A male cat's urethra is much longer and narrower than a female’s. This makes some of them prone to blockages. A blockage is a medical emergency and veterinary care is needed immediately. When a cat cannot pee and his bladder fills to capacity, the kidneys stop working. Kidney failure can occur in as little as 24 hours and death in as little as 48 hours.
What causes this? The urethra can become blocked by the formation of crystals/stones. There are varying opinions as to why these form, but many experts believe that increasing water consumption will dilute the urine helping prevent crystals from saturating the urine. Cats typically have a low thirst drive, and if they are fed only dry food, they do not get the necessary amount of moisture to keep them well hydrated. This can contribute to urinary tract infections and blockages. Also, in many cases, cat water fountains will encourage your cat to drink more.
Possible signs of a urinary issues leading to obstruction:
1. Cat is straining to urinate and producing little to no urine. (You may notice he is spending a lot of time sitting in the litter box or if you use scoopable litter, notice small clumps instead of larger ones.
2. Peeing outside the box. An urgent need to pee might cause cats to go wherever they are instead of making the trek to the litter box.
3. Crying out while attempting to urinate. Obviously, his attempt to urinate is causing pain.
4. Blood in urine. Look for dark or bloody urine.
5. Other signs of illness. You may notice lethargy, vomiting or loss of appetite.
If your cat is unable to urinate, take him to the vet immediately! If it is after hours, he will need to see the nearest 24 hour emergency vet. The prognosis is good if care is begun right away. This is, however, not a "wait until morning" situation. Once the blockage is removed, the vet's office should be able to help you come up with a diet plan, etc. to help manage your precious kitty's urinary tract health.
* By the way, Huey is home from the hospital and back to his old self. : )