Two days ago he was not feeling himself and was hiding in unusual places and yowling, crying piteously. I assumed that on one of his soujourns he ate something he shouldn't have and thought maybe he would sleep it off. Yesterday morning, he did seem improved in mood and was moving around a bit more. But, when he walked he was all hunched up and in pain and I wondered if he had been hit by a car. I said goodbye and went to work where I spent much of my time in a meeting. As soon as it was over I called the vet who said to rush him in because it sounded like he had a blockage. I zoomed home, collected the cat that Will kindly found and stuffed in the carrier for me, and rushed to the vets who was an hour and fifteen minutes away from my original location at work.
He didn't want to come out of the box and had to be pulled. As the vet pulled him out he peed....bloody urine. She palpated his abdomen and felt a baseball sized full bladder and diagnosed a urinary obstruction likely caused by crystals precipitated in the urine and plugging the urethra. She said when the bladder is fully blocked that death occurs within 72 hours due to the poisons in the system that aren't excreted through the urine. She quickly outlined the options available:
1. IV fluids and a catheter for three days to drain the bladder and discourage crystal formation, and flush the nasty buildup of toxins out of his system. $$$-$$$$
2. Medications for pain and massaging the bladder to try and break loose the obstruction. $$$ (and a whole lot of hell from the cat)
3. Euthanasia $$
The kicker was the statement that even if the first two options are successful, and that isn't guaranteed, there is a high likelyhood that it will reoccur. He will have to be on a special diet low in magnesium with a low pH for the rest of his life; still not guaranteed to keep the crystals from reforming. There is the option of having surgery to remove the penis and give him a larger opening more like a female cat which would allow the crystals to pass through if the treatments don't work. Evidently this is a common occurrence in male cats and many outdoor cats that have this condition merely crawl off somewhere and die. Something to consider when choosing another housecat at some point.
So, faced with these choices and needing to make a decision, I promptly burst into tears in front of the vet who gave me a few minutes to compose myself and make a blubbering incoherent phone call to Will who was in a roomful of 20 kids at an afterschool gardening club. Will has had an experience with a family cat 40 years ago who had this condition (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease) and recovered so we decided to go with option one. This decision was not made lightly, because we haven't won the lottery (and in fact are buying a new minivan this week that we desperately needed) but I couldn't imagine rationalizing an alternative decision to the kids, who hadn't been given the opportunity to see him before we rushed off. They love him so much and he has become a part of our lives in the short three years we have had him. I can't imagine how to put a dollar amount on that kind of love and I hope we aren't forced to do so soon.
(all the photos of Ginger are Lila's)