Murphy and Pyelonephritis

Special tabby feline uses up nine lives and more

In Super Bowl XXV, the New York Giants beat the Buffalo Bills 20-19. It was another heartbreaker for long-suffering Bills fans. The Gulf War was declared to liberate Kuwait from occupying forces from Iraq. In October, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton declared his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the Presidency of the United States. Probably the biggest story of the year was the collapse of the Soviet Union and, in Milton, Ontario, a little male, orange tabby kitten with white feet and face markings was born. The year was 1991.

He was abandoned at an animal hospital by the folks who rescued him from a dumpster behind their workplace. Approximately 10 weeks old at the time, this now cute-as-a-button little fellow won the heart of a kind and caring young woman. She called him Murphy and he quickly became a very important companion, friend and confidant.

The early years in Murphy's life were not without some health issues. On several occasions, he suffered potentially life-threatening urinary tract blockages. Anesthetics, X-rays, urethral catheterizations, blood and urine tests, diet adjustments, antibiotics, intravenous fluid transfusions, urinary bladder surgeries and hospitalizations, Murphy experienced them all. Somehow, with the help of a supportive veterinary team and a dedicated, loving owner, Murphy got through them all. Not only did he survive, but he never lost his pleasant, calm and friendly manner, nor the stoic and courageous resolve with which he faced every threat to his health.

After all the worry, anxiety and drama of his early adulthood, Murphy's senior years seemed a bit of a walk in the park. He settled into veterinary visits for routine health examinations, monitoring of his urinary health and dental cleanings. In fact, relaxing and enjoying life, with his now growing human family, he actually became a bit portly in girth and had to start counting - more carefully - calories eaten.

Then, suddenly in the summer of his 18th year, Murphy fell critically ill. He began to vomit, lost his appetite and showed definite signs of abdominal discomfort. He became very weak and could walk only a short distance before collapsing. Blood and urine tests yielded no specific answers for his problems. Intensive hospital care, including intravenous fluids, drugs to combat nausea and vomiting and control pain, initially provided little relief. It seemed the time might have come to think about what was best for Murphy.

Hard as it was to consider, perhaps assisting Murphy to die peacefully and with dignity was the kindest thing to do. It was decided, however, in an effort to determine a more specific reason for Murphy's illness, to do an abdominal ultrasound examination. This examination suggested Murphy had pyelonephritis.

Pyelonephritis, an upper urinary tract infection, results when bacteria infect the kidneys. It is more common for dogs than cats to develop this problem. Cats who do succumb to the disease are usually older than 10 years.

Cats, generally, are quite resistant to bacterial urinary tract infections. In Murphy's case, he was probably made more susceptible to such a problem because of his many urinary problems earlier in life.

Many patients with pyelonephritis are asymptomatic or only show signs of lower urinary tract disorders. Clinical signs in affected animals include an increase in drinking and urination, abdominal or back pain, changes in behaviour when urinating or changes in the appearance or odour of the urine. However, sometimes minimal changes are detected in routine urinalysis.

Urine culture and sensitivity testing was performed and a six-week course of antibiotics for Murphy was started. Happily, he made a prompt and complete recovery. Now, a year and half later, Murphy is carefully monitored for any indication of a recurrence of his kidney problems. He still receives liberal doses of the love and attention that got him here in the first place and otherwise, he continues to enjoy his golden years.

For a kitty who it once seemed had exhausted his proverbial 'nine lives' well before his ninth birthday, it's wonderful to see Murphy about to enter his second decade of life.