On Monday of this week, I took Hammett in for urinalysis and an ultrasound. I have now and then seen him get in the litter box, strain, and leave without producing anything, but I wasn’t sure whether he was trying to pee or to poop.
Several days ago, however, I saw him squat for quite some time over his litter box, ultimately leaving behind a very small amount of pee, so that probably answers that question.
Straining to urinate can indicate that a cat has Feline Urologic Syndrome, or a blockage or kidney stone that can result in a swift, painful death.
I was prepared for Hammett to be distraught for 12 hours after he got home from the vet, like the time before, but he was perfectly fine. He went behind the bathroom sink for a token three seconds, lest anyone forget he is highly sensitive, and then he went on about his business.
When I spoke to Dr. Press about the test results, he said Hammett did not have a blockage (per the ultrasound), but that he did have blood in his urine, consistent with chronic FUS. There is no direct treatment for FUS, which is an inflammation, but a standard way of preventing occurrences is to feed the cat wet food, which is mostly water, and so helps keep the cat’s urinary system healthy.
Unaddressed FUS can lead to the aforementioned blockage or stone. If you ever do see your cat going to the litter box repeatedly but not producing anything, that is potentially a life-threatening emergency, and you should call your vet right away.
Male cats are more prone to FUS because the pee has to travel farther to get out. I’m afraid I may have caused this myself by making Hammett eat dry food, which Thelonious ate all her life, enjoying vigorous good health for most of her 19 years.
It’s cheaper than wet food, uses less packaging and can be put out just once a day; you can go away for a weekend, leaving out plenty of food and fresh water, without anxiety. I also think it decreases dental problems, though Dr. Press doesn’t think so.
Hammett, you won’t be surprised to hear, does not touch wet food, including tuna. He’s not even that crazy about dry food. He eats very sparingly, rarely with enthusiasm, and only once or twice has he finished all of the food in his bowl in the course of 24 hours, even though it’s less than a cat of his weight is supposed to eat.
Speaking of which, my boy is up to eleven pounds! How does he continue to put on weight while barely eating? And why can’t I do that?
I went online to find out how to achieve the switch to wet food and learned that you should start by implementing scheduled mealtimes instead of leaving food out all the time. The idea is not to starve your cat into submission, but to have him be hungry when he eats (which is more the way of things in the wild, anyway), so that he might be more inclined to try a new thing.
Once you get your cat on an eating schedule, you may have to slightly decrease the amount of food offered temporarily, in order to encourage the transition to the healthier diet.
You start by putting out food for 20, 30 or 60 minutes, depending on whose advice you’re taking, and then taking it away. Repeat every 12 hours. I’m leaving it out for 60 minutes, because Hammett really is a nibbler.
During this process, you must make sure your cat is getting a minimal number of calories each day, and not going without any food at all for longer than 18 hours.
Yesterday, the first full day of the transition period, I put dry food out in the morning, and he ate only a bite or two. In the evening, he ate maybe one-twelfth of a cup of dry food: not very much, though he seemed perfectly cheery and energetic. I probably have been giving him too much food all along, judging from the fact that he never finishes it.
I collected a lot of stuff from the Internet and pasted it into a document that I am reading and rereading for encouragement, but I also called Dr. Gordon (Dr. Press was not available) to make sure I am not going to starve Hammett to death while switching him to scheduled mealtimes. Dr. Gordon said not to worry, that he will eat when he’s hungry.
Once he’s eating with gusto just twice a day, I’ll try a variety of canned foods. It doesn’t have to be high-quality food. If I can get him to eat canned food, I can switch him to a better one later, though because of the recent cat food recalls, I’m going to stick with what they have at Rainbow and Whole Foods for starters, and will only shop at Safeway if he absolutely won’t eat any of the former.