Tobasco is our cuddly six year old neutered ginger moggy. He came into our lives as a five week old kitten when we fostered his mum and her seven kittens. Though you'd never think it, to look at him now, he was the runt of the litter.
It's fair to say, in comparison to other cats, he has always been a bit 'simple minded' and his wants are few - a warm lap, a full food bowl and lots of cuddles. First thing in the morning, after a night of being locked out the bedroom, he scratches at the door and howls to be let in. He's a good alarm clock, trouble is Tobasco has no sense of what the weekend means! He travelled to New Zealand, from the UK, when we emigrated in 2009 and to date has enjoyed good health.
Then one night my husband Paul, who was getting ready for bed, said, 'Tobasco's acting funny. It's like he can't pee.' I was straight out of bed. Poor Tobasco was straining on the litter tray. He got off and went in the hall where he squatted down again. I was more concerned with whether he could urinate than whether he was doing it on the carpet. It was clear he was in pain and getting distressed. He went back to the litter tray and Paul went to get the cat box.
It was 10.30pm, pouring with rain and howling a gale outside. The only place that would take him was the emergency vet clinic some distance away. We left a message, to say we were on our way, and headed off.
The vet was waiting for us and quickly examined him. It wasn't good news. She said he had a blocked bladder and would need immediate surgery. We went home and had a restless night until she called to say all had gone well. As it is an emergency clinic it is only open nights and weekends. We had to collect him and take him to our vets before 8am.
He looked so pathetic with a drip, a catheter and a cat collar on, but we were just relived he was alive. He was under observation till the weekend, though he was off the catheter there was no question of him coming home. We wanted to avoid the stress of having to move him back to a place set up for emergencies. It would be like us trying to recover in an A&E department. Fortunately our vet took pity on us and agreed to keep him at their clinic. Their cattery staff fed and keep an eye on him, with her dropping by to check on his progress. He was in hospital well over a week.
Both vets told us that, had we not seen him and acted fast, he would have been dead in less than 24 hours. As it is most owners don't notice until their cats have practically collapsed and then it is often to late. The bladder can become so distended that even if it hasn't ruptured, killing the cat, damage to the nerves makes the cat incontinent. I'd read this is a common problem for middle aged, neutered males, so when Paul said Tobasco wasn't urinating, it came instantly to mind. Ten minutes later we would have both been in bed. Unusually he was silent throughout, so we wouldn't have been alerted by howls of pain. Most mornings are a rush to get out to work, so there were no guarantees we'd have picked up he was suffering. I shudder to think what could have happened if Paul hadn't seen him. Doing so saved Tobasco's life.
I just remember the look of relief on the vet's face when we told her we had Pet-n-Sur insurance. We got the impression vets often have to negotiate an animal's life, based on whether the owner can afford the bill or not. The emergency service isn't cheap but had we waited till morning to see our vet, not only would Tobasco have suffered horribly but his bladder may have been irrevocably damaged.
He is a relatively young and much loved pet. The condition that he had is deadly but, if caught in time, totally curable. He is now on a special diet food, that helps dissolve urinary crystals, and doing really well.
We have pet insurance so we're never in the position of having to debate, in the middle of the night, over whether or not our pet needs to die because we can't afford to pay for treatment that would cure them. There is no question in our minds that the monthly premiums we pay not only brings us piece of mind but safety and security for our beloved furry friends. Thanks Pet-n-Sur!
Written by Maya Hammarsal