Shop at Spinner's End Farm

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Saving Ginger

Ginger, our lovely fluffy cantankerous and singular cat, is not feeling well.  That is a bit of an understatement actually.  Ginger came to us in the spring of 2010 as a young stray.  You can read about his introduction into the household here.  Long story short, Lila asked Santa for a kitten for Christmas that year and it was serendipity that Ginger entered our lives when he did.  He is not a lap type of cat; he loves to play rough sinking his claws into your hand and giving you a bite and then licking you while purring.  He is very independent but will come looking for some love when he wants it or wants to share his.

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)


  1. I feel for you! I think you made the right choice. Give Ginger a chance, if it happens again you might have to make a difficult decision.
    But I'm pulling for Ginger!

  2. So sorry--been there with 1 of my 2 male(neutered) cats. His was not as severe as Ginger's, altho his crystals were struvite. This was in 2006 & since he has been on the Royal Canin Urinary S/O wet & dry food. He has not had another episode. For convenience, all 3 cats eat it--it's costing $650/year. Thoughts & prayers for Ginger. I love my cats dearly.

  3. From personal experience when reading his first symptoms I knew what it was and have been down that road with my cats. He will be on a special diet and encourage him to drink more water. Recognizing the signs and getting to the vet immediately is important in the future. It is doable and he can have a long life. Hoping for the best for all of you.

  4. I'm so sorry. It is always heartbreaking to go through medical crisis with pets. I pray that the treatment and food result in a long life for Ginger. He is a lovely boy!

  5. I hope Ginger comes through as well as Malcom cat did. He lived to a ripe old age. Lila must have her mother's eye for taking photos. These as fabulous portraits of Ginger.

  6. When I read the symptoms described, I immediately thought of urinary calculi. MR P used to get that periodically and I would find him in terrible distress in a dark closet or other hiding place. Someone whose identity has faded into the fog of old memories told me to give him Vitamin C and that he would be cured. I do not remember the dose. I did that every day for a long time--maybe a couple years, and he never got it again and he lived to be 23 years old during which time he did not bankrupt the household. Get some Vit C and pop it in his every time we had lobster at home, we bought one for him. He used to eat it with great relish from a plate on a placemat on the piano bench while we ate at the table nearby.

  7. A prayer for his recovery. It's only money. He's your (Lila's) pet. You did the right thing. He's beautiful. Hugs.