It'll be a Merry Christmas after all but we had a pretty big scare yesterday.
I was sitting on the couch, drinking my morning quart of coffee and snuggling with Dunkin, my male cat. As usual in these situations, I have to get up periodically thus displacing the cat.
My cats and I speak a common language and there are certain phrases that we completely understand from each other. From them, jumping on the bed and purring in my face means "I'm hungry", climbing on the computer keyboard means "I'm more important than your blog, love me", and swatting the venetian blinds means "I'm bored".
From me, "Time for bed, picklehead" means, well, it's time to go to bed, and "Gotta get up" or "Gotta go to the bathroom" mean "kindly remove yourself temporarily from my lap so that I might take care of business. I shall return momentarily at which time you may resume your snuggling".
Usually, we understand each other perfectly, but yesterday Dunkin didn't budge with the usual "Gotta get up". Didn't budge with "Gotta get up, Dunkin Donut". Didn't budge with "Gotta get up, Pookie Poo Poo" with accompanying physical cue of wiggling the legs. But being as I really had to get up, I picked him up to move him and he let out a yowl and thrashed around in the air until I put him down.
Now, he was not mad at me, I could tell, and though he is a vocal cat, this yowl was more like pain. So I start cataloging possible reasons in my head and really couldn't come up with anything except that he had been tussling with another cat again. I did not find any puncture wounds or cuts in a quick sweep on his back half, but I was very concerned so I called the emergency vet (mostly for reassurance, to be honest). That phone call lasted all of 5 minutes and in 15 minutes I was in my car on the way to the emergency hospital.
The vet tech who answered the phone asked three questions:
"Is he male?"
"Where was the pain?"
"Have you seen him pee lately?"
For me the answers were:
"Right near his hind legs."
"No, he's indoor/outdoor and he pees outside."
They responded, "He could be blocked. You need to get him in here right away."
That was most definitely NOT reassuring.
So after a prolonged battle of attempted bribes and physical force, I finally got Dunkin into the cat carrier and into the car for the trip. Now, he is very talkative as I mentioned before and gave me all kinds of not-so-nice words and cat cursing the whole way there. But I talked to him about being sick and going to the doctor and loving him so much and wanting him to be healthy and happy.
They weighed him – a whopping 12.8 pounds – and the vet felt his bladder which she said was very small at that point. She asked tons of questions about his habits, what food he ate, grooming habits, changes in his behavior, etc. Then told me that what she was concerned about was a urinary track blockage which in male cats can be fatal very quickly if left untreated.
So, for all you Voxers out there who have male cats, and especially neutered male cats – please read this. She said this is one of the most unknown and most important medical problems for male cats and lots of people lose their cats before they even know something is wrong.
A urinary track blockage can be caused by lots of things (bacteria, virus, change in food, bad water, stress, change in environment, etc) and no one is exactly sure from cat to cat why it starts. Essentially a male cat's urethra is longer and more narrow than a female cat's and is therefore much more prone to getting clogged. If a cat experiences any of the above issues, crystals can start building up in his urine which can be irritating causing mucus to be produced. The combination of crystals and mucus form a plug which can partially or totally block the urethra limiting or stopping urine flow.
Like a bladder infection in people, having difficulty or pain attached to urinating is a horrible feeling. It can be bloody, there can be pushing and straining, and excessive licking of the genital area (in cats – ha ha) to try and clean it enough to function properly. Many people actually think their cat is constipated because the behaviors in the litter box are the same.
But unlike being constipated, if the urethra is allowed to get completely blocked, the urine backs up, the bladder gets bigger and bigger, the kidneys stop creating urine because the bladder is full and thus stop cleaning the body of toxins, and finally the bladder ruptures and urine and toxins leak into the cat's body killing him pretty quickly. It is very serious, very dangerous, and oftentimes lethal.
By some extremely fortunate circumstances, I was at home yesterday, snuggling with Dunkin, and happened to hit exactly the right place to make him yowl and raise my concern. Because it turned out that he did have crystals in his urine and though his bladder was small when I brought him in at noon, by 8:00 last night it had grown twice as big and he was only able to produce a couple of drops of urine even with the vet palpitating and squeezing his bladder directly.
By the grace of God I got him in EXACTLY when he needed to because if I had not, he most likely would have died.
That yowl is the only thing that triggered my concern. He was still eating normally, he was still snuggling and purring, he was still playing and going outside and picking on my female cat, Isabel. Except for that yowl, every other thing about him was normal and I never would have known. Cats often will not let you know anything is wrong until it is almost too late.
So last night the vet inserted a catheter both to unblock him and drain the urine. Dunkin will wear it for 48 hours to make sure he does not block again. The good news is his blockage was very crystally and right at the tip, as opposed to being much more solid and blocked throughout the whole urethra. He was expelling urine and yelling his displeasure at the vet by 10:00pm. She is also giving him IV fluids to keep him hydrated, kick his kidneys back into action, and keep him urinating under observation. They will remove the catheter and watch him for another 12 hours or so to make sure he continues to urinate on his own.
He will be home Wednesday morning at 7:00am. I am very blessed. Another few hours or if he hadn't yowled and I might have lost him.
So, everyone who has a male cat, please get yourself educated about FLUTD. Google "cat blocked urinary track" and read read read. I recommend this site because it is almost word-for-word exactly as my vet explained it to me and is in language anyone can understand.
I hope all of you are as fortunate as I was if this ever happens to your cat.
Bless you, bless your cats, and Merry Christmas.