Feline Diabetes: Bonnie’s Story
This guest blog was written by Mrs. Amy F. mom to Bonnie (Bonita) and friend of Found Animals.
Last year I got married. About a month earlier, I had a health scare with my cat Bonnie. Bonnie was about to turn 10. I’ve had her since she was 8 weeks old. She’s a timid cat, but she’s snuggly with those she knows. She hates competition, competition being Owchie, our 3 year old tiger cat. It all began with Bonnie not using her litter-box and having accidents on the carpet. I tried to deny anything was really wrong until she was having diarrhea (also outside the litterbox) on a daily basis. I was thinking it was a personality conflict with James (my soon to be husband) until I brought her to the vet; they called her condition Mega Colon. Mega Colon is when your colon doesn’t contract as it’s supposed to, so waste can’t be controlled.
My veterinarian did blood and urine tests as well as an annual pet wellness exam. She has always been perfectly healthy, and I’ve been diligent about bringing her in for regular visits. A week later, we went back for the results and they gave us Bonnie’s diagnosis, Feline Diabetes. My heart sank. I would have to give her shots? Twice a day? I hate needles and I cried at the thought of having to hurt my sweet girl. I was worried about the expense of it all and needed sometime to take in all that this new diagnosis entailed. In addition to the shots, I had to test her blood sugar, which means I have to collect her blood, I was in shock. It was the worst month of my life, probably because it was all leading up to the best day of my life. You know how stressful it is when your pet is sick. It felt like a terrible joke!
So here we are a year later and you know what? It’s really not that bad. Every morning and evening I give Bonnie a good pat, and talk to her, give her a couple of cookies, her 4 units of insulin, then fill her food dish. Once every 2 weeks I test her blood sugar level to make sure we’re on track – I’ve learned that with a cat, at least, a normal blood sugar level is between 80-150. Bonnie’s is almost always higher, but it’s much more in control than last fall (it was between 300-500!). I attended a Dog Park fundraising event and learned about a new dry food that is 50% protein, as opposed to the cheaper store brand foods that are about 22% protein, and mostly carbs. I was told this would help to regulate her blood sugar levels, and maybe even help her get into “remission.” This food (Evo brand, I buy a 15.4 lb bag) costs about $45 every 3 months or so. She eats about ½ what she used to, because it’s got more protein she feels full sooner – AND less waste! I’m totally sold on this. When we find a flavor our other cat will eat, I’d like to put him on at least a mix of this, for feline diabetes prevention. We go to the vet every 6 months to have a blood glucose curve done. A blood glucose curve is when they check her blood glucose level every 2 hours for an entire day, to see when and how bad her blood glucose level spikes or drops to determine a dosage of insulin. Twice a day I give her insulin, and she expects it, just like she expects her “cookies,” her food, and for me to clean her litter box.
Checking her blood sugar is still a little tricky for me. As I mentioned before I really hate needles and I’m squeamish about blood. To check her blood sugar, you have to find the perfect spot on the outside edge of her ear. First get the monitor ready, and then find the spot on her ear and poke it so she bleeds. I think it hurts me more than it hurts her, but you have to do it, so you know she’s in a good place.
This past month we went in for Bonnie’s blood glucose curve day. I was told to “up” her insulin level, because the vet thought it was still too high (it was about 160 – like I said earlier, she usually runs higher), so I did. This past weekend her blood sugar dropped to a dangerously low level. I honestly thought I’d lose her that night so I slept on the bed in her room. The next morning, she was fine. You just have to keep checking, and trust your gut, that’s the lesson I’ve learned from all of this. Another thing I have learned is that it’s not as bad as I first thought. I’m hoping with my dedication and routine, Bonnie will have a good quality of life and stay with us many more years. I feel like this experience and our routine of special care has bonded us even closer. I love my snuggle time with my Bonnie!
The cost of caring for a diabetic cat is something to consider as well (insulin costs us about $125 every 2-2 ½ months, vet visits are about $350 per year, a blood glucose monitor runs about $65 and test strips about $35 for 25 strips). The advantage of caring for a diabetic cat is most definitely the bond we have now and the trust we have in each other. She feels my commitment to her, I know she does! I make an effort to spend some good, quality time with Bonnie every day. I discovered that she LOVES to be brushed, and she loves our scrubby old wool blanket for snuggling on. I think everything that has happened in the last year of our lives has definitely brought us closer. It has made me much more aware of how sweet and sensitive (and tough!) my girl Bonnie is. I hope that someday I’ll be more like her.
My husband is not really a cat person. This has been a bit of a challenge for us as a couple. It warms my heart to see how much patience he has with Bonnie, and with me doting on her. Having a pet with special health needs makes some things harder for us. Little things like getting away for the weekend. Just like with everything though, you find a solution and work it out. My suggestion is: seek out a pet sitter you can trust. If you find a good one, it’s easy to teach them how to administer shots and tests. Your pet needs to feel safe with him/her, my shy Bonnie has FINALLY come out for our pet sitter, so I think we are in the clear!
Do you have anything to add about caring for a cat with diabetes? Share your thoughts below!