It is not unheard of for a cat to have an issue with urination. This can be in the form of spraying, urinating outside the litter box, incontinence, and straining to go. While most of the time it is no cause for alarm with female cats, for males it is considered an emergency. Here are the causes that can lead a male cat to strain when urinating and other symptoms to look out for.
Causes of a Male Cat Straining to Urinate
Feline Idiopathic Cystitis
The most common cause of a male cat straining to urinate is Feline Idiopathic Cystitis or “FIC” for short. This is an enlargement of the bladder where the inflammation makes a narrowing of the urethra restraining urine from passing through. The cause of this is believed to be down to a stress response in the body and is commonly seen in cats who also have a sensitive stress response. For male cats in particular, it is very important to see a vet even if this is the known cause as it can lead to crystal formation and a blockage that can be deadly.
Bladder Infection (UTI)
While bladder infections are far more common in female cats, male cats can get them too. This is usually caused by another issue and not directly from an outside foreign substance. Infections can be brought on by a weakened immune system, stress, physical trauma, poor diet, diabetes, and other medical issues.
While mineral crystals being present in the urine is not the same thing as kidney stones, crystals can indicate when a male cat is more susceptible to developing stones in the kidneys. Persian, Burmese and Himalayan breeds are more prone to crystal formation and should be regularly screened. Both can be extremely painful for male cats.
If your cat has recently suffered a tail injury by being stepped on, caught in a door or even hit by a car, it is important to rule out any breakage or nerve damage present. A cat who suffers from a tail injury can develop trouble urinating and/or defecating. Recover heavily depends on a diagnosis and a cat who is looked at sooner has a great risk of fully recovering.
Tumor/Growth in Urethra
Any kind of growth or tumor in or on the urethra will cause some level of inflammation or blockage. A tumor or growth in this area is likely to be non-cancerous. While urinary bladder cancer is rare, it is worth ruling out.
Feline Urethral Obstruction
A Urethral obstruction occurs when the urethra becomes partially or completely blocked keeping the urine trapped within the bladder. This leads to a build-up of fluid and an imbalance of electrolytes such as potassium. If left untreated, a build-up of electrolytes can stop the heart or the bladder can full rupture and lead to death. The most common cause of this is a urethral plug in the form of crystals, blood cells, epithelial cells, and protein. Cats who have repeat cases of cystitis and/or crystals are at the greatest risk of developing urethral obstruction.
Urethral spasms are sometimes seen in cats who have recently be treated for obstruction, crystals, or kidney stones. What causes this is down to the treatment method of using a catheter as a neutered male has a very narrow urethra and the penis is highly sensitive. This is why some cats who get treated this way see a repeat case of blockage within the first month.
Both prostate cancer and prostate disease are extremely rare in cats and are more commonly seen in male dogs who are still intact. Causes include prostatitis (an infection in the prostate), paraprostatic cysts, squamous metaplasia, hormonal imbalances, and sarcoma.
Symptoms to Look out For
It is important to note that all of the above conditions share the exact same symptoms which is why it is always important to take your cat to see a vet as soon as possible. While the most common cause of straining to urinate is not deadly, it can quickly become a severe complication or even end up being someone medically worse. Be sure to make an appointment right now with a veterinarian clinic if your male cat is straining to pee as it is considered a medical emergency. If he is showing signs of the more severe symptoms, he needs to be taken to an ER clinic right away.
Straining to urinate
Frequent trips to the litter box
Peeing outside the litter box on soft surfaces (rugs, towels, clothing)
Crying/vocalizing pain while using the litter box
Sign of pain in the abdomen area
Frequently licking penis and/or anus
Loss of appetite
Hiding, not wanting to be social
No urine being released
A large mass or swelling in the stomach
Low body temperature
Low heart rate