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Posted on Mon, Dec 26, 2011 : 5:50 a.m.

Success story: Ruger's obstruction becomes a lesson in how to spot feline urinary tract disease

By Ann Arbor Animal Hospital

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Meet the Wagners (from top left): Jeri, Jim, Olivia and Ruger, Sophia and Josie and Zeke with Ruger's den on the floor.

Jeri Wagner is the owner of a large, black and silver Tabby cat named Ruger. Ruger, a male cat, was brought to the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital for treatment due to a serious, life-threatening health issue.

Jeri felt it was very important to share Ruger's story and her experience to help other cat owners understand more about feline lower urinary tract disease, otherwise known as FLUTD. This medical condition is common in male cats, but sometimes owners are not fully aware of the disease process, what signs to watch for and how quickly cats with the condition can become critically ill.

Jeri and her children found Ruger during a camping excursion close to home when Ruger was a young stray kitten, and the family immediately fell in love with the cuddly little guy. He was adopted and became a family member, with the Wagners never looking back.

Once Ruger had grown into a mature adult, he began having problems with his urinary tract, developing crystals in his urine on a number of occasions. The recommended treatment plans of multiple, long courses of antibiotics were not successful and, with his condition reoccurring, showed no signs of improvement.

One day Jeri came home and found Ruger acting strange and hiding in her closet. He seemed to be bloated and uncomfortable. He was brought to his regular veterinarian, and the Wagners were told that his bladder was very large with concerns about it rupturing.

Ruger was taken to another clinic to try to relieve the obstruction. Unfortunately, the Wagner’s were told that it was very difficult to place a urinary catheter but a catheter had been placed to keep the urethra open allowing for the passage of urine. After the catheter was removed, Ruger became blocked again and was referred to the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital for further diagnosis and treatment.

Ruger's referral to the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital was due to the current obstruction and also the recurrence of his urethral obstruction. Dr. Heather Jarrett discussed a lifesaving surgery called a perineal urethrostomy with Jeri. This surgery creates a larger opening to allow a cat to urinate without having a blockage from built up debris, mucus plugs, crystals or urinary stones.

This procedure is performed as a last resort or after multiple episodes of urethral obstruction have occurred. Both male and female cats are affected by clinical signs of feline lower urinary tract disease but female cats have a wider urethra, and it is unlikely that they will develop a complete obstruction.


Ruger, while uncomfortable (note hind quarters), recovers at home with family.

Photo by Jeri and Jim Wagner

When performing the perineal urethrostomy for Ruger, Dr. Jarrett could see that the entire length of his urethra was filled with small stones and grit. His condition was the worst case this particular doctor had seen. Ruger had no real option other than having this surgical procedure to save his life. The perineal urethrostomy surgery requires the surgeon to remove the penis and narrowed urethra and fashion a larger opening from the remaining tissue.

Complications that can arise in the short term include swelling at the surgical site, excessive bleeding, and scar tissue formation. Many times this surgery is not needed and, as a veterinarian, Dr. Jarrett tries to unblock the urethra then give the pet time to heal.

Unfortunately, in some cases the tissue is so damaged, or there is so much debris, that the doctor has no other choice but to take them to surgery.

Even though Ruger has recovered after his successful surgery and is home with family, it is important to know that after a perineal urethrostomy is performed, many cats can still have straining, bloody urine, crystals and stones.

The goal of surgery is to take away or decrease the chance of an emergency due to an obstruction of the urinary tract. It doesn't treat the underlying problem of feline lower urinary tract disease. Long term management with diet, increased water intake, weight loss and stress management are needed with all cases.

Jeri Wagner reports that Ruger is doing great and is back to his old self playing with his dog, cat, goat and rabbit friends back home. As you can see from the latest picture, he sure seems to be relaxed and feeling better!

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The Lion King back on his perch and feeling much better!

On behalf of the doctors and staff at the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital we’d like to thank Jeri and Jim for sharing their family and story with us… we sincerely appreciate their time and effort to help us with Ruger!

Dr. Heather Jarrett, a full-time veterinarian, and David Caddell, the hospital’s director, are employees of the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital, a locally owned and operated Companion Animal Hospital. David can be reached at 734-662-4474 or



Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 12:53 p.m.

This is a lovely article and as a cat owner I'm on the lookout for cat health information. Yet, I didn't see a list of symptoms indicating early onset FLUTD or the buildup of crystals. Can that be added to this posting?