I Couldn’t Pee On This: Diary of Cheddar, The Cat’s Bad Week.

Cheddar-cat-FLUTD-Kathryn Esplin

Vet 101 will return next week. This week we have a guest post by an old online friend and cat lover Kathryn Esplin. If you’ve ever worried about feline urinary issues or FLUTD read on. When Kathryn’s her cat Cheddar fell ill recently I was worried. Not peeing can be deadly. I’d rushed Merlin to the vet a few times over the years thinking it was serious when it wasn’t. Pet parents often agonize when to take a cat to the vet and what cost they’re willing to pay for peace of mind.

This post sheds light on what to look for before, during and after a bout of urinary blockage with crystals.

I Couldn’t Pee On This: Diary of Cheddar, The Cat’s Bad Week.

By Kathryn Esplin

Could it really be only three weeks ago that we  (banish the thought) were afraid we would lose our beloved 10-year-old Cheddar? Happily, this turned out for the best, but — we didn’t expect a bill of $1,800! for two days in a vet hospital. The photo (above) of Cheddar was taken during recovery.

Had we known then what we know now — yeah, ooh boy – we would have fed our boys differently. I thought that commercial canned food like 9Lives and Friskies, and Purina dry food at night was an excellent diet. Silly moi. Commercial pet food has a high Ph, (like McDonald’s food for we hoomans), which leads to urinary/bladder/crystal issues in male housecats, and possibly to other diseases in cats like diabetes and heart disease.

November 26th.   Cheddar wasn’t himself. He wasn’t purring. He looked in pain and he cried out. He didn’t seem to be peeing. I Googled. That’s what scared me. I was up all night with him. Knew we had to get to the vet. I couldn’t tell what was wrong, but he was crying and  licking himself. I suspected crystals. The symptoms can come on suddenly, so that’s another worry. It’s not like you have weeks – or even days – notice.  The cat has them for a considerable time before, but he’s not in discomfort until the situation is life threatening.

November 27th.  I took Ched to PetSmart, which contracts with Banfield. Banfield called VESCONE, Veterinary Emergency Specialty Clinic of New England, http://www.vescone.com/ and said we are on our way. My husband and I brought Cheddar over. (I highly recommend VESCONE, by the way. A+ BBB rating.) The staff is very nice; the place is exceptionally well appointed, and so very pet friendly. Pets? These are our friends and we are their moms and dads.

November 27th. The vet could feel that Cheddar had a large number of struvite crystals, blocking his bladder and that it was an emergency. We knew it was life threatening; the poor boy was not himself. The hospital said his kidney values were elevated. The hospital catheterized him, put him on an antispasmodic, and gave him a painkiller. Death can occur within 36 to 72 hours.

Cheddar in the hospital

Struvite crystals are common in bladders of cats who eat commercial dry or wet food. The symptoms are difficulty urinating or blood in the urine. You might think your cat is constipated, but he probably has trouble peeing. Not that many years ago, surgery was required to remove the crystals; nowadays, a catheter is inserted to help the cat’s urethra, which helps flush the crystals, and then a special, Vet-prescribed diet low in magnesium usually dissolves these struvite stones. These stones can also be caused by infection. Struvite crystals happens more often with male housecats, because the male urethra is narrower and curved.

November 28th. Cheddar was so happy to see me and his brother, Mao! Cheddar almost mewed! He did purr a bit. Mao was freaked out, but happy to see his bro – they’ve been together since birth. Cheddar was still listless, but didn’t look like he was in danger. Mao mewed all the way to the vet, but didn’t say a peep on the way back. He seemed to know we were going home.

November 29th. Cheddar came home. He still had crystals, but he was peeing, drinking, and eating. About 40 percent of cats relapse, the vet said. This usually happens the first week, the vet said. Mao was different with Cheddar. Usually, Mao establishes his brotherly dominance almost nightly by grooming Cheddar and then attacking him. Mao seemed to know that Cheddar wasn’t feeling well, because Mao curled up next to Ched and hasn’t tried to pin Ched since Ched came home. Mao usually sleeps on my knees (strange, I know) but Mao was needy while Ched was in the hospital. Mao curled up next to me, which he never did before – or since. Perhaps in a few weeks Mao will take to pinning Ched again, in their friendly game of “I’m the boss over you, Chedster.”

Cheddar-recovery-ill-cat- urinary-crystals
Cheddar the cat convalescing

Prevention. The cure for crystals is to give the cat the right food. Most cats that eat commercial dry food will get crystals. The issue didn’t even exist before dry food was invented. However, our cats had only a little dry food at night. Mostly, they ate 9 Lives and Friskies wet food. Turns out that any commercial cat food is bad for cats. Cats that eat commercial food are more likely to get crystals (mostly male cats), diabetes, cancer and heart disease. So, we have a prescription for Hills Diet dry and wet food. This brand is the special bladder formula that has been clinically proven, to dissolve crystals. It has a low Ph, unlike commercial food, which has a high Ph.

Cheddar was on the antispasmodic at home for a week. It is a muscle relaxant and a nerve relaxant, and it can cause dilated pupils – so it works on the optic nerve, as well as other nerves. Well, Cheddar wasn’t going to take a capsule, so I broke it and mixed it in with baby food. I only serve them small amounts of baby food –rarely, and only pure meat. The antispasmodic helped keep Cheddar’s urethra and bladder from cramping again, while he gets used to the prescription cat food. I am going to get a pet fountain. Powerful stuff. While on the antispasmodic, Ched seemed subdued.

December: Cheddar is off the medication and he’s livelier. He’s eating, drinking, purring, and putting his paw on my sleeve (while I am at the computer) to remind me to rub his belly – or else! He’s running around. We hope none of our cats ever have to go through this misery again.


Bio about me:

I was born in Utah, but moved to Montreal with my scientist parents. I’ve since moved back to the U.S. We always had cats around the house, growing up. I’ve had about 15 cats in my life, plus three dogs, a bunny, a guinea pig, gerbils, squirrels, a toad, frogs/tadpoles, a sloth, (he lived in the animal lab at the University) two parakeets and a duck. Cats are so special. I’m a sucker for anything that purrs. I studied English and Journalism, and worked for newspapers. Currently, I edit legal, food and parenting articles, and am working on a romance novel. (to be submitted soon to a publisher). I have a Montreal Food and Travel Blog. http://montrealquebectravel.blogspot.com/

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19 thoughts on “I Couldn’t Pee On This: Diary of Cheddar, The Cat’s Bad Week.

  1. Hello! I know this is somewhat off topic but I
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  2. Dear Kathryn,

    Good to read your story about your cat Ched and what happened. Happy to hear that he recovered well, because sometimes the stone(s) have been closing the bladder so long that the kidneys get irreparable damage. But you were early enough to prevent that.

    Enjoy the company of your nice cats! I recently welcomed a cat with three legs from the shelter. She was hit by a car and almost euthanised by the vet because she did not pee by herself the first 3-4 days. There was a Eureka moment when she finally did! She’s so lovely; a very social, sweet cat asking only to be caressed.

    I hope you find a good publisher for your romance nove. Writing your own novel, how cool (or jolly good as the english would say ;)! Good luck with everything and have a nice Christmas,


    P.s. Cat in Dutch is “Kat” (some say the origin is traced back to a mystical person from ages ago who was called Kathryn or Katrijn)

  3. Hello Kathryn, I am so happy to hear that Cheddar is on the mend. We would like to help Cheddar and Mao and help you spot the early signs of FLUTD by offering you a FREE trial of Perfect Litter Alert http://bit.ly/litteralert.
    This innovative cat litter changes color when your cats system is out of balance, and helps to alert you to possible FLUTD.
    I have listed my email address for you to contact me or you can connect on our social media links, as Perfect Litter on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter (@_perfectlitter) to provide the delivery address.
    Your readers can also sign up for the 14 day free trial to help prevent their cats having the same experience as Cheddar.

  4. We are so very glad the Ched is on the mend and on the right track with his diet.It is always so scary when one of our “kids” gets sick. Lots of luv and purrs to ched and Mao…luvs Skeeter and Izzy >^..^<

  5. Thanks so much, Layla. Cheddar said, “Great job! and Thanks!” Mao said, “Sure glad my bro is back!”

    I had a female cat, Emma, who lived mostly on wet food (Friskies) but a bit of dry food at night, and she lived for 20 years. Granted, she was female. We had a male cat from 65 to 70 (he was already 3 when we adopted him) and he ate only dry food, as did our female Siamese. He got crystals, sadly.

    Ched and Mao are on a strict Vet diet.

    Went to Petsmart yesterday (prescription card is required for purchase) and bought several cans of the Royal Canin S/D Urinary formula at $2.00 each. They don’t like the Hills Diet R/D formula as much. The Royal Canin (this is feline, despite the name; the company must have started with doggies first) smells like Devilled Ham, which is pretty good.

    Also bought the Hills Diet Dry food for R/D.

    The formulas the Vet prescribed are designed to dissolve crystals in about 4 weeks, and then to prevent them in the future. The formulas contain low magnesium and a low Ph, which helps dissolve and prevent the struvite crystals.

    The formulas (wet and dry) contain amino acids, omega-3 amino acids, lots of quality protein, some quality grains, low fat, low ash, and the necessary vitamins and minerals they need.

    Other formulas exist for cats, which include (based on what I saw on the packages/wet/dry):

    Kidney, liver, diabetic, low-calerie/weight loss formula, anemia formula, and the urinary/bladder/crystal dissolution formulas.

  6. The cat before the cat before me had crystals, and somehow my human found out not to feed him dry food anymore, even though this was 30 years ago! He had a quality (for the time) canned-food diet after that and never had a relapse.

      1. Yes! Dry food is crap! (Yeah, I’m blunt.) and I don’t understand by SD makes a DRY food for urinary problems. Many cat on Rx foods for struvite crystals end up with calcium oxalate crystals. Just look at the ingredients of SD!
        Kitties need a grain-free canned food at minimum!

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  7. I hope and wish Chedder and Mao long happy lives with no more urinary trouble.
    He is a beautiful cat. I pinned the 1 st picture

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