Straining to Pee in Cats

Cats that are having problems peeing are often seen going in and out of the litter box more than normal. They are usually peeing small, frequent amounts, or they cannot pee at all. They might pee outside of the litter box. Straining to pee, no matter the amount of urine output, is never normal. Peeing should be a comfortable and effortless process, with a steady and adequate amount of urine.

Straining to pee with little or no urine output, or continued straining to pee, is an emergency requiring immediate medical attention. The reason that this is an emergency is because it can be a sign of the formation of a urethral plug, which can cause your cat to become "blocked." If this happens, the pee cannot be emptied from the bladder, making your cat very sick. Your cat could even die, if not treated immediately by a veterinarian.

Signs that Your Cat Needs to See a Veterinarian

  • Frequent attempts to pee, which often produces little or no pee
  • Blood-tinged pee
  • Crying out in pain, or other signs of discomfort, when attempting to pee
  • Becoming progressively more lethargic
  • Excessive licking of the genital area

What You Can Do

  • Watch your cat closely to see whether or not he/she is peeing. Look at the litter box after your cat exits, to see if there are pee spots, and observe how big they are.
  • Feed your cat canned food, which has more water in it, or add tuna juice to your cat's food.
  • Encourage your cat to drink more water. You can do this by using water fountains, running water from faucets, and providing additional bowls of fresh water throughout the house.

Common Causes of Straining to Pee

  • Bladder inflammation (cystitis)
  • Bladder (urinary) stones and urethral plugs
  • Bladder infections

Treatment of Straining to Pee

  • If your cat has a bladder infection, a course of antibiotics will be prescribed.
  • Bladder stones usually require surgical removal.
  • If your cat is "blocked," he/she will be sedated and a urinary catheter placed so that the bladder can be emptied, followed by several days of hospitalization.
  • Subcutaneous or intravenous fluid therapy helps flush out the grit in the urinary tract.
  • Medication to relax the urethra may be given.
  • Anti-inflammatories and/or pain medication will make your cat feel more comfortable.
  • A prescription urinary tract diet helps dissolve some kinds of crystals and stones, as well as helping prevent their formation.

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