When easy is oh so hard. . .

A blocked cat can be both my favourite emergency, and my least favourite.

What is a blocked cat? A cat that can’t pee. Usually a male, because they have long narrowed urethra. Something gets clogged up in there for some reason, and the pee can’t get out. Doesn’t take too long for the bladder to get full, and painful. Left too long, the cat will become very ill as the kidneys shut down and things go all out of whack, and then he dies. That might sound dramatic, but it is a very serious emergency. Peeing is kind of essential to life.

So why do I love blocked cats? It is one of the easiest emergencies to assess and diagnose. Unless the cat is morbidly obese, a blocked bladder is impossible to miss. It’s huge and firm. It’s also a straight forward solution: UNBLOCK. Often easier said than done, it’s true, but it is straight forward. Get a urinary catheter up the penis and into the bladder, and that cat will be feeling leagues better.

Typically, with a blocked cat, this is what happens: sedation (not many cats put up with urinary catheterization without a fight), blood work (checking kidney values, electrolyte abnormalities…), IV fluids (correct electrolyte abnormalities, and get lots of urine produced once they’re unblocked to flush things out), the actual unblocking and placing of an indwelling urinary catheter, an x-ray (check for stones, catheter placement),  urinalysis (find out what’s in the urine so you know best how to try to treat and prevent reoccurrence), and some time in hospital. Typically we leave the urinary catheter in for at least 48 hours, and then when we pull it we want to make sure the cat can pee well without it before we send them home. There may be repeated blood work, depending on how bad it was initially. There will definitely be medications. And there’s always the risk of complications – the worst case scenario being death, but short of that some cats will block again when we pull the catheter and we have to replace it and start the waiting game again. My worst case was in hospital over 7 days before he got the OK to go home.

So why do I hate them? You might imagine that all of that adds up. It does. At the hospital I work at, you’re average blocked cat will run a bill of around $1000. Unfortunately a lot of these cats come in as emergencies, so on top of all that work there are emergency fees to contend with. If the cat comes in as an appointment I may quote $750-$1500. Emergencies I quote $1000-1500. My worst case ended up at about $1800 by the time he went home.

You may be thinking “Well, Dr. Maggie, what do you care how expensive it is? How does that affect you?” and you’re right, I’m not really affected by how expensive it is (except that I have 4 male cats of my own, so I might be one day. . .). However, there are few things more frustrating in my job than euthanizing a blocked cat because the owners can’t afford to treat it. Yes, it is always frustrating to be euthanizing over financial reasons – but to be faced with a young (typical age being between 2 and 7 years old), otherwise healthy, cat with a problem you know exactly how to fix makes the “financial reasons” euthanasia that much more aggravating.

I hate having to go into an exam room, tell the owners what is wrong with their cat and how much it will cost them if things go well, and how much it could cost if it doesn’t, is one of my least favourite things to do. For some people it’s not a big deal, they understand it is what it is. For some people, it’s a hard decision to have to make but an easy one at the same time because they just do not have the money. In between I get the people who can maybe handle the low-end of the quote and are so torn about whether or not to risk a bill they may not be able to handle… and they break my heart. Sometimes we do try to do what we can, but cutting corners might not do the cat any favours… there’s a risk involved with skipping any part of the work up or procedure. Try passing a catheter without sedation; risk injury to staff members as the cat throws a fit. Skip the blood work; miss a life threatening electrolyte abnormality.  No IV fluids; stressed cat doesn’t drink in hospital and barely produces enough urine to assess if the problem is clearing up. No x-ray; miss finding out if there are any large stones in the bladder. Take the catheter out to soon and send the cat home prematurely? Then start all over again in a couple of days when the cat reblocks.

So how do you prevent this if you have male cats? The big thing is water. Feed some canned food to up the moisture content in his diet. Try running water if your cat isn’t interested in still water. A cat that drinks a lot will have dilute urine that is less likely to cause him problems. Also, pay attention to your cat. Any signs of urinary tract irritation or infection get it checked out. Exam, urinalysis, and maybe some antibiotics or prescription food and you’re looking at a bill just over $100. Ignore his frequent trips to the litter box or “accidents” around the house, and end up with a bill 10 times that. And definitely don’t ignore it if he’s going to the box and nothing is coming out – once they block they can be dead within 24 hours.

So, blocked cats: very satisfying and extremely frustrating. It’s a love hate thing.

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About dottiemaggie

A veterinarian living and working in St John's, Newfoundland. I love my job, and I love my home. Professionally I am passionate about critical care and client education. Away from work I am passionate about enjoying life, spending time with friends, enjoying hobbies of all sorts, and exploring this wonderful province I call home.
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83 Responses to When easy is oh so hard. . .

  1. Susan says:

    One of my cats got blocked so frequently that the vet reworked the plumbing so that the cat peed out his rear. As a result the cat would walk into his kitty litter box and pee out the back, onto the floor.

  2. Candice says:

    I can’t imagine anything in the world more depressing than having to put down your cat because you can’t afford to take care of it. Fack.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      It’s pretty much the most depressing thing ever. I hope I’m never, ever in that position…. I once euthanised a young, otherwise healthy dog with a broken leg that had to go to PEI for surgery, and that’s my biggest fear. I could not afford to get Ollie fixed if he broke his leg and had to go to PEI for surgery 😦

  3. Friggin Loon says:

    OK Doc, you can’t get blocked humans can you? I certainly hope not, because if I had a blocked human issue and it was going to cost my family $1,000 I too would be put down 😦

  4. K says:

    Hi,

    I’m glad some of you have the money and the resources to fix a FLUTD cat multiple times and are hopeful that it would never by you to have to choose between the $1800 vet bill and the money to pay your bills and provide for your family in case of a human emergency. I however, DID NOT have the money to fix a my cat who blocked for the second time in 2 months. We had to euthanize him yesterday, because we could not afford $1800 every 2 months or so to treat a blockage. I hope all of you are happy, because I loved my cat, and you have made me feel worse than what I already do about having to let him go over something that was treatable, but the bill was too expensive.

    It’s more than frustrating, it’s heartbreaking that pet care is so astronomically priced that pets have to be put down, because owners can’t afford to treat them. My husband and I make a good living in our 2 income household, but we can’t spend all of our money on pet emergencies and have nothing to keep a roof over our and our child’s head, food on the table, clothes on our backs, gas in our cars to go to work. Maybe those of you who have money that can afford to fix FLUTD cats every 2 months start a charity to help those of us who aren’t rich fix our cats, so we don’t have to experience the heartbreak that some of you have so freely say you’d prevent by shelling out the funds to fix your cats.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      I’m very sorry you had to go through that, and I apologize if my post made you feel worse. That certainly was never my intention. I am very aware that for many people the cost of emergency medical care often leaves them with little choice but to euthanize a beloved pet. It sounds as if your case was a particularly difficult one, as it is not typical for a cat to block again within 2 months. I know that doesn’t make it any less frustrating for you, but I’m sure there are not many of us who could afford a cat who blocked again so soon. I certainly couldn’t, and it is one of my biggest fears that something may happen one day to one of my pets that may be fixable but completely beyond my means. Again, I’m very sorry you had to go through that.

    • Jm says:

      I’m in the same situation and was looking for someone who has experienced this. My male cat this is his second blockage and I’m not sure if I can afford the vet bill that will be quoted to me in the morning. He’s 7 and this has been a problem over the years (blood in his urine) and now this. My family suggest euthinzing him.. But I don’t have the heart to do it.

      • dottiemaggie says:

        I’m sorry to hear you are in this situation, it is never an easy decision to make.
        I would recommend having an honest discussion with your vet about how much you can afford, and hopefully they will be realistic with you about your options.

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  6. Corrina says:

    3 months ago, my one year old cat had gotten crystals and blocked up. It happened again on wednesday. We took him to the emergency vets, he stayed there three days, and came home on Friday. We just had to take him back today again (sunday) because he blocked again, and now blood in his urine.

    Im very terrified that he is going to come back and block up again. I know there is surgery you can do, but how affective is it? I had a boss that had to do the surgery twice because it didn’t work the first time.

    I love my cat so much! It breaks my heart to think about putting him down, but I can’t afford to do the surgery and put him threw it if I don’t know if it will even work.

    What is your opinion on this and what would you do? He is only 1.5 years old.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      Hello,
      Sorry for not replying. My personal life has kept me from keeping up with this blog for a while now.
      I am sorry to hear you had so much trouble with your little man 😦 I hope things worked out. I have known a few cats who did need a surgery after getting blocked too many times, and they have done well with the surgery. I’m not sure if it it the same surgery you are thinking of, as I’m not sure about the circumstances that would make it necessary to repeat the surgery….

      • Debbie Brilliant says:

        My cat was 18 years-old when we brought him in with a blocked bladder. We found him laying in his own urine and immediately brought him to the vet. After our vet gave us the life or death option, at 18, we chose to have him euthanized. The vet was very understanding but at the same time, after our decision was made and with tears in our eyes, she still tried to subtly convince us otherwise. The cat lived 18 happy years!!! It was time to say good-bye!!! It was a heart wrenching decision and I believe the vet should not have tried to convince us otherwise.

      • dottiemaggie says:

        I’m sorry you had that negative experience. It is never an easy decision to make, and we should never make owners feel guilty about the choice they make. At 18 years, your cat had had a long life and it sounds as if you loved her very much.

  7. xnikkibobikkix says:

    My cat is in the vet right now with this third blockage! He had two of them back to back about 3 years ago (he is 6 now) but I had been diligent on his food and water intake. I never gave him a chance to stop peeing as he was on a wet food diet and I added extra water into his food. This had clearly worked well for 3 years.. however, just today I noticed the symptoms of a blockage and took him into the vet right away. He was indeed blocked again. We are going through all the procedures to remedy this, and opted for an additional x-ray to see if there were any kidney stones or other obstructions causing this. I was certain this would be the case as I had not changed his diet or anything. He did not have any additional stones (thankfully, would have been a whole other surgery if this was the case). Turns out that although the water I ensured he was getting was helping him pass these crystals constantly, they were still there and it was just a waiting game until it was going to happen again. He needs to be on a prescription diet – this is a necessity! He will now be prescribed Hills C/D canned food, it is made to actually break down and dissolve the crystals. Chances are if your cat has a blockage once, it will reoccur because of these crystals. Out last vet did not tell us this.. we were told to focus on fluid intake mainly. I wish we had known about this food earlier, it is expensive but definitely worth it to not have to dish out an emergency 1300$ when your cat does get blocked up.. and will prevent the horrible traumatic situation of kitty going through it time and time again.

    So just a heads up that if your cat keeps getting blocked, make sure you are on the proper food! The fact that this Hills stuff dissolves crystals is the key. You can try and avoid it by making sure kitty is drinking and peeing, but I wouldn’t trust that alone. Also, since his first 2 blockages the odd time he will still urinate on the floor. I thought it was behavioral, but makes sense now that I know that he was still passing crystals but smaller in size. He was still irritated sometimes while peeing, hence peeing outside of the litter box here and there.. yet I kept him hydrated enough that he never got a chance to fully block up… until now 😦

    He is on the road to recovery right now though 🙂 Miss him already and can’t wait until he is home. This is going to be a long and quiet few nights without him.

  8. dakota says:

    My cat was partially blocked last week. I got the same rediculous 1500-2000 quote many of you have. I took him home and got in to see this smaller vet that is super affordable. He did bloodwork, cathed him, fluids, kept him overnight, did a urinalasis and it cost me almost 300. Yea, 300. So far he’s doing ok. There is no way this procedure should cost more than 1000 at the most.He saved my cat’s life and didn’t cost me a fortune.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      I’m glad you were able to find such an affordable solution, but I have to wonder how that vet can manage to offer such services at such low costs. The reality is, private practices are small businesses and have overhead costs to cover. It’s not going to be feasible for many clinics to stay afloat if they only charged $300 for those procedures.

      • rachel says:

        Talk about feasibility: I’m sorry but i imagine it’s much more feasible for a vet to do this procedure for $300 than it is for a patient to pay $1500 on such an oh-so-easy run of the mill problem. It sickens me what people are asked to fork over or else! And it’s all based on taking advantage of a situation. Yes, how much can we dig into the pockets of vulnerable pet owners who would do anything for their pets during a crisis. It’s worse than our human health care system and it’s gross.

      • dottiemaggie says:

        I’m sorry you feel that way. My clinic is a business, and as such it has overhead costs like any other business. It is in fact not at all feasible for me to treat a blocked cat for $300 – there are materials used, staff to be paid, a building to maintain. While I do not doubt that there are, sadly, individuals out there who will take advantage of these situations and over charge, that is the exception to the rule. In general, veterinarians actually undercharge. I do appreciate that it is expensive, but you get what you pay for. A vet who treats this emergency for $300 is using substandard medicine.

  9. christina says:

    I just received a $3500 quote from the vet for my kitty. I had them catheter him to clear the blockage under anesthesia, and will be bringing him to our regular vet in the morning. So far he is eating, drinking, and urinating. I still paid $750 just for the procedure, but we will watch him overnight and hopefully the regular vet won’t be so expensive. We still dont know what caused the blockage, but hopefully it will not return. We will have our regular vet test the blood and urine samples. Im hoping the price was so high because it was an emergency vet. He’s only 2 years old so I hate to put him down but we definitely cannot afford thousands of dollars. My daughter will be heartbroken if this treatment fails!

    • dottiemaggie says:

      emergency vets are sometimes more expensive, because they sometimes have higher overhead costs to compensate for. Basically, you get what you pay for – higher service facilities will have higher costs.
      I hope you regular vet was able to help and your kitty is doing okay 😦

      • leslie carter says:

        My husband and I had to put our cat down on Thursday. He was only 4 years old and was blocked. We spent over 2,000 on only 4 days. He blocked a second time and this time his bladder was worse and he was in a ton of pain. You left out how hard and rough it Is on these cats and their bodies. My cat was in a ton of pain and we could not have him in agony. The doctor said if he had gone one more day like that his bladder would have exploded. In my opinion the only thing worse than putting him down due to him being in such pain, was him passing away from his bladder exploding. I would never ever put him through that. He was like a child. He was in pain, not eating, hiding all day. I feel so sad about what we had to do, but we know he is no longer in pain. He had a better life than most kids do. But, I understand you being frustrated over people not being able to afford it, but we paid a hell of a lot of money and he still never got better. He had antibiotics and it never got better. It’s so sad that it happens out of no where. Also, crystals were never found in his system, so what could have been blocking him?? It was something else internally wrong.

      • dottiemaggie says:

        I’m sorry you went through that 😦 Sounds like your cat had a particularly difficult case – if they weren’t able to determine what caused the blockage, that makes it difficult to successfully treat him 😦 That is certainly the exception to the rule, though.
        Yes, being blocked is very painful – one of the many reasons we treat it as a true emergency.

  10. JerrySm says:

    My cat was blocked in June. My vet doesn’t do the procedure so I was forced to an emergency center. Got a quote of $3500. I did the half measures of taking him home early. Cost me $900. He reblocked. Went to another emergency place, got a quote of $4200. I had admitted him just for the night for $2200 while I decided what to do. Next morning I got a report that his urethra was split. I made the painful decision to euthanize. I had already spent $3100 and couldn’t go higher. I had used my vet for more than 10 years with my older cat. Who knew that I should check if he had the ability to perform this procedure. I will be finding a new vet and make sure he has the ability to do this and other procedures, so I am not forced to go to an emergency center.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      I’m so sorry you had that experience 😦 Unfortunately is is common to not realize your regular clinic is not able to meet all your needs only in a time of emergency. I know when I was a student my cat got suddenly ill late at night, and only then did I realize I had no idea who to call when my clinic was closed. So now I always recommend to people to get acquainted with what to do in an emergency situation just in case.

  11. John Smith says:

    1300$…….that was the amount we were quoted. And the doctor told us that there was a chance it would reblock. As a family of 3, with one being a 3 yr old, with 1 income, 1300$ is not feasible nor reasonable without a guarantee that the problem would be fixed. Our cat was 7 years old and was a beautiful long hair cat. We made the tough decision to euthanize him today…..but kudos to those that can afford this expensive surgery.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      That is very sad 😦 And a common story. $1300 is a realistic quote, and I personally think we don’t do any favours by quoting low and not being honest about the possibility of reoccurence. It isn’t an easy decision for anyone, for sure… you have to do what is best for your family, even if it is hard.

  12. gena says:

    Wonderful article!

  13. Lee says:

    Just recently had to put down our beloved cat, even more loved by our young 9yr old. He had a blockage also.
    Now I had the money to do the surgery (quoted about $1400) however the Veterinarian on duty was very forthcoming about the problem re-occurring and that it could be 2 weeks, 1 month or six months down the line but it will come back.
    After reading several sites I am finding that not every cat does get blocked again, the vet also did not try any relief methods that I have read, such as massaging the penis etc. I feel terrible now that I may have made a mistake, as I was under the “impression” that this surgery wasn’t a fix and did not want our loved pet to suffer this again and again.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      I’m so sorry you had to go through this 😦 Whatever the outcome, it is never a fun situation.

      Unfortunately, as veterinarians, we are only human and our opinions will get coloured by our experiences. Certainly, there is a risk of re-occurrence, and it is hard to predict. It is very likely that the veterinarian you saw has had a few experiences where the cat returned after treatment, and perhaps the clients were upset that they were going through this again and so now they are sure to really prepare people for the possibility. Feline lower urinary tract disease has a lot of potential underlying issues that have to be dealt with to prevent future issues, and it can be a long term struggle.

      I hope you are never faced with this decision again, but at least now you will be armed with more information.

  14. owen says:

    I have a blocked cat now. The vet charged me two grand and wants to charge me two grand more for a horrible procedure in which the cat will be prone to UTI infections, incontinence and God knows what else. I asked to have the cat euthanized and they refused. I am sick of greedy vets who pretend to love animals but only love money and then would rather have the animal die in agony than get euthanized.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      I’m sorry you have had a negative experience. I can’t comment on your case, because I do not know the details, but I can assure you the majority of veterinarians are not in it for the money and do love the animals. In any profession you will find individuals who may not have the best motives, and the best thing you can do if you feel your vet is not on the same page as you would be to get a second opinion, if you can.

  15. Rosalinda Rodrigues says:

    Our 6 year old male Yoda was blocked on Wednesday and had his bladder flushed given a heavy sour of antibiotics and sent home. The very said he had only about 2 hours to live before the procedure. We are feeding him the prescription food and he is getting up on his own and is peeing frequently and drinking from a fountain constantly. How much food should I be force feeding him as he is not wanting to eat yet?

    • dottiemaggie says:

      I’m sorry I was not able to reply to this sooner – I hope Yoda is feeling better. This blog was never intended for immediate responses, and I hope you were able to get a hold of your vet to get an answer to your question.

  16. Laura says:

    Just left the Emergency vet with almost the exact breakdown you provided. Our cat Maui will be spending a few days at the hospital. Wish I read this article while I sitting @ the vet and awaiting care as I would feel like I had more knowledge. It is hard to understand what is going on when your panicked that your pet is in pain. I am grateful that I feel like our vet did indeed explain everything to us it was just hard to comprehend at the time and I am now confident that the quote and information provided was fair. Thanks for writing this!

    • dottiemaggie says:

      You are welcome, and thank you for your comment!
      I do appreciate it can be hard to take in all the information when you’re pet is in distress. Don’t ever be afraid to go back to your vet once the initial panic is over and ask to go through things again – we want you to understand what is happening, as it gives your pet the best chance at getting through the problem and living a healthy life. 🙂

  17. Susan says:

    I worked at a vet.. Vets make LOTS of money… The difference with my vet was that he allowed people to make payments…. And he had a shelf full of files of people who owed money that he never called on. When my vet told my mom that he could save our dog but it would cost $1500, my mom had no other choice but to decline because she simply couldn’t afford it. Dr. Kim reduced the bill by half and our dog survived. Why can’t other vets be so kind? He had the most reasonable prices of any vet yet he put his sons through college, went on many vacations… and did I mention all the lives he saved? The back office walls had thank you cards overlapping each other… During the holidays his back tables were full of presents and home made foods…. I worked for him, myself..
    And today, the machine at the vet didn’t accept the atm card so I had to skip on my dog’s pain meds. Doesn’t matter that the pain meds were more important than the urinalysis. Didn’t matter that the urinalysis hadn’t been picked up yet bc I was told that there was no way I could cancel the urinalysis after it’s already been put into the system .. for almost 15 minutes…. Didn’t matter that they gave vaccs that weren’t due until the end of the month…. Otherwise, even without the card, I would’ve been able to afford everything, including the pain meds for my 15 yr old.

    This is the truth that I know….

    • Susan says:

      I moved out of state so I am no longer able to take my dogs to Dr.Kim. Also, Dr. Kim had taken a puppy away from the owners (long story but the dog had been grossly neglected and was on the verge of death.) My mom found out about this puppy and offered to foster. For 13 yrs before moving out of state, Dr. Kim covered all of that dogs vet bills, her prescription dog food… everything. Dr. Kim puts all other vets to shame. He became a vet because he cared about animals… not money.

      • Susan says:

        I also feel the need to add that my vet deserves the money he earns.. He deserves that and so much more because he has saved the lives of those I love. But, my vet doesn’t just do what’s on the books.. he takes special care in the animals he treats. He would take pets home with him so he could watch them closely. Several times, he advised me to crawl into the cage with a big dog so I could cradle him as he came out of anesthesia bc they tend to fight it and sometimes bang around, sometimes hitting their heads. For the small ones, he advised us to hold them in our arms outside of the cage bc they also have a hard time coming out of anesthesia. There was no computer in the office… no cool art work, none of the other unnecessary crap. No doubt, it cost a lot to run a vet. And when you pay for your pet to have a surgery; You’re not only paying for the vet but the vet techs too. They monitor your pet’s vitals every moment, regulating the oxygen and anesthesia, dropping oil in to the eyes so they don’t dry out… so many things that are well worth the $10/hr they ‘re getting paid. You may think it’s outrageous to pay a $40 office exam when the vet only spends 5 minutes with your pet but if they’re anything like my former vet, they’re also spending time doing research. Education never ends. But, don’t you dare charge me for that $40 exam if all i asked was for you to take a peek inside an ear that I just paid $90 the week before to have something cleaned out of that same ear because Dr. Kim wouldn’t have charged for the 2 min it took him to do the same thing… even if a different doctor had performed the initial ear cleaning. I’m not saying that he was a saint. He will charge new customers for every little procedure he performs. But if you’re on a first name basis with him bc you have several pets that he sees regularly, he doesn’t treat you like a new customer. He remembers your name… Not because he has a great memory but because he looks at your file when the appointment is made and then again before he enters the exam room to see both you and your pet. He also participates in the low cost vac and low cost spay programs. He accepts the vouchers as payment for people who catch feral cats and brings them in for spay/neutering. He will tell you if you can buy the food at a discounted price by buying in bulk from an online provider. I like to think that most vets do so because they love animals but I think when vets work for big establishments they lose the luxuries that small practices have that allow them to consider the human lives that are affected rather than the bottom line.

      • dottiemaggie says:

        Thank you for your comments, Susan. It sounds like you have been fortunate to know and work with a very kind hearted vet. I can tell you that most of the vets I know are very similar to Dr. Kim – we are in it for the love of the animals and for clients we know we will do our best to keep things within their budget, and not necessarily charge for every visit. It is regular practice at my practice not to charge an office visit for repeat visits related to an ongoing problem, which is something I very much agree with. We do need to pay our staff, and ourselves, and cover the costs of the building and supplies, but we are not mercenaries. I do agree, in big establishments sometimes they don’t have the ability to stray from the company line as much.. which is why I prefer to work for a small private practice, rather than one that is part of a larger company. 🙂

  18. Karen says:

    So, we have a 4 year old Siamese named Merlin, my lovely boy that got me through losing my parents and my other cat in a five month period.

    Merlin had a particularly nasty blockage in March, and here we are, August, and he’s blocking again. Thankfully we caught it early enough that we’re trying a dietary change, but I wanted to ask…

    Is there any link to blocked cats and cancer? Should we be looking at physiology more closely since he blocked “so soon” after. Our ER vet that took care of him said the vast majority of cats are kept from blocking with diet alone, but said there was a small 5-10% of blocked cats that block again within the first six months and that would be indicative of what will be a chronic problem.

    Appreciate the help.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      Hi Karen,
      Sorry I wasn’t able to reply sooner. In a 4 year old cat I wouldn’t suspect any link to cancer. I would agree with what your ER vet said, diet alone works for most cats. Some cats – whether their urethra is particularly narrow, or they are particularly prone to cystitis – diet will not work, and other long term options need to be considered. Surgery can be done to essentially turn a boy into a girl, which is basically the most drastic measure you can take. Medical therapy to prevent inflammation can also be tried. After 2 incidents so closely together, I would be very strict with his diet and be discussing other medical therapies.

      Good luck with your boy. I think Merlin is a great name for a Siamese 🙂

  19. Dani Tubman says:

    Thank you for your blog, it was very helpful. I wish I had recently brought our cat in sooner…he’s at the emergency now but thankfully he will survive. Do you think grain free kibble causes blockage?

  20. Tammie says:

    I had a miniature schauzer that I just had uthinized. He was 13 1/2 yrs. Of age and had surgery for the removal of bladder crystals about 3 yrs. Ago. Recently, he was exrayed for crystals again. A couple of days after the vets visit, he was straining to urinate and just drops of blood would come out sometimes. I know he was in terrible pain and I didn’t want to see him like that anymore. The more research I do on line, I feel like I killed my baby for something that might have been corrected after his antibiotics and new diet. I could have prolonged his life another 6 to 12 months. I feel horrible and miss him so much. Was I wrong in doing this? I cry and cry because I feel like I rushed into the uethization. Also, We took him to an emergency vet and they never asked if we wanted them to check him out, which could have changed our minds.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      Tammie, I am sure you did what was best for your dog and your family. What was going on with your elderly dog and what happens in young cats should not be compared. There are many things that could have been playing a role in your dog’s situation. Please try not to blame yourself – 13 and a half years is quite a respectably long life for a miniature schnauzer!

  21. My little guy has been at the Vet since Wednesday afternoon. They cleared a hard mucus that was blocking him, not crystals? He has refused to eat or pee on his own and has had the catheter put back in. I have been doing so so much reading, trying to figure out where to go from here … Right now I’m so beside myself will fear that he is not going to get better, and reading all of the comments about having to have them put down is killing me. They drained his bladder once with a needle before the second catheter, and said that everything looked clean and healthy .. I just don’t know what to think! He is only 4 years old, and other than this, completely healthy. I have been looking into the grain free foods, feeding him wet food is going to be a huge transitions, as he dislikes wet food .. I’m just feeling so scared, would like some good news …

    • dottiemaggie says:

      Stephanie, I’m sorry you’ve been going through this. Some cats develop cystitis for no apparent reason – no bacteria, no crystals. There are options to try to prevent it from recurring, and I hope that your vet has gone over them with you.

      • Stephanie says:

        It has been a long several weeks. However, My boy is doing very very well! We finally got him transitioned onto the recommended wet food, which he has been thriving on for over a month now. He had a follow up appointment(for my peace of mind) this past weekend, and the Vet said all is looking very well! They didn’t go over any other options with us, besides the special diet, but that seems to be doing the trick thus far 🙂 He is much happier, which makes me much happier. We will continue to keep an eye on things all the same though, better safe than sorry!

  22. doug says:

    I think all these emergency vets charge way to much, I had a cat with a blockage and they wanted close to 2000 for the treatment. they ultimately charged me 700 just to put a needle in the cats belly and drain the urine, to buy me time to get to another vet. and you cant tell me the cost of sticking a needle through the belly should have been 700, it took 10 minutes. this vet was only out for the money and I will never go back there, they also made me pay in advance before they did anything. the other vet was also an emergency vet and charge me 400 to do the catheter. much better and friendlier

    • dottiemaggie says:

      Like any business, some veterinary clinics will give you a different experience than others. Sounds like you had a much more positive experience at the second place, and hopefully you won’t have to return to the practice you did no have a good experience with.

  23. Jenn says:

    For lesliecarter if there were no crystals or stones the reasons for blockage were most likely due to cystitis and the cat can block just the spasms can cause a blockage or the red blood cells or blood. It shouldn’t be costing this much!!!!

    I just had a blocked male for the first time. Hes a stray I’m taking care of. Luckily the er vet had a procedure to unblock cost 267. That was just a basic unblocking. The vet will charge u for the hospitalization and fluids and can take shortcuts and if that’s what’s needed to save it’s life so be it. My vet took shortcuts without asking me. Bloodwork isn’t always necessary though a urinalysis and x rays are. Fluids and extra catheter if he reblocks is not expensive. 48?? My cat reblocked under their care and they unblocked him with a cheap catheter and no anesthesia without telling me. I took him home later and he was sort of ok. Prazosin is a good med so is prednisone both will help with relaxing the urethra and inflammation.

    My next step was surgery but that’s if he blocked again. We’re not sure if he has crystals stones or if they passed. I thought I was doing surgery and he reblocked but when I took him to a new vet since Mine doesn’t take carecredit he wasn’t blocked. The vet tried to charge me for an x ray and ripped me off. Another 300. So far I had spent 1100 which wasn’t bad and there is carecredit. Not everyone has to spend 1000 or 3500. You can cut corners and if it means Saving the cats life then do it. I was ready to do surgery and get it over with but there are options. People are getting duped ripped off and having to euthanize because they don’t know any better and vets are ripping them off. If people were educated abt their options this wouldn’t be happening.

    If the cat reblockd it doesn’t have to cost this much again and don’t listen to vets who say it will happen again. They don’t know!!! Why would u euthanize a cat based on that? Sorry but that’s a poor decision on your part. Do more research into the condition because that was not ok to do.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      Every situation, every case, is going to be unique. There are often options to “cut corners”, but that doesn’t always work out well in every case. That is why there is the “gold standard” of care and what we SHOULD do and that is what a veterinarian will recommend. It gives the cat the best chance. And because every case is unique, we cannot pass judgement on those who make the decision to euthanise. It is a difficult choice, but sometimes it is the best choice given the situation.

  24. Jenn says:

    I have had to take my cat in twice for a blocked urinary tract and he did really well after both times (about 2 years ago). I switched his diet and gave him an awesome water fountain. However, somewhere along his life he injured his spine (he was a strictly indoor cat so I am not sure how) and was losing his ability to move his hind legs (X-rays showed healed crushed vertebrae). Recently he started showing behavioral changes (maybe related to this inability to move and jump up on things?) and then his urinary tract became blocked again. Due to the fragile nature of his back I was terrified that continued handling would injure him further and was also afraid that PU surgery would be difficult for him to recovery from. With that in mind, I opted for euthanasia at the young age of 9. Could his back injury have contributed to his urinary blockage or vice-versa? I would have paid anything to keep him alive and happy but I fear multiple, repeated procedures may have been too stressful for him…. maybe that is why some owners choose euthanasia over continue vet visits….

  25. melonie warren says:

    Hello. Today has been 3 painful days for me, my husband and son. Not to mention my depressed other cat. We lost our 5 year old Siamese Tiger mix named Alaska on Sunday. He became I’ll Sunday morning and by Sunday night we were at an emergency vet hospital. We were quoted $1500 for that night then he would need to be transported to another hospital that was open 24 hours and that would be another $2000, or $3,000 on top of the $1500. My husband is the only income in our home right now. I have had 3 miscarriages and melanoma cancer within 3years. My precious cat Alaska was my BEST FRIEND! He got me through all of my hard times and was truly my main comfort. He was a very rare breed. He was extremely loyal, and super needy and affectionate, just like me. We were a perfect fit. Due to lack of my income, having a 13 year old and a mortgage we had to make the very painful decision to put our precious Alaska to sleep. I must say I am hurt, feeling guilt and angry! I am not taking this well. I cry all the time. I cannot get a grip. Now to top it off my other 3 year old cat Gizmo is depressed. He cries out and just lays around. Him and Alaska were best friends. I’m so angry that someone with money gets to keep their animal when I had to lose mine. To me, this is a SERIOUS issue that needs way more awareness. I am so hurt and feel so lonely without my Alaska. I will probably never be the same. Animal care is far too expensive! I don’t care what the overhead is, no one should have to feel the pain my household is in right now 😢

    • dottiemaggie says:

      I am sorry to hear you went through these difficult times. It sounds like you were faced with a difficult decision, and I know it is hard to see now – but you did the best you could. You ended his suffering.

  26. Kandace Fuller says:

    My heart is breaking. I’ve tried to find relief in these posts but I’m just trying not to lose it. My male cat Pete was neutered last Monday (a week ago) and suddenly on Wednesday night I saw him trying to pee all over the house and he was crying and in pain. We rushed him to the Emergency vet and had his bladder drained. The next morning (Thursday) we took him to our regular vet where they inserted a catheter. The catheter then became blocked and another was reinserted, which then became blocked again. It is now Monday and they tried to put another catheter in this morning and it wouldn’t budge. They told me while he was sedated they could perform the operation to basically turn him into a female with a wide urethra. Luckily I applied for care credit and gave them the go ahead. A couple of hours later I get a phone call saying even AFTER the surgery they can’t get a catheter into his bladder, so the doctor went ahead and opened his bladder and found an immense amount of stones. He said he got out as much as he can but there may be blockage in a tube by his bladder that the doctor cannot get to. He said now we have to wait to see if he urinates on his own tomorrow. He has been a healthy cat (on top of which I’ve always fed a mixture of dry an wet organic food) so I’m so confused and heart broken. I can’t imagine loosing him (I lost my other male a year ago from a car hitting him) and I’m so terrified that I will have to put him down. Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      I am so sorry to hear this, Kandace – what a very unlucky and unfortunate situation for you and your poor cat 😦 That sounds a very uncommon scenario and a very difficult one to manage. I hope your cat did all right in the end – I would hope that once they found the stones that would make a huge difference for him. If he did recover and the type of stones was determined I am sure I don’t need to say how important it will be to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations in regards to diet and long term care to make sure he doesn’t have recurrences later in life.

  27. daryl says:

    doc, can i do it by myself the catheterization? i have a used catheter and i would like to perform. is it safe?

    • dottiemaggie says:

      I really wouldn’t recommend it – you can rupture the urethra, and a used catheter is not sterile and can introduce infection, plus it is not something that is ever recommended to do without sedation.

  28. One of my three cats was euthanized yesterday after he got blocked and his organs began shutting down. He showed no symptoms until 2 days before when he cried while walking but passed urine still. We thought he had hurt his left back leg and took him to the vet but his kidneys and heart were shutting down already. He was blocked for a very short amount of time and still died. He had no health problems or previous urinary tract issues. How does this kill a healthy, strong cat so quickly and why did his organs begin to shut down before the blockage?

    • dottiemaggie says:

      I’m very sorry to hear you lost your cat to this problem. Unfortunately, a urinary blockage can cause a very healthy cat to get very sick very quickly because the urinary system is super important. When there is a blockage it creates pressure on the kidneys and damages them, and the body reabsorbs things like potassium normally cleared from the body in the urine. Potassium levels in the blood get very high very quickly when a cat cannot pee, and that is very dangerous for the heart.

  29. I also wanted to add that my Salem was also my therapy cat, best friend and teddy bear, I was there when he was born. He got me through a horrible accident that left me in bed for over 6 months aND permanently disabled. He was constantly by my side, came when called and cuddled me every night for the last 9 years. I have his mother and son and two service dogs that are all very depressed. Salem was everyone’s friend, cat , dog he didn’t care. He even made friends with my 1 and a half year old 90 lbs service dog in training, who’s still quite awkward and doesn’t know his size yet. Salem taught him to be gentle to kitty’s, would head butt his legs and taught him to flop on the bed. I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do without my therapy cat Salem, he wasn’t just a pet he was a service animal. His mother and son are not service animals, we are all devastated. What would you recommend I do now, I will never find another therapy cat like Salem. Being disabled and unable to work I could not have afforded to treat him like these rich people anyway. I needed my service cat but a blockage caused his death very quickly, how do you get over that?

    • dottiemaggie says:

      It sounds like Salem was very important to you. I’m so sorry that you lost him so suddenly. I wish I had some words of wisdom for you to help get over the loss, but everyone deals with grief in their own way, and I am not a grief counselor. If you are struggling with this loss, I would recommend you reach out to groups such as the OVC Pet Loss Support Hotline (http://ovc.uoguelph.ca/petloss)

  30. Bee says:

    My 1 and 1/2 year cat has just been blocked. I took him to the vet and then straight on to the emergency clinic yesterday. I am 24, work at a cafe and couldnt afford the hospital stay for him, my quote was 2200. I had him unblocked and took him home with meds last night. I am beyond worried, he seems like he is in pain still and i cant afford this if it happens again.
    I cant stand the thought of putting him down but I honestly dont know where to go or what to do. The vet at the clinic I went to made me feel terrible for even thinking it, I told him I couldnt afford it if it was to keep happening. Where and how am i meant to find the money to keep my pet alive? I am disgusted at how expensive this is and how guilty they make you feel for not being able to afford care. Being logical is hard sometimes but I cant lose a roof over my head. My animal is suffering and in pain and I just want to take the pain away. Im praying that he gets better without the hospital care that sounds like it is much needed. I am doing everything I can.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      I’m so sorry you are having this stressful experience. I know it is a very difficult spot to be in – and I’m sorry the clinic you went to made you feel guilty. Sometimes people working in veterinary medicine forget what it is like to be in the client’s shoes. It is a very expensive emergency, because it is a very serious emergency – and the emergency clinic should remember that while as a pet owner you do care about your pet, you also have to be realistic about what you can afford.

      You took him to the vet in the first place, you didn’t let him suffer. Right there you took the most important step. It is our duty as medical professionals to present you with the BEST option, but then it is our duty as human beings to work within your limitations to provide the best option you can manage. Sometimes doing less does work, and I hope it works for your little man.

  31. Gerri says:

    I very recently had to make the decision after a week of emergency survives, to put our boy down, not because of financial reasons but because his blockage became a huge emergency mess! So my question is..
    His story: We had him catherized, on the same day my dad was/did pass. he pulled the catheritor out while in vet care. The next morning while they were trying to re insert the catheritor and massaging his bladder it ruptured. They said they may not be able to insert it from outside in. Then the vet when in to repair his bladder & removed half of it. And re-catherized him & tom him to a hospital. When he arrived there we read another call that the catheritor was not in his bladder but through a tear in his uretha. So he had to be re-catherized a 3rd time. He went back to the vets office & after three days became toxic. Then back to the vet hospital where after talking for 2 hrs with the doctors we made the painful decision to end this brutal suffering. Mostly because there was no guarantee that he wouldn’t need another surgery to his bladder, or that his uretha would not collapse after the catheritor was removed. My question – why would his bladder rupture? we feel that the vet destroyed this poor boy! should we have stopped this on the first day? We are supposed to have a meeting with the vet, after dealing with my fathers passing, I feel we were wronged, that this poor boy was wronged.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      Oh Gerri, I’m so sorry to read this story – it sounds like an incredibly unlikely and unfortunate set of events. It certainly is not how these cases typically go. I hope you were able to find some answers and get some closure when you had your meeting.
      Having to deal with this at what must already be a very hard time with your father’s passing is, I’m sure, quite difficult. I’m sure you made the best decisions you could for your cat, and that the veterinary team did their best as well.

  32. D says:

    I don’t agree with your comment. I have always had a multiple cat household. In 23 years I have had 3 cats with severe urinary issues. My first cat was euthanized at 11 when the vet told me that he was too old to proceed with an invasive surgery and that he was in pain. My second cat blocked 4 times and was finally put through reconstructive surgery. He is fine and still alive. My 3rd cat has blocked the first time, I got him unblocked for $1000, then we noticed he had a penis malformation which was causing his infections. I had the hole to his penis reconstructed for $ 3000. Last month he blocked, they unbloked and he blocked again 2 days after which was another $ 1000. We are one month later and he is blocking again. All the time he was on urinary diet from the vet. Now I am not a millionaire but I did more than most people would ever do. When do YOU throw in the towel and say enough ???

    • dottiemaggie says:

      Hi D, I’m not clear what comment you’re disagreeing with. It sounds like you’ve had some hard times with this issue and indeed you have done more than most people would done. There is no simple answer to when is enough is enough – a lot of factors have to be taken into consideration. When do I personally throw in the towel? With my own pets I will follow medical recommendations of my colleagues as long as my pet’s quality of life can be maintained. I have been fortunate and not yet had a cat with severe lower urinary tract disease, but if I had a cat with repeated blockages I would pursue surgery to prevent further issues. It is incredibly uncommon for a cat to continue to experience blockages after a urethrostomy, so I believe if it were my cat I would have to consider euthanasia as there must be a serious underlying issue that can’t be addressed.

      I’m sorry you’ve had such a challenging experience.

      • D says:

        The disagreement was based on the comment where it easier to put an animal down instead of paying for catheters or sex changes.

        In my case, I an up to $7500 in vet fees for this cat since I just put him through the sex change 2 weeks ago. He still pees in odd places. Just this morning he peed on my foot.

        I am not one to throw in the towel quickly…especially when they have so many years ahead of them but not everyone can pull off this amount in vet costs and that’s where I believe there should be a monthly (not expensive) insurance or a law that states you must put $10 aside per week to care for these animals.

        I don’t believe that a person should have an animal if they can’t afford it. The animal may be lucky and never get sick but what if they do ?… The animal never asked to be ill. It should never be ok to give it the death sentence instead of prolonging it’s life. I would feel like a failure if I didn’t at least try to save them

  33. Lori Smith says:

    Great article, I had no idea a kitty could have this problem. I almost lost my cat to urinary blockage. I thought he was constipated. Poor thing probably had hours to live by the time I figured out that he needs a vets ASAP. $3,000 later, he is doing great. And yes, I am very sorry for everyone that does not have this cash. Once upon a time I lost most treasured kitty because I was a poor college student. So I do know what it is like. Heart wrenching. So I refuse to let this kitty die, he was a replacement to that cat, he is 8 years old and I want him to live another 8 if I can help it. My question is this, will this problem ultimately kill him? They said he is okay to go home tomorrow, but I am worried he will have a relapse or need surgery.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      Unfortunately some cats do have relapse – but if you follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for long term care (for example, if you cat had crystals they will recommend particular diets) this should minimize the risk. Hopefully your cat will do well and not have another incident

  34. Melissa says:

    On Thursday night of last week my cat was starting to make a weird howling (as if in pain). We listened to him and watched him all night. We thought he was constipated, which apparently is a common thought. Friday morning we rushed our little Chewy to the vet. I felt like something more was wrong And I’m glad we did. They did an x-ray on him then called us with the bad news. His bladder was rull, and had traces of blood. They kept him for the weekend, gave pain relief and antibiotics , and a catheter. The vet called us back to let us know he was completely blocked, as the catheter was difficult to get in.
    We got chewy home yesterday afternoon. He has not had any urination and I’m getting very worried. We talked to the vet today and she gave us 3 options and we have to decide by tomorrow morning. 1. Take him in for another catheter and leave him there a couple more days. She knows money is tight for us so she won’t charge us for the stay, just the sedation. We’ve already got a $500 bill. 2. Surgery. It will cost approx $600 for it. We really can’t afford this, and 3. Euthanasia. I’m scared. He is my family, one of my kids and I don’t want to do this option. But we may not have a choice.
    Is it common for a cat not to be able to urinate after a catheter? I am absolutely terrified. I will be so lost without my Chewy. He was my rescue kitty. My husband found him outside when he was about 5 weeks old and she was starved. I nursed him to health and we decided to keep him. I hate that their bills are so expensive that people are forced into putting their family to sleep. My heart is breaking and our minds haven’t even been made yet.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      Hi Melissa,
      I’m sorry you are going through this – unfortunately it is common for cats to block again, though usually not so quickly… but it can happen. We recently had a cat come through our hospital with a similar story – within a day of being sent home the first time he was not peeing, and the owners brought him back in. They were able to go for the surgical option, but I understand sometimes the financial side of it can be challenging. It sounds like your vet is trying to give you the best options they can, and that is actually a very low price for the surgery. Unfortunately they do have to cover their costs – staff time, materials, etc. and things add up.
      This is why I find blocked cats to be such a challenge – it is something we can fix, but often the financial side of it gets in the way. Again, very sorry you are going through this – I hope something works out for Chewy.

  35. Michele k says:

    My cat was blocked last night and the vet said it ws better for him if i put him to sleep. I am so very heart broke right now.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      I’m so sorry you are experiencing this. It is never an easy decision, and I’m sure you veterinarian had the best interests of your family in mind when they made that recommendation.

  36. Our cat Josie is a male, 3 yo, neutered, indoor tabby. He presented on Wednesday with: excessive genital grooming, lethargy, hiding, and urinating out of the litter box. We took him to the emergency vet immediately. He is not blocked, but does have “gunk” in his bladder. They were not able to get a urine sample because he didn’t have any in his bladder. However, he did urinate a drop of blood tinged urine on the vet, The vet told us that he has FLUTD, gave him a shot of antibiotics and sent us home with pain and anti spasm meds and instructions to change to prescription cat food (which we did immediately). He started to improve and by Friday was urinating more and acting more like himself. However, on Sunday morning he started again with all the symptoms accompanied by painful meows even when he sleeps (and keep in mind he’s on pain meds). We have called the hospital several times and they told us that they are not surprised by this. That it takes up to a week for the antibiotics to start to work, but we can bring him in (and there’s no rush according to them) to get more pain meds and at that time they will check to see if he’s blocked. We have already spent $750 dollars for the vet. I am sure it will be several hundred more today (regardless if he’s blocked or not). We cannot afford what it would cost to leave him in the hospital…..However. we are more concerned with his pain and suffering. He is miserable. It breaks our hearts to know that he is in pain. We have been fortunate. We have had time to research the illness/syndrome. Unfortunately, in most cats this seems to be a chronic problem happening again and again even when taking precautions (like changing food and pushing water). We have discussed what our possible options would be with our (almost adult) children, and we are all in agreement that if this has a chance of reoccurring we don’t want to see him suffer (and he is suffering even while medicated). Our choice will be to euthanize if he is blocked, not because of finances (although that would play a part if he was not in so much pain), but because we don’t want him to suffer like this. Or regular vet is notorious for doing everything possible to save the animal regardless of the owner’s wishes. We know this from experience with another animal. The local humane society won’t put an animal to sleep if there are any possible treatments (we would have to surrender him and according to the clerk “THEY will take care of his condition and adopt him out to a LOVING home that cares about his needs”). So what do we do if we think it’s in our animals best interest to be put down and the Vet refuses.? Don’t get me wrong, our animal is not disposable or replaceable. It is not our intent to be callous or uncaring. We love him more than words can convey, that is why we are willing to make this painful decision. So once this decision is final, what do we do if the Vet refuses because there is a life saving surgery that may (but probably won’t) resolve the issue?

    • dottiemaggie says:

      Sounds like a very difficult situation. As veterinarians it is our job to advocate for the patient and offer you the best possible treatment options, but also to offer alternatives if that option is for whatever reason not the best option for your family. Ultimately we should all have the same goal – to prevent pain and suffering. When they block it is excruciatingly painful, and personally I think the only wrong decision would be to do nothing. I’m sorry you feel your veterinarian is not supporting your stance, and I am saddened to hear the local humane society gave you such a response.

      If you feel that it is in your cat’s best interest to be humanely euthanized, all I can recommend is trying to find a veterinarian who will respect your wishes. I work in emergency medicine, and I unfortunately often have to euthanize animals for conditions that may be treatable with surgery or prolonged hospital stay – but it is not for me to decide what the family is willing and able to go through. All I can do is present their options, and when an animal is suffering euthanasia should always be an option.

  37. Hi Dr Maggie… I have a male cat that blocked three times within a month so my vet recommended surgery to remove the penis. Surgery was done about a month ago, vet says all went well. We took him home after three days post surgery and switched his food to science diet cd. He has been back to the vet three times post surgery because he had blood in urine and was straining to urinate every little bit. Vet kept him a week this last stay… he cathed him, put him on pain med and gave him a strong steroid shot (per vet, urinalysis confirmed no bacteria). Prior to releasing him, he did another urinalysis that showed no blood, no crystals and no bacteria. He’s been home now for 24 hours and he is again straining to urinate every little bit and crying out in pain. Vet says highly unlikely but he could have a tumor and he wants me to take him to med-vet (24 hr pet emergency facility) about an hour from my house and have them do an ultrasound that will cost approximately $400 – $500. The expense has been three to four thousand already and my house smells like cat urine due to him urinating everywhere but the litter box. Please can you give me your thoughts and advice. Thank you very much.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      Hi Connie, I’m sorry I didn’t see this comment sooner. Sounds like you have been through a particularly difficult time with your cat, and I am sorry to hear that. It sounds like your cat has been an unusually challenging case. I agree with your vet that an ultrasound would be the next diagnostic step, but I know the costs start to add up and it gets frustrating.

      I hope you were able to find a solution for your poor kitty.

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