Could my cat really have diabetes?
August 6, 2018 10:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm skeptical, overwhelmed, and looking for a recommendation for either a home vet in NYC and/or a rescue org who might help find her a better home.

Here's the backstory on this cat: Friend found her on the street and guilted me into taking her, young underweight and pregnant, originally pretty friendly, I got her spayed, there was an infection that was treated, she turned into a nightmare.
Details in a prior question.

The vet's exam turned up nothing, but a blood test showed very high glucose level. Since this can be caused by high stress in cats (and she was quite stressed), they did a fructosamine test on the existing blood sample (which would reveal info about the blood sugar over a longer period of time). The level they said was over 500.

Reasons I am skeptical:
- She has zero risk factors. She is young (about a year) and not overweight.
- Feline diabetes is relatively rare, from what I read online.
- She has zero symptoms. She's been gaining weight, not losing it, and I've actually been continually worried about her not drinking and urinating enough (an increase in these is another symptom). The only time I ever see her drink is when I accidentally leave the toilet seat up. (I give her fresh ice water every morning, and yes, I should probably get her some kind of kitty fountain, but I have bigger problems.) She eats a normal amount (no ravenous appetite).
- I haven't been impressed with this vet's office for a bunch of small reasons I won't get into, but basically the continuing lack of attention to detail makes me wonder if her lab results couldn't have gotten mixed up with another cat's OR if there's some else that could be going on but the vet isn't connecting the dots.

When I called to get the lab results, the lady on the phone was just like, okay, what time can you come in for us to teach you how to give her shots, and I was like ????. I said, look, I can't even touch this cat half the time, and I don't have anyone to help me with her, the idea of giving her a shot - even a small one like an insulin shot - is a joke. Then she said, well, maybe you can try giving her special diabetic cat food for a week and then bring her back in for a retest. Then I was talking to someone else who was talking to someone else who's a vet tech who said, oh, you can't just manage them with the food, it's basically like a slow death for them.

I started trying to research food and diabetes care and it's an overwhelming amount of information. Home testing would be a joke too. I also don't even have time to take this cat to the vet again (the office is not close to me, but I took her there because a friend got me a discount since she's a rescue, which I definitely need because all of this stuff is piling up). And I'm not sure I even trust this vet. I think a second opinion before buying her any kind of special food would probably be the right course? But I don't know. So then I started trying to look for a home vet (in part because of time and the other because of the cat's volatility) and trying to read Yelp review and compare prices and look at schedules and it's overwhelming. I have lots of other things I need to do. Like, right now I'm late paying a bunch of my bills because I had a trip out of town planned for this past weekend and had to spend a bunch of my free time on cat stuff before I left.

I never really wanted this cat - my friend told me if I didn't take her his landlord was going to kick her out into the street and he'd been after me for weeks about how having a cat would be good for me, but I'm gone at least 10 hours every day between work, commute, and working out, and do vacations and three day weekends, so I've never had a cat here despite how much I like them. I never thought it would be fair to have this creature that I never spent time with. And I also think it means I can't properly care for a diabetic cat - I can't revolve my life around being in my apartment twice a day every day for shots. I take long weekends to see my family out of state. I'm trying to seriously date and need to schedule things after work. Maintaining my friendships and going to social events is important to me. But I also have no idea what rescue org would take her in with this unresolved health history. I do not want to simply just dump her at a no-kill shelter where she may spend forever in a cage. I'm willing to continue to foster her until she finds a permanent home.

I'm going to be away the entire last week of this month on a trip planned and paid for long before this cat came along and maybe at least one long weekend before that for family stuff, not to mention all the stuff that's been piling up in my life because I've been busy trying to buy stuff and research and do stuff for this cat. I'm single and don't have anyone to help me with any of the cat stuff or the rest of my life stuff, so this is all just too much for me right now. Help.
posted by unannihilated to Pets & Animals (14 answers total)
Where in NYC are you located? There are other more sympathetic vets that can help you find a no-kill shelter, or I can find you a rescue org directly. It sounds like you were sort of forced into adopting a cat when you weren't prepared for it, and no responsible rescue organization would hold it against you for contacting them to surrender the cat; in fact, they'd probably prefer that to having you struggle with something that you weren't really able to do (not a judgement against you, this just seems like this is a responsibility that is neither fitting the life you are living nor did you ask for).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:38 AM on August 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

You took this cat off the street and have done a lot to make her more healthy. I think any reputable rescue would be more than happy to take over from here. They may put her to sleep, be warned but that might be for the best if she has, ex, cancer.

If the rescue tries to guilt you or anything move on to another. A lot of animal rescues are run by animal hoarders and volunteers run the gamut from veterinarians to responsible owners to (mostly) crazy people. I've been involved with them on and off my entire life and can say that with confidence. I've seen them bully people beyond the point of madness. If you get a bad feeling from one, move on. There are good ones out there who you can deal with. You are being very reasonable here, and you've already helped the cat a lot.
posted by fshgrl at 12:46 PM on August 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Keep in mind the cat may have only been friendly while she was pregnant due to hormones. This might be her base personality. I still vote for pain as the cause but I could easily be wrong.
posted by fshgrl at 12:48 PM on August 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

For whatever it's worth:
1. If her urine smells sweet, she probably has diabetes.
2. If your cat will let you pet her while she's eating (helps if you approach from behind), you should have no problem giving her shots in the back of the neck.
3. Many cat sitters know how to give shots to diabetic cats. If they don't, you can teach them once you know how (it's easy.)
4. If this makes your cat feel better, she will start acting better.
posted by serena15221 at 1:19 PM on August 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

I suggest contacting some no-kill shelters (BARC, Animal Haven, Anjellicle Cats). It's very likely they won't be able to take the cat, so I don't want to get your hopes up. (They all pull cats from the ACC kill list, so often can't or won't take owner surrenders.) But, maybe they will and if they can't, ask if they have any suggestions. I agree with fshgrl that you want to be careful that you're dealing with a reputable rescue. Ask how long their animals typically stay. Also, do the animals go to foster homes or a spacious shelter environment or a cage?

I had to put a diabetic cat to sleep last year. I loved that cat more than any cat I've ever met. But my current cat hated him so much I had to go to urgent care when she attacked me (because he was there). I spent months trying to find him a home. He was ill. I was concerned about him being in a no-kill shelter for months or years. (I hate that friendly, healthy animals are euthanized, but I also hate keeping pets in cages that long and question whether that is really preferable to euthanasia.) He had a loving, happy last few months, off the streets where he would have died a slow, miserable death. I still miss him a lot. Which is a long way of saying that I understand the misery of having a cat you can't help. I also understand that there are limits to what you can do for a pet.
posted by Mavri at 5:19 PM on August 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Re: special cat food
I used to feed my diabetic cats Fancy Feast (and the generic version of it) that didn't have wheat gluten. Turkey is one type, I forget what other flavors I used to get.
Nothing wrong with finding another home for the cat--the only reason my diabetic cats lasted 5 years post-diagnosis is because I worked at home most of that time.
posted by luckynerd at 10:29 PM on August 6, 2018

Diabetes isn't uncommon in cats. Wikipedia says 1 in 230 cats will have it. I had a diabetic cat and had to give it subcutaneous insulin shots at least once a day. If you'll be away from home frequently and don't want to deal with a friend or cat-sitter to meet the cat's needs then, by all means, find it a new home.

I re-homed my diabetic cat (fortunately with friends) and tried to remind myself that he'd be better off with a family that could take care of him better than I could. I had adopted him from a shelter and fed him and taken care of him for years. I'd reached the end of things I was willing to do for him - it sounds like you're there too. That's OK. You've already done a ton of stuff for this cat... taken it in, fed it, fixed it, treated an infection and so on.

I don't have any resources in NYC for you but I wanted to empathize with your hesitation...
posted by bendy at 11:36 PM on August 6, 2018

You took this cat off the street and have done a lot to make her more healthy. I think any reputable rescue would be more than happy to take over from here.

This was not my experience with a cat rescued from Animal Control after his owner had died unexpectedly and Animal Control was going to kill him because he was old, fat and a jerk. It was an awful experience. Most places never called back. I got lectures about how undesirable the cat was because he was old and fat, how I was a terrible person for allowing him to be overweight (fat shame a cat that isn't mine!), how they only take cats found on the street or whose owners have died or gone to nursing homes (his owner had died!), etc, etc. I did eventually find a no kill shelter an hour away that would take him when they had space. My mom ended up falling in love with him while visiting and decided to take him I think the exact day the shelter called to say they had space.
posted by hoyland at 3:39 AM on August 7, 2018

Chiming in to note that feline diabetes does not actually seem terribly rare in my experience. I've had a cat with it, and I can offhand think of three other friends who also have. Presumably there may be more I've never happened to have that discussion with. I wouldn't let the question of rarity guide your thinking. Wouldn't necessarily let a lack of obvious symptoms be the guiding thing either; the only thing with my cat was weight loss, and it was a slow and steady loss, nothing precipitous.

It can be pretty easy to medicate, in a cat you are able to touch and handle easily. This doesn't seem to be the case here.

You have done a lot for this cat, and it doesn't seem like she's a good long term fit for you. I think that reaching out to shelters (or your friends, neighborhood mailing list, etc.) to re-home her would be a good idea in the long term. Maybe this is something your friend can help with, given how gung-ho he was to get her off the street. In the short term, I would start with the special food or with a second opinion, depending on just how badly you mistrust this vet. (I might also ask if you can try a dose of Kitty Prozac or something else that you can mix into food to chill her out a bit, to see if you can get to a point of being able to touch her.)
posted by Stacey at 7:39 AM on August 7, 2018

Response by poster: I am in South Brooklyn, but I would travel anywhere in the city - anywhere in the country, actually - to get her a good permanent home.
posted by unannihilated at 5:16 PM on August 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Most recent update: She is indeed diabetic. The vet outlined a number of ways forward, but all of them are beyond my financial and logistical abilities. I have reached out to a number of rescue groups, individual rescuers, shelters, and friends. No one will help her. I am willing to continue to foster for a bit longer to buy her time if a rescue org covers 100% of the costs. If I cannot find a solution by Labor Day that allows her to begin proper medical treatment, I am going to euthanize her for her own comfort.

If you are going to help in any kind of way, now is the time. I have copious pictures and IG and FB posts for sharing.
posted by unannihilated at 6:03 AM on August 23, 2018

I can share on FB, memail me the link.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:17 AM on August 23, 2018

Hi - I asked for the Facebook post in memail, but maybe you didn't see it. Would it be easier if you just posted the facebook link here?

I want to help you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:33 AM on August 24, 2018

Hi - in the absence of a Facebook link, I am making a post on my own feed asking for help and pointing people to this AskMe.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:36 PM on August 27, 2018

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