Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It's Time to Shoot up the Cat

It's been a year now since our 12 year old cat was diagnosed with feline diabetes. The diagnosis followed some really weird behavior from what had previously been an extremely low maintenance cat. Atlas had always been very self sufficient, determined to have as little contact with humans as possible. Literally all he required was readily available clumps of dry Meow Mix* and monthly litter box tray changes. Sometimes I didn't see him for days, which is impressive for an inside cat. Our house is 4400 square feet, with 6 bedrooms, so his habitat was expansive and time consuming.  He was always on the prowl, but nearly invisibly. 

I completely misinterpreted the first sign that something was wrong. The litter box no longer seemed to work very well. I absolutely loved the automatic Scoop Free Litter Box. The original purchase price was a little steep but it was worth it's weight in gold. A 3 months supply of litter trays with crystals arrived by mail and once a month I pulled out the old tray, threw it away, and slipped in a new one. It was low maintenance at its finest. But last summer, it started to smell. After checking out the mechanism of the contraption I decided it was old and a little rusty so I bought a new one, but the same thing happened. This time I decided that the trays of crystals were no longer as effective because a new company had taken over.

Over the next few months I spent a small fortune buying trays of crystals which eventually only lasted for less than a week as opposed to 30 days previously. And then Atlas started peeing on floors and furniture. He also became clingy, the weirdest part of all.  It was all a nightmare. It took forever to diagnose but long story short, he was diabetic and had been drinking inordinate amounts of toilet water and over saturating his litter box.  Part of the reason I finally figured it all out was that he was having trouble jumping up on the toilets.  We always knew he was doing it (making sure the kids closed toilet seats was on my list of priorities for about the first 5 minutes of parenting).  His access to the water source of 4 toilets in the house masked how much water he was actually drinking. 

My poor kitty was a mess:  the following me around, the meowing, the weakness in his back legs, his trouble jumping on things and all the urinating everywhere. Famously, I just thought he was getting old (that seems to be my go-to diagnosis for everything), but finally a 2nd blood test at the vet ($$$) exposed the glucose problems.

Everyone thought I was crazy to take on injecting insulin twice a day into a cat. The expense! The inconvenience! The futility! And believe me, I thought it was crazy too, but did it anyway. It was hard at first, especially all the vet appointments, which Atlas despised with a deep, deep vicious passion. The vet techs eventually stopped trying to treat him and had to call me in to take him away.

Apparently some cats are like this at the vet
Atlas is more like this

But slowly over the past year, it started to come together.  It took a year to get all of this under control: 
  • The Schedule - setting a time to give an insulin injection to a well fed cat at the same time morning and night with my schedule continues to be the biggest challenge. The iPhone alarm helps a lot. 
  • The Helpers - at first I tried to do it all myself but eventually I roped in neighbors and friends.  Everyone is now trained to shoot him up.  They are always surprised at how little notice he takes of the needle. 
  • The Vet Visits - we had to stop these even though the vet is not happy to keep dispensing insulin without directly observing the patient. The point of the visits was to monitor glucose levels to see if the insulin was working but since Atlas freaked out every time, it was impossible to get good readings.  And it was miserable for all involved. 
  • The Food - at first I was buying the very expensive dry diabetic food at the vet and forcing it on him. This made him a sad cat.  Eventually, we researched the best reasonably priced wet food we could buy at HEB and now he is a much happier cat.  Its not what the vet recommends but it seems to be working. 
  • The Groomimg - he'd stopped grooming so he was covered in mats. I found an awesome groomer who does house visits. He only bit her once and she only nicked him slightly but everyone considered it a success. 
  • The Insulin- the first vial I bought cost $137 and was supposed to last a year but only lasted 30 days.  The dosage increased 6 times while we were doing blood tests and I just couldn't afford it so the vet found a dealer (I guess) who provides me with insulin pens that last about 30 days for $30.  Walgreens interrogates me every time I go in to buy 100 packs of syringes. 
  • The Litter box - Tragically, I had to retire the automatic litter box.  This is much more of a pain than shooting him up twice a day. 
  • The Downstairs Confinement -  We slashed Atlas' habitat by 50% by blocking off the stairs and moving his new box downstairs. This helps in finding him. 
We knew it was all working when he started to jump up on furniture again, and now he is almost back to his normal self.  Only more social; we like to think it's appreciation. His back legs are straightening and his all consuming thirst has subsided. Yay insulin!!!

Actually we think he's just indestructible. 

Trapped! The Grooming. 

me and my baby

the faces of Atlas...all look pretty much the same


*Apparently Meow Mix practically causes diabetes in cats but no one freaking told me.

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