Fast-forward to January of 2006…
We had retired for the night and both of us were in bed reading when Ortoloni jumped up beside me, but instead of settling down for the night he was “fussing” with his private parts. He was licking that area so much I finally sat up to take a look and found something protruding from his penis. Using a tissue I was able to grab hold and pull it out. (With never a peep out of my boy.) As I was familiar with FUS (Feline Urinary Syndrome) I suspected it was a stone he was trying to pass. So I put it in a zip-lock baggie and made an appointment with our Vet the next day.
I took the baggie with us to show the doctor. “You pulled this out?” “Yes,” I answered. He just shook his head and smiled. Long story short, they kept him overnight to perform fluid therapy and take x-rays of his bladder. Diagnotic tests were run on his urine which showed he did have FUS and was forming struvite stones. These stones form due to a high saturation of the urine with crystals, which will be deposited in the bladder or kidneys. Ortoloni was put on a special diet for cats with bladder issues – in this case, Hill’s Prescription Diet C/D dry and wet food.
One of the reasons domestic cats develop stones is a lack of fluids. I grew up with a male cat (another ginger named Puff) who had the same problem. We were told to salt his food in an effort to get him to drink more water which would help “flush” out the crystals. (This did not work with Ortoloni.)
It’s not unusual for a domestic cat to under-consume water as they are descended from North African desert cats such as the African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica) who had to rely on their prey for all the hydration they could obtain, since water sources were scarce.
Ortoloni seemed to do well on his new diet. All our cats had their separate bowls in specific places. They were pretty good about waiting until one cat walked away from his food before going over and polishing off the meal. Once or twice a year, Ortoloni would become constipated which I assumed was because he still refused to drink water. Trying to pass the stool would exhaust him to the point where he’d collapse, panting. Working as a team, he’d allow me to grab the hardened piece of stool and pull it out (using plastic gloves, of course) – knowing relief was soon to follow.
Two years later, he was back at the Vet. Overnight fluid therapy, x-rays, and diagnostics. This time the results also showed subnormal T4 values which the doctor said was tied to the FUS and his age (11 years). No change to his “prescription” diet was made but when I got him back home I did some research on my own. I discovered that acid can help dissolve crystals. (I had a urinary infection once and cured it by drinking cranberry juice.)
So every morning, as his “first course”, Ortoloni would receive a small syringe of freshly-squeezed organic juice – administered orally by his Mom.