Written by Tank Watts When Dr. Anna asked me to tell my story, I was hesitant. I didn’t really want to talk about it. I mean, it’s personal, right? But she kept asking, and telling me how others had the same problem, and how talking about it was the best way to teach people about it, so here goes- my name is Tank, I’m a male cat, and I suffer from chronic urinary crystals.
Urinary crystals are little bits of minerals that can form in the bladder when we don’t eat what we should or don’t get enough water in our food. These crystals can be anywhere from the size of a grain of sand to the size of a gum ball. They hurt like anything, especially when they try and come out! If you tried to compare it to something in human size, imagine trying to pass a baseball while you pee. Seriously, not fun. In fact, urinary crystals can be really dangerous. If they get stuck and block the urethra the bladder can get so full it ruptures. We can die from that!
My problems started when I was a kid. I would go to the litter box, dig around, get comfortable, but nothing would come out. So I would move around a bit more- nothing. Get out and come back in- nothing. The first time it hurt so bad I thought something in the litter box was making me hurt, so I tried peeing on a rug in the bathroom. It still hurt, plus I got yelled at. I started hiding in different places to try and pee so I wouldn’t get in trouble, but it still hurt. It hurt so much I would cry, which is when my human mom realized something was wrong.
It didn’t take Dr. Anna long to figure out what the problem was urinary crystals, and I started on antibiotics. Taking medication was no fun, but it sure beat the alternative. And it wasn’t just a onetime thing; it turned out. Whenever my human mom would see blood in my urine, or notice that I wasn’t peeing as much, or that I was posturing in the litter box without going, back to the doc, we would go.
I ended up with some pretty serious complications. I had three surgeries, and now I pee out of an opening, or stoma, in my tummy. I’m really lucky to still be around (I just had my 11th birthday, thank you very much), and owe it to some really swell doctors and special foods.
Signs of urinary crystals:
- Reduced urine production
- Posturing in the litter box
- Crying while attempting to pee
- Blood in urine
Sometimes I can clear the blockage on my own, but we always get meds just in case. We have also figured out ways to keep me from having so many crystals, with the most important thing being water. We cats are what’s called “obligate carnivores” which means we have to have meat. If we stilled lived in the wild, we would eat things that we caught-raw meat with plenty of water in it. Since we became pets people started feeding us dry food, which is mostly grains, so we don’t get the water in our food as we should. Without that water to flush out our bladders we can start to produce crystals. Lucky for us, there are plenty of ways to help keep us healthy.