Sugar Cat

My oldest cat, Pippi, has always been the poster-cat of good health. At 14-years old, she is feisty, shiny-coated, and kittenish. Friends, family, and vets alike often assume that she is half her age. I have been thankful for the infrequent visits to the animal hospital, given her travel anxiety and the heartbreaking yowl she lets loose in the car.

About two weeks ago, I knew our lucky streak had ended. She traded in her usual playfulness for sleep, began drinking nearly five times more water than usual, and absolutely soaked her litter box-- demanding a complete litter change daily, instead of a simple scooping. Before calling the vet, I did what no parent of children or animals should ever do: I Googled the symptoms. What I found, of course, in the search results were dozens of stories of cats who were urinating frequently as a result of chronic illnesses. I must have read 30 horror stories about sick and dying cats, each making me feel more sure that my sweet Pip was on the same road.

When I snapped back into reality (admittedly after sobbing beside  her on what I believed to be her death bed), I called my vet and made an appointment for that afternoon. I scooted her into the carrier and whisked her to the clinic, wincing the whole time from her truly guttural and jolting cries. By the time we arrived, I was a frenzied mess, completely panicked to the core by all I had read. Though I can’t promise the same (this is a recurring mistake I just can’t seem to learn from), I beg you to resist the urge to Google-diagnose. Nothing good can come of it.

Pippi was given a thorough examination, complete with urine and blood tests, and her actual, real-life, trained-professional diagnosis was diabetes: a relatively benign and treatable condition that my vet believed could be coaxed into remission with short-term insulin and a diet change. Learning to care for her new lifestyle was a bit overwhelming. Insulin, twice-daily injections, antibiotics for a sugar-related bladder infection, wet-food-only meals three times a day, and a watchful eye on tabs in her litter box that change colors to indicate the amount of sugar in her urine. Not to mention quarantining her from our active and curious kitten, to ensure accurate readings on the litter tabs.

I am the kind of person who thrives on information. I always want to know what things are, how they work, and why they are happening. When we returned from the vet, Pippi, the kitten, and I curled up on my bed and read as much as we could about feline diabetes. I scanned message boards, and absolutely devoured articles. All of this new information, and the solidarity I felt with other parents of Sugar Cats, was comforting.

I had been dreading the injections so much. I envisioned straddling her and forcing it upon her, traumatizing us both. I was so relieved when I gave her the first injection and she didn’t even flinch. After that, it was smooth sailing as she scarfed down the wet food, and the amount of urine in her litter box became normal again. Three days later, the litter box tabs began to lighten, telling me that the insulin was working. Pippi began to “wake up” too, returning to her playful, vocal, and snuggly self.

It has been two weeks now since our initial vet visit and diagnosis, and Pippi is clearly on the road to recovery. Two days ago, we halved her insulin dosage and are continuing to watch the sugar levels in her urine. We expect her to be fully weaned from the insulin within the next couple of days, assuming everything stays on this path. I have learned a lot about myself over the past two weeks. I have been alarmed by my ability to get preemptively worked up when someone I care about isn’t feeling well. At the same time, I have been awed by my unwavering love, compassion, and dedication to this creature. I never thought twice about altering my schedule and life to accommodate absolutely anything that she needed. Care and commitment will make this thing work, and now I feel secure in the limitless nature of mine. I gotta say, that is a huge relief to this Sugar Mama.

Year Published: 

  • 2013

Edition: 

  • December-January

Author Name: 

Author Bio:

Andee Bingham has a special affinity for cats, and has been a lifelong animal lover and advocate. She lives with two sweet and feisty feline companions, Pippi and Nora, as well as volunteering her time at a local cat shelter. Andee is a freelance writer based in Albany, NY. You can contact her through her website www.andeebingham.com.