It’s difficult to get a sense of just how many cats are being treated for diabetes at any given time, although the most recent estimates seem to sit somewhere between 1 and 4 in every 100 cats. For my mind, that makes it reasonably rare although I also understand that the prevalence of feline diabetes seems to be increasing at a steady, if not alarming rate – more about which some other time.
My cat, Gryff is currently being treated for diabetes. We’re still at the very beginning of our journey and I’ve got a feeling we’ve got an awful long way to go – not least because his blood glucose levels are still pretty much off the chart. Still we persevere, slowly, slowly catchy monkey and all that.
From what I can tell, cats make terrible patients – they don’t follow the clinical rules and they don’t always let on when things aren’t quite right. They are also (and only a cat lover can truly appreciate this) complete assholes – I think it’s probably genetic given that they are each of them assholes in their own unique and loveable way.
I’m a mad cat-lady Gryff parent and I am well and truly wrapped around his little paw. Even so, I know that when I say Gryff is special it isn’t always a good thing because his special features also throw up some particular challenges when it comes to taking care of his diabetes…..
1. He is a creature of habit
If you ever needed a real life, living and breathing example of a creature of habit then Gryff would be your man. He has a non-existent tolerance threshold for change and is prone to sulking when unexpected things happen to him. It took him several weeks to get his brave up and venture back into the living room when I replaced the existing rug with a ever-so-slightly bigger but otherwise identical rug, and don’t let’s get started on what happened that time we had the audacity to move him to a brand new house. I’m not altogether convinced we have been entirely forgiven some three years later.
In short, Gryff needs things to stay the same. He needs things to happen at the same time, in the same place and in the same way. In time, I can’t help thinking that this will be something of a blessing when it comes to taking care of a diabetic cat – routine, after all is key. But as things stand we’re working with a stubborn, sulky cat who has been honing his very precise habits and foibles for 11 long years.
As far as Gryff’s concerned, he doesn’t need a new routine because he liked the old one thank-you very much and if he could just have his biscuits back in the usual place he might just consider refraining from smacking us on the leg every time we go into the kitchen…..
2. He is not a man of the people
Don’t be fooled by the big innocent eyes – this cat would quite like to do you a serious injury:
It’s nothing personal because for the most part he holds everyone in equal contempt – although to be fair if you are a bigger than average dude, or you are wearing boots, or shorts, or any kind of noisy clothing, or if you are the Ocado Man or a plumber then you may as well be the devil incarnate and it’s probably best if you back away slowly and never darken our door again.
Guests to our home are issued with an advanced warning that goes something along the lines of “the cat is a psycho – he tolerates us but wants to murder everyone else – don’t wear shorts, or boots, or noisy clothing – long sleeves are advisable – actually, you’re quite tall, are you sure you don’t want to meet in the pub instead?”
Assuming we don’t meet in the pub, there is a strict etiquette for guests to follow. Sudden movements are strictly off limits and coughs, sneezes or bouts of laughter should be avoided at all times. Eye contact is dangerous, and – even if you think you are some kind of Dr Dolittle – you almost certainly cannot talk to this particular animal. A chaperone will be required to deliver you safely to the bathroom and back.
I told you we should have met in the pub.
Sadly for us, you can’t leave a diabetic cat alone with an automatic feeder and plenty of fresh drinking water while you go on holiday, or attend your good friend’s wedding. Diabetic cats need injections, and diabetic cats (especially not-yet-stable diabetic cats) need close supervision. I know Gryff well enough to know that I can’t really leave him alone with a stranger at the best of times never mind a stranger who would have to find a way to a)give him a twice daily injection and b)live to tell the tale. I suppose what I’m saying that it isn’t just Gryff who saw his life change over night….
3. He tells you EXACTLY what he thinks of that
Gryff doesn’t like going to the vets. At all. For one thing it involves a change to his routine, and for another it involves mixing with people and more latterly it involves people sticking needles and thermometers and god knows what else in unmentionable places.
The thing is, if you want to stick a needle, or a thermometer, or god knows what else into one of Gryff’s unmentionable places you have exactly one shot at it because as soon as he realises what you’re trying to do he’ll tell you EXACTLY what he thinks of that. He’ll wriggle and hiss and spit and growl and scratch and bite and generally make a scene and once he’s done with all of that he’ll point blank refuse to go back into his basket even though that’s the only place in the world he wants to be because if you want him to go in there then it MUST be a trap.
The other thing is that if you want to get a diabetic cat better then you’re going to have to stick needles and thermometers and god knows what else in unmentionable places on a fairly regular basis. And herein lies the biggest challenge of all….
I didn’t realise until recently, that when a cat is stressed, his blood glucose levels rise. I also didn’t realise until recently just how stressed poor Gryff was going to get when vet type people tried to do things to help make him better. We’re only three weeks in and we’ve already had to give up on the idea of blood tests, in-vet glucose curves, sterile urine samples, and all but ABSOLUTE emergency in-patient treatments.
Thankfully, our vet seems to have taken Gryff in his stride and has done an excellent job of helping us to find ways round the various obstacles that Gryff insists on putting in our way.
Gryff isn’t a bad cat – he’s just a particular, and peculiar and special cat. He gets a bad write up and his reputation always precedes him but in the end – and I think even he knows this – he’s his own worst enemy. Of all the things that Gryff responds well to, patience is the one we’ve got in unlimited supply. I mean, just look at this little dude and tell me that you can’t forgive him his habits, and his suspicion of strangers, and fear of vets:
We’ll get him there. By hook or by crook.
Lots of love, WeeGee and Gryff