Unless you’ve been around cats your entire life, it can be difficult to pick up on some of the subtle clues cats give us to convey that something is wrong. Some cats will cry and meow when in pain or discomfort and others won’t. Thus, it’s very important to stay tuned in to your cat’s behavior. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen your cat going potty, you may be wondering just how long can a cat go without urinating.
Just like humans, a cat’s urinary system is working around the clock. Normally felines pee several times a day, depending on how much food and water they’ve consumed. But sometimes there can be complications that throw a wrench in the normal routine.
Most cats can hold their urine for 24-48 hours. However, if it’s been just about 24 hours since you’ve seen your kitty pee then it’s time to call the vet. You don’t want to take the chance that it’s been longer. Urinary blockages aren’t uncommon but can be life-threatening nevertheless.
Wondering how long can long your cat can hold their pee because you’re planning to take them along on a trip? If so, a good rule of thumb is to give them time to potty about every 6 hours. If you’re worried about keeping your cat calm for the duration of the trip, check out our guide to sedating a cat for travel.
Why is My Cat Not Urinating?
There are a few different causes that might explain your cat’s urinary problems; some more common than others. It’s important you take this seriously, even if your cat hasn’t stopped peeing completely. If you notice your kitty straining to urinate that’s a big red flag as well.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, or FLUTD, is the most common cause of your cat not being able to pee.
FLUTD, put simply, is inflammation of the bladder (called cystitis). Cystitis is totally treatable but not at all pleasant. It can actually lead to the formation of stones in the bladder or something call an urethral plug. Most commonly found in males, a urethral plug is a blockage that could be potentially life-threatening.
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If your cat is suffering from a FLUTD they will probably exhibit some strange behavior. If you notice your cat constantly going to the litter box or producing little to no urine each time, call your vet immediately. Usually any urine that is produced is tinged with blood, so that’s something else to look out for.
Blockages are more severe and can prevent any urine from coming out at all. As I said before, these are almost always found in males. Urine that’s trapped in the bladder will not only cause great discomfort but can also be fatal. At this point, you’ll probably start hearing cries of pain and notice your cat becoming more and more lethargic. Other symptoms to keep an eye out for include reduced appetite, peeing outside the litter box or licking the genital area.
These disconcerting blockages are typically thick mucus or crystalline-like minerals caused by a mineral imbalance or an abnormality in the cat’s pH levels. Since these mineral can eventually form bladder stones, the sooner you catch this problem the better.
Believe it or not, stress can certainly cause a cat not to pee. Felines are notoriously conservative creatures who don’t much care for change. Any changes to their environment or circumstances could send them into a spiral.
Even minor changes can have big effects. The best way to deal with this is to try and match up the unusual urinary behavior with any changes you’ve recently made.
Have you tried any new kinds of food or litter? Have you adopted any new pets? Are there any humans hanging around that weren’t previously? Is this just a urinary problem, or have you noticed other weird behavior?
Answering these questions can help you pinpoint the source of your kitty’s stress. Once you think you know what’s wrong you can try to make it right again. Some things- like bringing a newborn baby home for the first time- aren’t so easily fixed. But others- like cleaning the dirty litter box- can level your cat out and bring things back to normal.
Big changes in a cat’s life will undoubtedly cause some stress. Cats may hate change, but they are able to adapt…. albeit slowly. A new baby is just something they’ll have to deal with and will eventually come to accept it.
Conversely, stressors like a dirty litter box are pretty quick and simple fixes.
What Do I Do If My Cat Can’t Pee?
If you’ve determined that your cat’s inability to urinate is not an immediate emergency, there actually is a method you can use to try and coax the urine out of their bladder.
This method is commonly referred to as the Ragdoll technique. It’s a pretty simple and commonly used among cat parents to ‘express’ their kitty’s bladder.
What you’re going to do is hold your feline by his armpits so that his legs are dangling over the litter box or the toilet. If kitty is cooperative, you might can try sitting near the toilet and laying him on his back on your knees.
Now gently feel around his tummy until your reach the bottom of your cat’s rib cage. The bladder is small, round and squishy; and somewhat elusive. Cat’s bladders move around, so you may need a few tries to locate it. A cat who really has to pee will have a different shaped bladder that’s usually easier to find.
Once you’ve gotten your bearings, take two fingers and gently squeeze the bladder and press it downwards. This is when your feline should start tinkling.
Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work the first time. Like most things, this technique takes practice and patience. Since it’s easier to learn by watching rather than reading in this case, check out the short video below to see how it’s done.
Will My Cat Survive A Urinary Blockage?
Due to anatomical differences, female cats don’t have to worry about blockages as much as males. This is because male cats have a urethra that is much longer and narrower than their female counterparts, and therefore more susceptible to becoming blocked. Females can still get urinary tract infections of course, but they’re usually less severe.
While urethral blockages are not exactly common, they are very painful and can be life-threatening. If not properly managed, it can result in acute renal failure and death within 2-3 days.
However, your cat can certainly survive a urinary blockage if it’s caught quickly and your vet is consulted in a timely manner.
How Is A Urinary Blockage Treated?
A urinary blockage will be treated as a major emergency. However, before the procedure, the vet will perform a quick physical exam to confirm the condition of the cat.
In order to relieve the obstruction, a veterinarian will usually need to dole out some anesthetic and perform an X-ray to determine the cause of it. Once sedated, a catheter will be used to carefully flush out the obstruction. This is a tedious job since the lining of the urethra is very delicate and the vet must be careful not to damage it.
After the obstruction has been removed successfully, the next step is to inject saline solution into the bladder so all the blood and debris can be flushed out. The vet will probably do this a couple times to be 100% sure there won’t be another obstruction anytime soon.
Sometimes the poor kitty will need to spend a few days at the hospital in order for the vet to ensure enough urine is being produced. During this time, the underlying disease that caused the blockage and the inflammation will also be treated. Anti-inflammatory drugs, spasmolytics, or analgesics may be used for the following days or weeks to keep the swelling down.