All animals need to be able to pee, including cats. It is how we pass toxins and waste from our bodies, alongside removing any excess water so all our physiological processes can run as they should. Therefore, if your cat isn’t peeing, it can be a huge cause for concern.
Many owners assume that if a cat isn’t peeing but acting normal, they simply don’t need to pee. However, this isn’t the case! When my cat is eating and drinking but not peeing, I immediately call my vet and suggest you do the same. Even if your cat seems otherwise fine, failure to urinate is almost always a sign of a urinary problem.
While taking your kitty to the vet is a must, I explore some of the common urinary conditions in this article. This can give you a heads up on what to expect. Common issues include urinary tract infections, bladder stones or blockages, and even bladder tumors.
I run through the symptoms for each of these conditions to help ensure that no urinary issues ever go unchecked again! You can always give your cat the help and treatment they need before the situation becomes life-threatening, but you need to know what to look out for.
How Long Can a Cat Go Without Urinating?
Before getting into the possible reasons why my cat is eating and drinking but not peeing, I want to start by talking about how often cats pee and how long a cat can go without urinating. This is super important to understand so that you know when there is an issue.
Most healthy adult cats will pee two times per day on average. However, this is a generalization and will vary depending on:
- Your cat’s age, breed, weight, and health
- The amount of water they drink each day
- The moisture of their food (wet vs. dry)
- The heat and humidity of your home environment
For example, cats drinking from water fountains tend to consume more water than those drinking from a bowl and might urinate up to five times per day. On the other hand, cats lose water through sweating in hotter temperatures and so will lose less water through urinating. They may only pee once per day.
The most important thing to do is to work out what is normal for your cat. If your cat usually pees multiple times per day but there has been a sudden decrease in frequency, then there is an issue. Likewise, excessive urination can be another sign that something is wrong.
Moreover, if your cat hasn’t peed in over 24 hours it can become seriously sick. Without being able to remove the toxins and waste from their body, they quickly accumulate. If treatment hasn’t been administered in 48 hours then death is common. Therefore, never ignore it if your cat has not urinated at least once per day.
Why Is My Cat Eating & Drinking But Not Peeing?
If your cat is not peeing but acting normal, it is usually a sign of some form of urinary infection or a blockage somewhere along the urinary tract. This can be extremely painful for cats and obstructions can become life-threatening within 48 hours. Call your vet immediately and ask for advice.
Below are some of the most common diagnoses for cats that aren’t peeing so you can know what to expect on your veterinary visit.
1. Feline Idiopathic Cystitis
Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC) is a disease of the lower urinary tract that appears to develop without any underlying cause. In fact, FIC is thought to account for over 60% of all feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) cases. It causes the urinary tract to become inflamed and swollen.
Unfortunately, as there is no known cause of FIC, the condition can be more difficult to diagnose and manage than other urinary tract infections. To offer a diagnosis, your vet will usually carry out urine tests and x-rays of the bladder. Only by ruling out the other causes of FLUTD will your cat be diagnosed with FIC.
My cat keeps trying to pee but only a little comes out and she has FIC. This makes it look like there is an increased frequency of urination when in reality only a little urine is being passed. Other symptoms of this disease include:
- Difficulty or painful urination
- Blood in the urine or litter tray
- Urinating outside of the litter box
- Over-grooming the genital areas
In some FIC cases, the urethra can also become blocked. This is much more common in male cats because of their anatomy – their urethras are much longer and narrower than those of female cats, thus are much more prone to blockages. This is when FIC becomes a medical emergency as the blockage needs to be removed as soon as possible!
Aside from blockages that need prompt treatment, management of FIC is effective by simply modifying your cat’s diet and increasing their water intake. Managing stress can also reduce FIC flare-ups. Therefore, your vet might recommend the following:
- Changing from dry cat food to wet cat food
- Increasing the amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids to help reduce inflammation
- Adding tuna water or meat broth to their water bowl
- Purchasing AC powered or battery operated cat water fountains
- Offering multiple bowls for cats to drink from
- Providing multiple clean litter boxes in various locations
- Minimizing any stress triggers in your home
- Spending time playing with your cat every day
- Using pheromone sprays to help with stress management
2. Bladder Infections
One of the most common clinical signs of bladder infections (also known as urinary tract infections or UTIs for short) is your cat not peeing as much as usual. They are another type of FLUTD that is common in cats and causes inflammation of the urinary tract. Therefore, UTIs have similar symptoms to FIC, including:
- Inability to urinate or straining to pee
- Urinating small amounts more frequently
- Cat drinking a lot of water and meowing
- Peeing outside or avoiding the litter box
- Blood in the urine or cloudy pee
- Excessive grooming of the genital area
The difference is that bladder infections have a known cause – they are the result of bacteria traveling up the urethra and into the bladder, causing infection. Many different bacteria can cause UTIs, but the most common is the Escherichia coli bacteria found in feces. Your veterinarian will be able to prescribe an antibiotic that will fight off the bacteria to treat the disease.
3. Bladder Stones
Bladder stones are where mineral deposits form rock-like crystal structures that develop in the bladder. These usually form in response to inflammatory diseases of the bladder. Some cats will form only a few bladder stones, whereas others will form many larger ones. Their formation can happen over the course of a few days or can take up to months to form.
The most common sign of bladder stones in cats is blood in the urine. This is because the stones are sharp and rub against the lining of the bladder. This can cause damage and irritation. The inflammation also causes straining and you might notice your cat sitting in its litter box but not peeing.
Some of the larger stones can partially block the valve of the bladder, further reducing the amount of urine passed. On the other hand, smaller stones will pass down the urethra and out with the urine. This can be extremely painful. If the stones aren’t passed, they can block the urethra which is classified as a medical emergency. As with FIC, such blockages are more common in males.
There are two main treatment options for bladder stones:
- Surgery to open the bladder and remove the stones, known as a cystotomy. This is the most common option as it offers immediate relief and is a must for any that have large bladder stones that are causing blockages.
- Diet therapy to dissolve the bladder stones so they can be passed. This avoids surgery and is much less invasive but it can take several weeks for large stones to be dissolved and some cats won’t respond well to their new diet.
4. Blocked Bladder
A blocked bladder is just as it sounds – your cat cannot pee as there is some form of obstruction getting in the way. FIC, UTIs, and bladder stones are three common causes that I have already mentioned, but other causes of blockages include:
- Crystals in the urine
- Bladder tumors
- Narrowed urethra
As already mentioned, the anatomy of a male cat’s urethra means it is more prone to blockages. It is longer and thinner, thus females rarely develop blocked bladders. Other factors which can make blocked bladders more likely include stress, obesity, dry-food-only diets, neutering your cat, and indoor-only cats.
Usually, your cat will show signs of a urine infection before its bladder becomes completely blocked. Where possible, get your cat to the vet as soon as you notice any signs. This means the underlying condition can be treated before it becomes a bladder blockage. When the urinary symptoms go unnoticed and your cat has a blocked bladder you might notice the following symptoms:
- Cat sitting in the litter box but not peeing
- Keeps trying to pee but only a little comes out
- Crying out and yowling when trying to urinate
- Excessive licking of the genital areas
- Blood in the urine and litter tray
- Loss of appetite or not eating at all
- Lethargy and weakness
If a blocked bladder goes untreated, it can cause acute kidney failure and death within 2-3 days. Kidney disease is already more common in senior cats, so if you see your older cat not eating but drinking and having urinary symptoms get them to the vet as soon as possible. As it is a medical emergency, your cat will need to be hospitalized and the blockage removed.
5. Bladder Tumors
Tumors can grow anywhere in the body. Their placement determines the type of symptoms they present. For example, if you see a cat not pooping but acting normal they could have an intestinal tumor. Sımilarly, if your cat isn’t peeing but acting normal they could have a urinary tract tumor.
Out of everywhere along the urinary tract, the most common place that tumors form is in the bladder. With that being said, feline bladder tumors are still extremely rare. The most common type is transitional cell carcinoma (TTC) which forms in the lining of the bladder. Although rare, it can be deadly and need prompt treatment.
Some of the most common symptoms of bladder tumors in cats are straining to urinate and difficulty passing urine. However, cancer can quickly spread to other parts of the body, resulting in a much more diverse range of clinical signs than simply urinary infections or blockages. Depending on where cancer spreads to, these symptoms could include:
- Weakness and lethargy
- Intolerance to exercise
- Excessive vocalization upon urination
- Coughing and difficulty breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss or anorexia
- Swelling of the abdominal area
There are three main treatment options for cats with bladder cancer. The tumors can be surgically removed if it is in a non-invasive area. There is alternatively the option for chemotherapy or radiation therapy treatment. However, no curative treatment option is available.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Whenever my cat is eating and drinking but not peeing, I watch them closely and call up my veterinarian. A cat not peeing but acting normal nearly always has a urinary problem such as FLUTD. This can be treated or managed if spotted early to help prevent complications from arising.
In other cases, the formation of bladder stones and/or a blocked bladder can be life-threatening. Although rare, bladder cancers can also mean your cat stops peeing as much as usual. As more serious conditions, these need prompt treatment to ensure that your cat survives.
I suggest you always call your cat if your cat hasn’t urinated within 24 hours. Even if nothing is wrong, it is better to be safe than sorry!