My sphynx, my first nekkid baby, my Noobie. I’ve always, always dreamed of having one of these, and finally last April, I was given the opportunity to adopt one. It wasn’t long enough, and my baby is gone. *Tears welling up for the thousandth time*
Noobie was loved by his original family, but he suffered from a very refractory case of cystitis and started having recurring bouts of urethral blockage, which is a veterinary emergency and has to be treated with hospitalization and urethral catheterization for several days. His family could no longer afford to keep him, and returned him to his breeder, who asked another breeder if she knew of any potential home that might be a good fit for such a problematic health condition. One of my former colleagues was the primary veterinarian for this other sphynx breeder, but I’d treated her cats a few times when I was on call, and always told her I’d be interested if she knew of a rescue sphynx or wanted to retire one of her breeding cats and find a home. So I was contacted and offered Noobie, and it was really love at first site. I agreed to take over his medical care, and we decided he would be a clinic cat at my newly purchased veterinary practice.
There really couldn’t be a more well-suited personality for the job of clinic cat. Noobie didn’t know a stranger, and he was always hopping uninvited onto people’s shoulders from his perch on the lobby counter, or jumping in their laps as they sat in the waiting room. Always a topic of conversation, for obvious reasons. Most people have never seen a hairless cat, or pet their soft, soft skin, in person. Noobie had the biggest motor, and he loved to sit in the window and watch for new clients to greet. He didn’t try to go out the door, but he was ready and waiting as soon as they walked through. Many clients would bring family and friends to see the cats, and I can’t say it wasn’t good for business. An unexpected benefit of having such a bizarre breed of cat.
Not only was Noobie a people-person, but what made him even more perfectly suited to his job was that he was highly sociable with other animals, and never met a cat or dog he didn’t like. Even if the other pet wasn’t of a like-mind. So many dogs and cats would give him the most leery looks, not knowing what to make of this really, REALLY weird looking … bat? Rat? Cat?
The staff all thought Noobie was comically ugly to look at and made fun of his “possum tail” and his “man boobs” all the time. But it didn’t take long before he stole everyone’s hearts. He was just so full of love, and so comical all the time. A true ambassador for the breed. I’ll never not have a sphynx again. They’re just the most gregarious, personable, outgoing cats… and that’s the kind of cat I’ve always loved.
Of course, the kids were deeply enamored of Noobie. He never met a kid he didn’t bring his ball out for. He loved to play fetch, and even retrieved the ball at least 50% of the time. The kids are really torn up. Lots of tears. So is Hubby. The quintessential cat lover. If Hubby didn’t have a reason to stop by the clinic to perform some manly repair task that we ladies decided required a penis, he’d stop by just to get his nekkid kitty fix. Sigh.
So we’re all just super torn up. Noobie was only 2 years old. I honestly can not speak about this without my throat choking closed and I cried all night since about 1:30 am. And I cried on and off all day today, in my emotionally raw and sleep-deprived state. I was and am a basket case. But I can write about what happened, and so I will.
Noobie crashed yesterday afternoon and he died at about 11pm. He wasn’t alone, but we weren’t able to resuscitate. I do know what happened now, and I’ll tell you about it.
Long story short, my Noobie had a congenital abnormality called a circumcaval ureter, which caused the part of his ureter in front of the abnormality to dilate until it ruptured. This was my finding on post-mortem examination. I was called by the afternoon kennel tech at about 6pm on Mother’s Day Sunday, and she was crying. She said Noobie was in his litter box when she came in, and when he stepped out, he just fell over and was limp in her arms and cold. Both my surgery tech and I rushed to the hospital, and the kennel tech had started heat therapy- his temp was too low to read (less than 90°F ).
On my mad rush to the hospital, I suspected the little guy had a urethral blockage again, because of his past history of these and the fact that they often present collapsed on emergency. However, when I arrived and examined him, his bladder was not enlarged and I could easily express urine. He was clearly in shock, with poor gum color, rapid breathing and heart rate. The kennel staff from Saturday said he was totally normal, chasing with his brother Charlie and his usual energetic and playful self. The employee responsible for the Sunday morning shift said he was spending excessive time in the litter box, and hadn’t seemed interested when the canned food was brought out for the dogs boarding, which was unusual because he usually would make a nuisance of himself for a taste of any canned food. However, as of 9-10am, he was up and about, moving around, though somewhat lethargic.
Back to Sunday evening: we started fluids immediately and I gave pain meds, shock dose steroids, antibiotics and vitamins. We did radiographs and didn’t pick up on anything there, bloodwork which showed he was septic, dehydrated, had all 3 kidney values elevated, but most concerning his blood sugar was super low, at 30 (should be around 100) so we gave IV dextrose and added more dextrose to the fluids. He did seem to rally and his temp was rising, he was lifting his head and his gum color looked a bit better, his heart rate and breathing rate came down, maybe due to pain meds and treatment for shock. However, over the next several hours, he declined again and we couldn’t get his blood sugar up despite multiple injections of dextrose. His breathing became labored and he arrested at 11pm, and we couldn’t resuscitate.
At the time, I had more questions than answers and I was numb and almost mechanical. Weirdly dry-eyed, when the staff was all in tears. I sent them home, and performed a methodical and completely detached post-mortem exam. It baffled me that I was able to do this- yes, it’s something I do occasionally and I’m always detached while I do it. But I’ve never autopsied one of my own. All I knew was that I needed to do a post-mortem examination and collect samples for testing in case this was possibly something infectious that could put Noobie’s brother Charlie Bugs at risk (he’s fine BTW). So I started in the chest cavity and could find no reason for death- no evidence of heart disease, no fluid on the lungs or other lesions. I moved to the abdomen and at first, everything looked normal; I began systematically collecting samples of all the organs for culture and histopathology.
Then I got to the left kidney and ureter (the ureter is the tube that carries urine from kidney to bladder) and I saw there was urine in the retroperitoneal space and realized the ureter was grossly dilated and ruptured. The path of the left ureter went under the very large vessel called the vena cava, instead of over it like it’s supposed to, and this would have pinched/smashed the ureter, causing the urine to back up and dilate the ureter between the kidney (which was also subtly enlarged) and the vessel. The ureter beyond the vessel was normal diameter, and the right kidney and ureter were normal in appearance.
It is probable that Noobie’s left ureter had been slowly dilating since he was a kitten, but the right kidney was compensating and he wasn’t showing any symptoms of kidney failure right up until it couldn’t expand any more and just ruptured, then he crashed. Perhaps if his other kidney hadn’t compensated for so long, and he’d started showing signs of renal failure, this could have been picked up on an abdominal ultrasound or contrast study, and the problem might have been either repaired, or if inoperable, the left kidney could have been removed altogether. I contacted the breeder (in writing, as I couldn’t trust myself to speak) to notify her and to recommend that any of his siblings have an abdominal scan to look for signs of enlarged/dilated ureter and circumcaval ureter. I actually don’t know if this is just a random congenital mishap or a heritable congenital disorder, but I have already scheduled my dwarf sphynx Charlie (he’s a full younger brother) to have him scanned by a board-certified internist, in hope that if he does have a similar hydroureter developing, it can be surgically addressed before it ruptures and becomes a life-threatening emergency.
When I got into the car to drive home, that’s when I suddenly became overwhelmed with emotion, and I have been teary almost non-stop since my detachment abruptly fizzled, and am operating on perhaps 1 hour sleep today. Needless to say, the entire staff is devastated. I just can’t talk about it and nobody at work can speak about it without we all start bawling. After I was sure that the breeder had contacted Noobie’s original family so they wouldn’t find out about it via our hospital Facebook page, I posted an announcement there, knowing how fond many of our clients were of both these little mascots. I know that when they don’t see that eager face in the lobby, they’ll start asking questions, but we’re all too raw to speak about it as of yet. At least this way, we can direct them to the Facebook Post if they ask questions about exactly what happened.
You were a comedian, a gentle soul, a faithful friend, snuggle bug, a brother’s bestie, and perhaps my all-time favorite cat. I’ll never forget you, Noobie. I miss you like crazy.
Someday I’ll be able to look at these pics and smile again.
Rest In Peace, My Love.