspense thrillers to 2 lucky winners!

Oh, and did I mention the Grand Prize winner gets a BRAND NEW eReader? 😁

Adopting “Other-Abled” and Less Adoptable Pets

September 19-25 is National Adopt A Less Adoptable Pet Week, founded by The organization encourages shelters and rescues to create special week-long events devoted to giving overlooked pets like those with disabilities a better chance at finding homes.

This struck a chord with me, especially after living with a tri-pawd dog when Bravo lost his leg. He didn’t act disabled, though. Have you ever adopted an other-abled pet or less adoptable pet?

What Is A Less Adoptable Pet

Why less adoptable? They’re the wrong breed or have special needs. Overlooked pets include deaf dogs or deaf cats, blind pets, or those missing a limb. Many folks prefer the ‘perfect’ cute puppy or kitten and don’t want a crippled pet, or just don’t like the color of the dog or cat. Of course, we know black dogs and cats, and those with only one eye, or three legs, still love us with all their furry hearts! Read on…

Do Pets See In Color?

I love this question. What do you think? Today’s Ask Amy topic is Do dogs see in color? What about cats and dogs, do they see things differently?

Today, take a fun look at this YouTube video discussing the question. And weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments–does color matter to your fur kids?

How to Manage Fur Shedding

When dog shedding and cat shedding creates hairy tumbleweeds, it creates a fur-ocious mess you need to manage. At one time, our German Shepherd Magic’s fur shedding turned our cream carpet to gray. Today we live with two short-haired pets. But Karma-Kat’s silver fur and the Shadow-Pup’s undercoat become furry dust mice on the kitchen’s slate floor, float through the air, and cling to upholstery and clothing. Knowing what to do goes beyond keeping the house clean. Proper fur care can prevent skin problems and also help manage hairballs.

Exposure to sunlight or artificial light determines the timing and amount of shedding. “It is a normal process which can be accelerated under certain circumstances,” says Steven Melman, VMD, an internationally known expert on veterinary dermatology and the founder of In fact, indoor pets exposed to artificial light shed nonstop, even during triple-digit summer or frigid winter months.

Whatever time of year shedding occurs, it’s aggravating, and a nonstop cleaning challenge. Why do pets shed fur, and how can we manage the mess?

DON’T Hug Your Dog on National Hug Your Hound Day! Here’s Why

Several years ago when I wrote for the site (now TheSprucePets) I took issue with a promotion advertised by a big-name pet food company that encouraged people to post pictures of themselves hugging dogs. Hoo-boy…Oh dear heaven, by the comments I received you’d think that I said cute babies are evil, apple pie is poison and advocated BEATING YOUR DOG! Part of that has to do with folks reading only the title and ignoring the content of the message. Oh well. That drives home the importance of titles, I suppose.

The promo really struck a chord with pet lovers. After all, who doesn’t love a hug? Hugs mean love, hugs mean happy happy happy, hugs are tail-wagging expressions of the joy we share with dogs. Right? RIGHT?!

Uh, no. And glory be, the promotion lives on, declaring September 11 as “Hug Your Hound Day.” Before you tar-and-feather me, read on to learn WHY hugging your dog can put you, and your dog, in danger…

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP): Treatment Hope On The Horizon

Since September celebrates Happy Cat Month, I wanted to share some recent good news about FIP. Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a viral disease of cats first described in the late 1950s that continues to challenge our understanding today. Until recently, FIP was considered a death sentence and veterinarians had little help for diagnosing the disease. On September 1, 2022, The American Association of Feline Practitioners and EveryCat Health Foundation announced the publication of Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) Diagnosis Guidelines appearing in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. PLEASE let your veterinarian know.

Dr. Niels Pedersen, now professor emeritus at U.C. Davis, California, has studied FIP since the 1960s. I had the honor to interview Dr. Pederson for an article about FIP that appeared in CATS Magazine (no longer printed) back in the 1990s, and later to hear him speak at prestigious veterinary conferences and at the Cat Writers’ Association events. You can read a 2017 Winn Feline Foundation recap of one of Dr. Pedersen’s sessions on the topic here.  

Today, FIP can be treated, and some cats like Wizard (in the pictures) possibly cured of the disease.

Visit Amy’s Website

Amy Shojai CACB is an award winning author.  You can find all her publications and book her to speak via her website. 

On Demand Writer Coaching is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to



Pin It on Pinterest

Share This