20 Sep Diabetic Cat

A month ago, Simon, our fat gray tabby, got desperately thirsty. He’d jump into the bathtub for a sip from the faucet, dip his paw into glasses of water, drink so much he was overusing the litter box and we couldn’t keep up. Then we noticed he had lost weight. It wasn’t a summer diet. It was a lot of weight. “This can’t be good,” I announced. We feared the worst–kidney failure. Cats don’t recover from kidney failure. While we waited two days for his appointment with the vet, I started preparing myself, walking around the house and shaking my head dolefully and saying, “This is it, Jill. This is it,” though really there is no preparing yourself for the worst. The worst is always the worst.

Simon came to us five years ago through the antiques consignment shop that Jill used to work at occasionally. He belonged to an elderly woman who had to downsize before she went into a retirement home. Surrendering her cat along with her belongings was a sad situation, everyone agreed. She had thoroughly spoiled Simon, whom she’d named “Sir Sweetie.” She fed him three cans of gourmet food a day. Sir Sweetie—renamed Simon—became the consignment store cat. He was so relaxed, so trusting, so self-possessed, it didn’t occur to him that he should be wary or afraid of anybody or anything. He regularly stretched out on the floor anywhere he pleased. Jill worried that somebody would step on him.

He still pretty much does as he pleases. Strangers think Simon remarkable because he’ll approach anyone, then rear up and place his paws on the stranger’s legs, like a dog asking to be picked up. If you pick him up, he’ll then place one paw on each of your shoulders, as if to hug you. If you embrace him, he’ll nibble your ear lobe. Strangers find this flattering, though Simon is pretty indiscriminate about offering a nibble and a hug.

When we took him to the vet, we discovered that he’s lost six pounds, down to a lean 12 from his once-swaggering 18 (he’s a big cat). It turns out, he (Simon, not the vet) has diabetes. Our vet says it’s increasingly common, just as with humans. The culprit is high-carbohydrate cat kibble. High carbs means high sugar, which overworks then burns out the pancreas. We were using Iams, a big-name dry food, thinking we were doing the right thing. We’d heard that canned food is too rich and rots cats’ teeth. On the contrary, canned food is high in protein. That’s what cats need.

We asked about the high-end canned food our vet has on display in his waiting room. He waved his hand dismissively. “Don’t bother,” he said. “It’s all the same.” Our kind of vet. He showed us how to administer Simon’s daily insulin injection, then we went home happily and much relieved. Simon is more or less back to normal. Besides the daily injection, which isn’t nearly as complicated as you might think, the only other change is that we now feed him (and our other tabby) twice a day. This has its complications because a morning feeding always encourages cats to rise early (i.e., dawn) to announce eagerly and earnestly that they’re ready, really ready, for their meal. Really, we are, right now, we’re ready. Really.