Not a Sugar Cat

Yes, that's pump tubing on my head... Don't ask.
Our Shadow Cat is almost nine years old.

She came into our lives about seven years ago, in the summer of 2004 that was our first year living in Indiana after moving here from southeast Michigan. A copy editor friend at the paper I worked for at the time found her on the side of the road one night, scared after an apparent near-miss by a passing car. Her front paws were scraped, but she was OK. An email went out at work about anyone wanting to adopt a cat, and despite not being "cat people" or ever owning a pet before, we opted to bring her home. She was already being called "Shadow" because of her gray coat and "sneakiness in following you around like your shadow," so the name stuck. We found a vet and learned the estimate was she was about 2 at the time.

We moved from that apartment to our first house about a month after our wedding in September 2005, and after some initial investigation she loved the space where she could chase her tail in many different rooms and run up and down the stairs in the middle of the night while hunting the invisible mouse in the walls.

Those first couple years were fun. My parents called her the "grand-cat," while we refer her to as "Kitten Mitten" and "Kitty" and "Beaner. We've all been very happy. In mid-2007, the county Humane Society chapter offered us a chance to bring a black lab into our lives - that was Riley, about 2 at the time. We adopted her and brought her home, and Shadow quickly disappeared under the bed in hiding. We didn't see her for two weeks, though we found signs that she was coming out periodically for food and water and litter box use. Gradually, she began emerging more frequently and got used to the idea that the big clumsy dog wasn't going away.

Riley and Shadow became sisters, roommates, and eventually friends (or so we tell ourselves). They occassionally taunt each other. Shadow stretches out on the floor and paws at Riley's curious-sniffing nose encroaching on her space. They have good times.

After our four-day visit to see family in Michigan over the latest Christmas holiday, we returned to find Shadow had started drinking out of Riley's water dish in that dog's cage upstairs. This wasn't normal. No matter what we tried, we couldn't get her to stop - but we thought she had just claimed it for herself in her usual "I rule this house" persona.

Recently, we'd started noticing Shadow seemed to be losing weight. She'd occasionally pee outside her box, but we didn't think much about it. More recently, we noticed she was searching for and deliberating peeing in places around the house. It got worse over the past week. Maybe it was a virus, we thought.

I stayed up with her one night and watched her, going back and forth between water dishes and peeing twice in the living room. Sitting down watching her about 1 a.m., I thought aloud: "She's so thirsty. And peeing so much. And has lost weight... Oh crap."

Suddenly, it all clicked into place. What if... Shadow is diabetic?????

My mind raced. As did my heart.

I began wondering if there was a future of blood tests and insulin injections in store for my cat. Some guilt set in, like what if I'd caused this - not giving her the right food, or let her contract some type of bug triggering this, or the water was tainted, or...

The image of Shadow from a year or so ago with the pump tubing "hat or halo" on her head came to mind, and I smiled and also frowned in thinking maybe I'd contributed to her condition somehow.

Snapping out of it, a call to the vet's office revealed that they opened at 7 a.m.

Turning to the online world, I made an interesting discovery:  a whole sub-community exists within the Diabetes Online Community that I know - seperate from the Children With Diabetes, Parents of CWD, Adult Type 1s, Type 2s, and even those caregivers known as Type 3s.

There is a Feline Diabetes Community, complete with message boards and forums and blogs and Twitter handles and online information sources. Such as Your Diabetic CatFelineDiabetes and the SugarCats Network. I found some D-Cat blogs, from both the kitty and human perspectives. The night-time minutes ticked by as I absorbed everything I was reading, merging it with what I knew from my quarter century of experience with Type 1.

Shadow appeared from the stairs and moved to a spread of newspapers and a paper bag we'd put out, just in case. She squatted and peed. That's when I wondered if I could use a ketone stick to test her pee. I ran upstairs and sprinted from room to room searching for that elusive bottle of ketone strips I knew was somewhere in the house - checked the bathroom counters, the medicine cabinets, every drawer, my night-stand and travel cases, and everywhere I could think. But no ketone strips.

By then, the moment had passed and I gave up. There were apparently no strips in the house, and I made a mental note to do something about that in case I needed them at some point. (I plead the 5th on how long it's been since I've tested for urine ketones...)

I wondered about how to test Shadow's blood glucose, imagining a lancet prick to her paw or the tip of the ear. Couldn't bring myself to do it.

About this time, I heard it: the muffled sound of an alarm clock blared from somewhere upstairs. I realized then that I'd stayed up all night cat-watching and worrying and it was now the morning hour, nearing 6 a.m. Suzi appeared and I briefly recapped the nights activities and concerns, and we agreed to phone the vet first thing in the morning and try to get her in for tests ASAP. We both got dressed for work and went on our ways, expecting a busy day at our respective jobs but keeping the cat on our minds all day.

I made an appointment for the following morning at the vet's office, but as we've been increasingly displeased with our current vet, we opted to quickly find another that was nearby and highly-recommended. (Good, too, because the prior vet was named "Sugar Grove" and that just didn't sit well with me...)

Shadow had a few accidents during the next day and still drank massive water, and we both took her the next morning. She was as pleased as always (not) to get stuffed into her travel carrier and meowed all the way the way there.

The new vet is very nice, and after a physical examination and hearing us talk about her symptoms and behavior, she said that everything indicated there were three possible scenarios: Diabetes, Hyperthyroidism, or Kidney Infection/Disease. She took Shadow back for a urine test and some blood work. A few minutes passed and she returned with the results: saying that glucose levels weren't high and so initial data hinted that neither diabetes or hypothyroidism were to blame. But the bloodwork coming in the next day would tell us more.

Meowing in displesaure at being "captured" in her box.
We bought two weeks worth of liquid antiobotic and left the office, with Shadow once again voicing her displeasure all the way home. Our vet obtained and reviewed Shadow's labwork and phoned us the next day with the results: As suspected, it was pretty clear that she's in the early stage of kidney disease.

Our hearts caved in.

I know mine did, but admittedly in a strange way, I almost felt a depressing sense of relief: that at least Shadow isn't a Sugar Cat... I got more depressed wondering if I was wrong to feel relieved she wasn't diabetic, despite the kidney disease diagnosis.

The Diabetes Online Community and others cheered me up, and made me realize the obvious: that this is not a fatal prognosis by any means. It could be a virus that just needs to be eradicated. We have liquid antiobotics to give her twice a day for a couple weeks, and have special low-protein diet food to give her to help. We check in with the vet in about a month to see if this slows the progression down or makes it go away. So, we'll see.

In the meantime, our Shadow Cat is home and receiving all of our love and attention - Riley continues sniffing and loving her, like a good sister should.

She may not be a Sugar Cat, but she's our Shadow Cat. For better or worse, now and always.


Bob Pedersen said…
Best of luck to your beautiful Shadow Cat...
Scott S said…
This is a subject that's close to me as you probably know. Since you caught it early, there's a good chance you can stop feline kidney disease with the antibiotics and special diet, so hopefully this will work!
Jeff said…
Poor kitteh. I hope she feels better soon.
Rachael said…
Sorry about your kitty! We had a diabetic cat. My dad and I are both T1s and when we found out it was too late for Scruffy. It was a cruel thing. Cats are good friends. We had a cat with kidney problems and she lasted several years after the Dx. Hope things get better for you two! <3 HUGS
Anonymous said…
I had a cat, Mimi, with kidney disease, and did everything I could to save her, including daily subQ fluid infusions, but she only lasted about 8 months. The biggest issue is nausea, and getting her to eat. I hope your vet can give you some pills to treat the nausea, and that you spend time to make sure she eats.
I sure hope you can keep her comfortable for as long as possible -- these pesky cats have a way of worming themselves into our hearts, and it was very hard to lose my Mimi.
Natalie ._c-
Karen said…
Ooohh, poor little Shadow. From what I know of Feline Renal Disease, you can manage it with diet and meds and it's great that you've caught it early. When we adopted my first cat, Charlie, he was 16 years old and hadn't been to the vet in forever. He had the symptoms you described and I too suspected diabetes. Unfortunately, he was already in Feline Renal Failure and there wasn't much we could do. I'm glad Shadow can get good care and I hope she is feeling much better soon!! K.C. is sending her some special kitty wishes!
The cat is very cute, it does not seem like he care about anything. Thanks for sharing.
Poor cat. I hope she feels better now.

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