Last night I came home from a long bout of sight-singing and grocery shopping (although not simultaneous, as amusing as that would have been) to an extremely complainy cat. I tried to help R make dinner (gorgeous cheeseburgers, to satisfy a craving), but Thistle kept meowsing at me, so I tried to go sit on the couch with her, which usually calms her down. For some reason, she doesn't like it when we're cooking in the kitchen. But she still seemed very discontent, walking hither and thither. I gave her fresh water in her bathroom glass (yes, she's too spoiled to drink from a bowl), and then I noticed she was sitting in the corner next to the door--not something she ever does. I took her upstairs to see if she was hungry. I filled her bowl, but she didn't seem that interested. I took her into our bedroom to see if she wanted to hang out and cuddle on the bed, another favorite activity of hers. Again, she didn't seem like that was what she wanted. I took her into the upstairs bathroom to freshen up her upstairs water glass (see above re: spoiled), but again, nothing doing.
Then she hopped into the bathtub. The cat only goes into our bathtub when she's very bored or not feeling great. She started scratching at the tub like mad, then hunkered down and began to urinate. Now, Thistle never ever urinates outside her box. That box needs to be absolutely filthy for her to eschew it.* By an extremely fortunate coincidence, the bathtub seems to be her place of choice for when she does decide to eschew the box. So while I'm staring at the cat and thinking that I need to bitch R out for not cleaning the box, I see something extremely alarming. Mixed in with the urine stream is a thin red line. As it grew more prominent, I realized it was blood.
When the cat finished, she hopped out of the tub and curled up on the bed. She left behind what looked like an alarmingly large puddle of blood, but in retrospect was probably a little smaller than a quarter in diameter. I ran to the top of the stairs and yelled, "Rick, I need you upstairs right this second." I heard a grumpy voice from the kitchen: "I can't right now, I'm busy with the griddle." I screamed "No, you need to come upstairs right now, the cat is pissing blood."
My heart was in my mouth. Thistle had woken us up in the middle of the night by running around and being loud, so we'd decided to keep her awake all day to make sure the performance didn't repeat itself. So I had spent the whole day plopping her in and out of laundry baskets and not allowing her to sleep. The whole time, the poor little thing had been sick. I cannot describe how guilty I felt.
Rick came upstairs. He wasn't sure it really looked like blood, but I was certain. The cat was hanging out on the bed, looking uncomfortable and licking herself. Her nose was hot and leathery. But she didn't look incredibly miserable, and her eyes weren't glassy. After some quick internet research, we figured out it was probably just a bladder infection, an assumption given more strength as she hopped in and out of her litter box all night.
She's over at the vet right now. The doctor said she showed tenderness when the doctor palpitated around her bladder, but when they tried to draw a urine sample her bladder was empty, so she needs to hang out there until she fills on up again. They did a quick ultrasound, which showed a little spot that may be a stone. If that's the case she'll require surgery, but the doctor thinks it is much more likely that that's just a fold her in empty bladder, and that she has a bladder infection instead. Rick went over to the store and got some new litter, and he's at home changing and sanitizing her box (something he does every month regardless). He's also going to run the vacuum, something I didn't want to do last night to avoid stressing out the cat.
So Thistle will almost certainly be just fine. Worst case scenario right now is a stone (which would definitely account for the blood in her urine (which the vet confirmed, so HA!)), which would require surgery to remove. But Thistle is a very strong and healthy cat, and surgery doesn't pose any significant risk to her. Chances are this is just a bladder infection, and fortunately we caught it very early. There are sometimes benefits to being completely obsessed with your pet, one of which is you tend to notice unusual behavior right away. Rick should hear back from the vet in a couple hours, and I'll post an update.
*Urinating outside the litter box is a classic sign of feline illness. If it hurts when they urinate, they associate it with the box instead of with the act of urination. They are adorable, but not necessarily that bright.