Over winter time many cats prefer to stay indoors rather than go outside into the cold and who could blame them. So this then tends to be the time that we see a fairly common problem especially in male cats (though it can be seen in female cats too), and it’s the blocked bladder.
In male cats the tube leading from the bladder to the outside is quite narrow, much narrower in males compared to females, and it can easily get blocked with plugs of tissue, infection, mucous and even tiny crystals at can form into stones like grains of sand. Initially what you see is your cat straining to pass urine in his litter tray and only managing a few drops or even some blood. Occasionally he will cry as he is trying to pass the urine or he’ll even pass urine elsewhere in the house when he’s a normally clean cat. If the blockage is complete then he can’t pass any urine at all and the bladder fills very full and can dam back to the kidneys. Totally blocked cats strain to pass urine but nothing comes out at all. Eventually they become very depressed and can die within a few days so this is a real emergency.
So what has this got to do with the weather? There is still not a complete picture as to why cats block. Sometimes it is infection, at other times it is stress and also possibly diet. If your cat doesn’t go out to the toilet as frequently in the winter as in the summer then it is easier for infections to form in the bladder. Also at the end of winter is the cat breeding season and many cats are upset by the changes in territory going on at this time so are more reluctant to go out and pass urine frequently. Dry diets used to be implicated in this problem many years ago as they had a high salt level but nowadays the good quality diets are usually fine.
If your cat is straining and not producing urine contact your vet immediately. We usually have to pass a catheter to relieve the blockage and leave this in for a few days for the inflammation to go. Occasionally we have to do surgery to relieve the blockage and create a larger tube for urine to pass through. In many cases by using special diets we can dissolve the crystals that form but your cat needs to be on this lifelong.
At this time of year it is good to present your cat with several litter trays so they can chose to empty their bladders wherever they want to. Also using sprays like Feliway can prevent your cat becoming tense at this time of year. But remember, if your cat, especially a male cat, is struggling on the litter tray, phone your vet immediately – it is that urgent.