Once again, I find myself avoiding the blog-o-sphere because of a sick cat.
Remember a few weeks ago when Cooper was in the hospital because of a blocked urethra? Well this past Saturday we got to experience the fun all over again with Niko.
Only this time it was worse.
My darling boy Niko - Wisconsin, 2011
Despite the changes toward a healthier diet with more water incorporated into his food, Niko developed a urine crystal blockage overnight last Friday. He threw up late Friday and Saturday morning, but that happens since he's a ridiculously fast eater. Maternal Instincts on high alert, I decided to monitor his behavior and by 2pm we were on our way to the Eagle Rock 24 hour Emergency Clinic since our vet across the street was closed.
In the course of the 20 minutes it took us to get there, Niko had gone from partially to fully blocked. As you know from my other post, that is DANGEROUS. We learned later on that a clogged urethra can also cause a fatal arrhythmia. So, Niko went through the same treatment as Cooper, everything looked normal, and we brought him home Sunday night.
We watched him, gave him some soaked dry food as we were waiting for Chicken wet food we ordered, and let him explore the apartment. He was happy to be home. Temporarily.
As I prepared the cat food Monday morning, I noticed Niko squatting.
Let me illustrate how smart my gray boy is: when he has a urine crystal problem (this happened 2 years ago as well), Niko either tries to pee in my tub-- I frequent the bathroom a lot with my "old lady" bladder-- or comes near us and squats to pee. Because he NEVER pees outside the litter box, that's how we know something is wrong.
I told Michael we needed to get to our vet ASAP: normally a little urine comes out when he squats, but nothing was coming out. Niko even looked at me and let out a sad cry-- a full bladder is hard and painful.
The plan was the same: flush the bladder, catheterize Niko, and observe to make sure everything is gone. However, not one of the five doctors at the clinic could get the catheter in. Fortunately they drained the bladder so Niko wasn't in any immediate danger, but without using a catheter the only other option was an expensive surgery to remove his penis and give him a hole to pee out of (yes.... a sex change to put it bluntly).
Because of our previous expenses with Cooper and the long weekend at the ER, this was not an expense we could consider, though I was not above begging friends and family for money. Not to mention after I researched the surgery further, there are other complications, some cats do well, others don't, behaviors may change, the cat could block again, and it opens the feline up to bacterial infections.
So by Monday at 3:30pm, Michael and I had resolved to put Niko to sleep.
One of two IV spots on Niko's front legs.
It was by no means an easy decision, as evidenced by my swollen red eyes, heaving sobs over the bathroom sink, and the sick feeling in my stomach. Michael and I took turns crying, shaking... I spent a portion of my day angry as hell at Veterinarians and their conflicting information, the shelter that told us never to give Niko wet food, the pet food companies that put all this sh*t in their products, the City of Los Angeles for its hard water that causes mineral build up in cats (they should only drink diluted), and myself for not knowing any of this until it was too late.
At the Los Feliz Small Animal Hospital, retired veterinarian Dr. Hall volunteers Mondays because he loves animals that much. He continues to read the medical journals and research pet food diets.
Dr. Hall was Niko's doctor on Monday, has a few cats of his own, and knew what we were going through.... so he decided to try an experimental, low cost, non-surgical attempt at saving Niko. With a mixture of removing urine in the bladder with a syringe, giving Niko anti-inflammatories, and having him on IV fluids, the hope was to get the catheter Tuesday so he could come home Wednesday.
Cooper missed his brother.
Niko is back home with us, thinner, exhausted, and rather unhappy about the whole ordeal (not that I blame him). He was the star of the clinic since they'd never tried this method before and the chances of his recovery were incredibly slim.
The key now is for Niko to eat a special wet food diet, get lots of diluted water, and avoid dry food and fish. Unfortunately, Niko is also the pickiest-- and when I say that I am NOT exaggerating-- and most stubborn cat on the planet. He's still holding out for his favorite tuna, and after trying the canned Weruva Chicken, Weruva Nine Livers, Fancy Feast Beef and Tuna, and Royal Canine Urinary Tract C/D, all he wants is the dry prescription food.
He won't even eat the dry food if I put water on it. If he doesn't eat soon we'll be back at the hospital for temporary fluids to go under his skin until we can get him to eat.
So, while I'm thrilled Niko is home, I'm still on edge about his lack of hunger and thirst. My absence on here may continue while this goes on and I search for a job-- at this point ANY job-- in Los Angeles. Please send good vibes my way.
I also want to add a special thanks to my parents who cried along with us and felt the worry and sadness of losing such a special cat. They continue to amaze me with their endless support so I'm beyond thrilled they get to fly first class to a week long getaway in Hawaii!
You may be wondering-- with all the stress, emotional strain, and expense-- if I regret adopting cats.
Never. Even if things were to go south again, I wouldn't trade the last 4 and a half years spent with the oddest little gray cat I've ever met. Niko may not be a lap cat, but he shows affection through nudges and sleeping on our feet. He talks to us, leads us to what he wants-- food, a clean litter box, a toy-- loves exploring new territories, and creepily stares at me in bed until I give him breakfast.
No matter how many times Michael and I have to force his mouth open to give him medication or how miserable he is when the vet examines him, Niko never bites, nips, or scratches.
Niko is a gentle soul.