Last night, my 4 year-old tuxedo cat Panda started displaying difficulty going to the bathroom. Not sitting down to go, but actually getting his potty run to come out. At first, I didn’t think anything of it. Every now and then, as is his nature, Panda would go into his litter box, shuffle the pine litter around, go out, then return a few minutes after and do it again. But never a third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and onward time, every few minutes, and for 10 to 20 second duration rounds. It was around 3AM when I realized this was going on. As I lay there, I thought Panda was bored, but then I realized it was something worse. I started counting how many times he went. In under an hour, he’d tried to go 6 times.
I Googled, “why does a cat go to the litter box so many times?” The most common response was urinary tract infection (UTI). It turns out, UTI is common among fixed cats, and even more so among neutered male cats. My heart sunk. When it comes to my fur child, I tend to think the worst. My mind starting turning with the “what if it’s this?” about other, far worse potential illnesses. But besides Panda going to his litter box every few minutes, he showed no sign of pain, irritation, or discomfort. He even came up on the bed when I beckoned and curled up next to me.
As I lay there stroking him, I started crying. What was wrong with my little pet? Was he in pain? I know that cats don’t often show pain. Their parents have to be extremely attentive to notice the signs. I felt like a horrible furmom. Had Panda been in pain only today? Or yesterday–or the day before? But he’d been eating, drinking, and going to the potty just fine all that day; even up until it got dark. So I guessed the problem had started just that night, and it wasn’t so bad yet. But it ate at me.
And being Saturday morning, there was nothing much I could do. I couldn’t sleep. At 4AM or so, I called my vet’s emergency number and the vet on the line told me to bring my cat in right when they opened at 7:30. That’s exactly what I did. Panda wailed and howled and cried the entire time. I dropped him off, went home, and felt oddly empty. No little tap taps of his feet on the wood floors. No mewing for attention. No rubbing against my legs or bumping his face on my nose. Was my little pet okay?
At 12:30 or so, the vet called and confirmed Panda did have UTI. They took a blood sample, an x-ray, and administered a 10-day antibiotic. I’d been putting money aside for months for Panda, in case anything sad like this came up. But the amount didn’t matter. I realized, as I saw my little baby’s golden eyes when I picked him up, that I’d do whatever I possibly could for him. Most happily, I paid the amount.
But before I left, I asked my vet if it was mainly only neutered cats that got UTI, and males specifically? What brings it on? She told me 2 primary things:
- The most common potential cause is a poor-quality, all-dry diet. I already knew that dry food contains 10%-12% the amount of water a wet diet does, and that a cat can’t make up for the fluid by drinking water from a dish. In the wild, they get 70%-75% of their fluid intake from their all-meat diet, and aren’t accustomed to seeking water purely for drinking. A dry diet invites crystals and UTI-like ailments; and the poorer quality the dry food is, the more apt the cat is to developing UTI off and on for the entirety of their life. Vets and others had told me more than once to put my cat on a dry-food diet, as it was better for their teeth and better, allegedly, for weight management. Panda was already on a high-fiber diet to lose a pound or two. My vet recommended a UTI-based partially or completely wet diet.
- The second potential cause is a sudden stressful event. Now, last week, we had new neighbors move in next door. They have two mid-sized dogs. I took Panda out for his regular walk, but one of the neighbors’s dogs came into our yard. Our cocker spaniel completely freaked out and managed to jump so high, that she freed her leash from her pole. I didn’t know what was going on at first. She ran past me; Panda backed up, his flight instinct kicking in. I had to stop the dog, of course, so I grabbed her leash, but she was surprisingly strong and kept yanking me. In this chaos, Panda got free of his body harness and made a dash for the front door. Our cocker spaniel, once she couldn’t overpower me, ran up the porch after Panda. Of course my kitty went all Halloween spitting and arching and hissing. The entire event was so stressful for him, that he didn’t want to go outside for 2 days.
Now I can’t prove it, but after the vet told me stress has correlated, with other cats, to be a contributing cause of their UTI, I became convinced that our new neighbors’s dog incident was partially to blame. In all honesty, thinking about it made me rather angry. But it’s not right for me to feel thusly, and I had to check myself.
Least to say, I’ll be at least 50% changing Panda’s diet to a special, high-quality UTI wet food. His dry food, if I keep it, I will continue to be of the high-quality, gluten and grain free brand that I currently purchase.
Today was an eye-opener to me just how much I love and value my cat. If I have the money, and he’s ill, I’ll spend it to help him without a second thought. There are few things in life so precious for reasons known and unknown and my cat is one of those to me. God brought Panda to me to be a massive blessing in a small-sized package. In return for all the love and affection he shows me, I will always do my best to ensure his life is smooth, stress-free, peaceful, and tranquil.
But to all the people out there that let their pets run free, please consider how your pets may be affecting other peoples’ pets. It seems so harmless to let a dog, for instance, run free; and so cruel to lock a dog up. I’m against keeping any pet confined in a small space. That’s abusive. What I am asking is for people with dogs that like to roam neighborhoods and other peoples’ yards, please consider putting up large-enough fences to keep your dogs out of other peoples’ yards. Things could have gone far worse for my cat and the cocker spaniel. I hope you all will consider this.