None of that happened this weekend.
Instead, little Cooper got sick and had to spend Saturday and Sunday in the hospital.
Can you blame me for being a wreck until Sunday night?!
Let me explain what happened...
Friday went along like every other day, but I started to notice Cooper licking his crotch every five minutes. The only reason it stood out is that Michael and I will make jokes when the cats plop down in front of us and start cleaning their balls.
Since I'm home A LOT (ah unemployment), Niko and Cooper's behaviors are more pronounced so I know when something is wrong. Not sure if it was just my imagination, I paid close attention to his litter box habits: he was going much more frequently than normal.
In male cats, that's a good indication of Urine Crystals.
Before you express your amazement at my vast knowledge of animal behaviors and veterinary diagnosis, you should know that.... Niko had them 2 years ago. Everything else is observation and guess work. Concerned, I checked Cooper's backside and a few drops of urine came out. In fact, every time he sat to clean himself, urine dribbled on whatever surface he chose to do that act at the time. So I was observing his urinary habits, cleaning up urine, and watching Cooper become more withdrawn and unable to eat & drink-- ALL NIGHT.
Urine crystals can occur in both males and females, but become a problem in male cats because of their anatomy: the urethra is so tiny that it blocks easily when a boy cat develops crystals and/or stones in their bladder. If a block goes unchecked, the bladder will fill with urine, the kidneys will shut down (so as not to produce anymore urine), and in worst case scenarios the bladder will burst. Fortunately we caught this quickly enough before the last two issues could happen.
Telltale signs include:
- Blood in the urine-- usually quite a lot of blood (Niko had that)
- Cleaning the crotch area frequently
- Frequent trips to the bathroom
- Stops eating & drinking
- Little to no urine comes out
- Urinating outside the litter box (which is usually your cat's way of trying to signal something is wrong)
Other than the blood, everything else happened to Cooper. Our vet didn't open until 8am Saturday and I didn't feel Cooper needed to be rushed to the ER since Niko's experience hadn't been life threatening. However, as the early morning hours progressed, less and less urine was coming out meaning the block was getting stronger.
Note to pet owners: If your animal is getting little to no urine out, IT IS AN EMERGENCY.
Arriving at the vet without an appointment, I thought I'd step on some toes, maybe even need to leave and come back, but they immediately sent an assistant out to examine Cooper. The vet returned moments later to express his concern that Cooper's bladder was indeed large, hard, and he needed to have the urine removed. He was also concerned Cooper is an early and chronic blocker.
Causes of Urine Crystals include:
- High levels of magnesium in cat food, especially dry (as told to me by Niko's former vet)
- Chronic Inflammatory Disease in some male cats
- High pH levels in urine
And so I waited while they did tests: blood, urine culture (still waiting on those results), and an ultrasound. They gave Cooper a shot of pain meds that lasts for 3 days (why don't people have those?!) because UCs are not only uncomfortable but downright painful. The vet was hoping Cooper would relax enough and pee on his own-- unfortunately he didn't. Therefore, he was sedated and a catheter was inserted to flush everything out, and they added an IV for good measure.
Because our vet isn't open Sundays, we had to then drive Cooper to the overnight emergency animal hospital in Eagle Rock Saturday afternoon and leave him until the doctors were confident Cooper could urinate on his own. Don't misunderstand-- I'm glad Cooper had somewhere to go for 24 hour care-- but it was damned inconvenient since our animal hospital is across the street! :)
At this point I was BEYOND exhausted-- I hadn't slept since Friday morning-- overwhelmed with the expense, annoyed the doctors kept leaving me alone to let me decide if the care Cooper required is something I wanted to pay for (the alternative being we euthanize him-- she types with tears in her eyes and a knot in her stomach), and I was scared for Cooper.
You see, the extreme of the chronic inflammatory disease is medication for the rest of Cooper's life and a surgery to have the penis removed (YIKES!). This wasn't something I was sure we could afford: would we need to give him up? could we sign up for a payment plan? would I need to call all of my family and friends for donations? would we really need to put him down? Ugly thoughts, I know, but I want to be honest with you. Those questions raced through my tired brain for a brief moment.
Then I took a deep breath, said a prayer, and decided not to worry about issues out of my control. We would cross those metaphorical bridges when we got to them. At that point everything was in God's hands and the only thing I could do was trust Him, the professionals, and go to sleep.
Thirteen hours later I awoke Sunday morning but had to wait until after 4pm for news of Cooper. I distracted myself with video games, updating family on Cooper's status, and grabbing some food. At 8pm Sunday evening I raced (within speed limits of course) over to the hospital to my two year old fur baby. His crotch was shaved, he had a purple bandage and bloody fur where the IV was taken out, and his stomach smelled of urine, but none of that mattered: Cooper was HOME.
Currently, both Niko and Cooper are sleeping. Niko has stopped hissing at his brother: in a multi-cat household, if one returns from the vet, the other(s) will be a bit snippy as the sick cat will smell like an animal hospital. So far, it appears Cooper does NOT have a chronic urine crystal problem (Hallelujah!) but I'll know full test results tomorrow.
Things still need to change, though. According to my vet, Blue Buffalo dry cat food (what our cats were eating) has a reputation of causing crystals because it raises the pH levels of urine. He recommended an all wet food (or mostly wet food) diet for the cats either with the prescription Science Diet cans or a brand we know and trust. FYI: Purina is the WORST.
Fortunately Niko and Cooper love Tiki Cat and Weruva brands so we'll be starting them off on preservative free wet food manufactured at human food standards-- literally, I could eat this food. I still want to incorporate a dry food and had friends recommend the grain-free Taste of the Wild or Orijen. There is also the raw food option-- which I love-- but I'm not sure it's in the budget just yet. These other brands aren't cheap by any means, but still a bit easier to stretch than the raw food brands.
So that's my Tale of the Long Weekend. Having animal companions requires expense, commitment, and sacrifice, but when you're lying in bed with the warmth of two furry little bodies curled up on your legs and they greet you in the morning demanding food and attention, it's all worth it.
Have you experienced serious medical issues with your animals? Are you a holistic pet owner? Any healthy cat food recommendations?