Friday, October 3, 2008

Past Deadline: I have to do WHAT to my cat?

And now a little something about cats...published in The Perth Courier, "Past Deadline," on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008.

I have to do what to my cat?

The cats used to be the babies.

When the short people came along, though, the universe tilted a bit and our focus shifted slightly away from the fur children. We love our cats, except for the furry tumbleweed, the regular gift of hairballs and the smelly litter box. We’re just not as attuned to the subtle messages they send us as we once were.

Our big friendly tabby, MacGregor, is pretty good at telling us when his periodic urinary tract issue flares up. He doesn’t like stress. In particular, he has never appreciated (at first) when a new baby comes into the house to live. He responds with a flare-up and lets us know he’s in trouble by doing his business in inappropriate places, such as cribs and clean laundry baskets. I can’t tell you how much I love this.

Filibuster, our loud fluffy cat, has lived his first 11 years with no serious health issues. Unlike MacGregor, he has saved us from large vet bills and expensive special food. (Can you guess where this is going?) He makes up for this by occasionally biting small children that annoy him, by yelling his head off continually and by having charming litter-box-versus-long-hair issues I won’t describe. Other than that, he’s a very nice cat. Just ask Groom-boy.

When Buster recently ran into some health problems, it crept up on us. He didn’t leave unpleasant signs around the house; he was far less vocal. Far less vocal? Indeed, that became a clue. He also started to look a little thinner and scruffier.

Another sign of ill health we didn’t immediately recognize was an odd stench. “Why does the litter box smell like funky cheese?” we wondered. We blamed the manufacturer. They must have changed formulas. We tried a new brand, but still that funky cheese smell overpowered the usual stink. It was enough to make me briefly contemplate my strict cats-should-stay-indoors philosophy.

The clincher was the fact the cats’ drinking water was disappearing faster than we could fill the dish. When we had to replace the small dish with a horse trough, we started to scratch our heads a little.

Call us perceptive, bright, intuitive, and attuned to our pets’ every need….


Buster’s “subtle” messages could not compete with the din of day-to-day needs of a houseful of noisy small people. Clearly he should have tap danced on our faces. Eventually a little light bulb popped on above our heads. Buster is quiet, looking thinner and drinking like a fish. Oh oh.

The vet confirmed Buster has diabetes. He needs special expensive food and insulin twice a day.
I have to do what to my cat? Needles? Twice a day? For the cat that chews off your arm if you pet him the wrong way?


Suddenly the uncomplicated cat just became a lot more complex. As the very helpful and friendly veterinarian explained the chemistry of and care for diabetes to me, I could feel my eyes starting to pop out of my head. There is math involved with this. I did not sign up for the math.

Although I’m math-challenged, my parents did provide me with whatever genetic material and common sense is required to prevent squeamishness. With the exception of prolonged discussions about broken teeth, I can handle most “icky” things fairly well, including reptiles, amphibians and, apparently, administering needles.

I’m pleased to report it has been going okay so far. Buster’s chemistry is back within the normal range. He looks better, is back to being annoyingly loud, is drinking less and the litter smells as good as one would expect it to smell – without the funky cheese. I also know he’s feeling better because now he sometimes growls when I needle him.

The groovy thing about cats (yes, there is a groovy thing) is that, unlike in dogs and humans, we may be able to control the diabetes through diet and eventually forego the needles. Fortunately both cats absolutely love the new diabetes/weight control food, which the vet calls “mouse in a can.” It’s a good thing, too, because it’s coming out of their allowance.

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