Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How to negotiate with a cat

Taking care of Isabella’s diabetes is, and always has been, an exercise in compromise. Isabella is a headstrong cat. She knows what she wants and she’s determined to get it. She knows just as clearly what she doesn’t want. For my part, there are things that I want and don’t want too. Sometimes those two worlds collide, and if not managed properly, it gets ugly.

What Isabella wants, mainly, is food. What she doesn’t want is to wait for it.

What I want, mainly, is to test Isabella’s blood sugar before her shots and to sleep all night. What I don’t want is to fight with her on these two issues.

That’s pretty straightforward.

When Isabella was diagnosed the vet tech suggested that I give Isabella her insulin shot while she was eating – a great idea! Then I found FDMB and decided to start testing her blood sugar before every shot. The advice was to test, then feed and shoot while eating, right in line with the vet office idea.

Unfortunately, this plan didn’t coincide with Isabella’s ideas. She was perfectly happy accepting her shot while she ate. But there was a serious problem with her meals being delayed for a blood test.

A very serious problem, indeed. So serious that I took to wearing protective gear to test my hungry kitty. At first it was leather gloves. Those gloves pissed off Isabella as much as the delayed meal. My cat gets a great deal of satisfaction from sinking her teeth into flesh and the gloves took away the fun. Once she figured that out, she starting aiming her bite toward my wrists and forearms. So I started wearing a long-sleeved fleece jacket, elastic at the wrists snapped firmly over my tender tissue. The result: I was protected for the most part, but Isabella was a snarling furball of ravenous fury. The blood tests were an ugly wrestling match and I was completely stressed out.

Until it dawned on me: Feed her first; test her after.

This little compromise made my cat cooperative and blood tests much simpler. Of course I still have to give her food (in the form of tuna flakes or temptations treats) while she gets her shot, but both of our needs are being met with this system. What a relief!

I feel just as strongly about sleeping as Isabella does about eating. I don’t care when her stomach alarm goes off, I’m not getting up and she’s not getting fed, until my alarm rings. We both had to compromise for this one: First, instead of two feedings a day, I split it up into three, the last being close to bedtime. I needed to top off her tank to have a prayer of a peaceful night. But she has to accept that I decide when it’s time for breakfast. After two years, that’s still a struggle.

Take this morning for instance. At about 5:30, Isabella felt she had waited long enough. Sun’s up! The lady should get up too! She pranced up the length of my body.


I opened an eye and peeked at the clock. Too early. Isabella saw my eye open. She poked at me with a paw. I pulled the covers over my head and turned onto my stomach. Ahhh, quiet.


A tickle of whiskers as Isabella shoved her head under the sheet.

Mrrrowww!? Another gentle poke with a paw. Does she never learn? Two days ago this behavior got her banished from the bedroom. (Oh that was a glorious day! When I got up she triumphantly ran down the hall toward the kitchen. I even more triumphantly slammed the bedroom door and went back to bed. I slept an extra half hour just to show her.)

Today however, I had to go to work so when the alarm rang at 6am, she got her breakfast. Isabella felt like a winner. I felt like a winner (sort of).

Ours is a fragile compromise, more of a stalemate than an agreement. I suspect that if Isabella had opposable thumbs things would be much different, but for now, it’s working.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Google and The Blog

One of the fun things Site Meter does while tracking my blog traffic is show how people got here. For instance, I know that a few people read posts via a site feed like RSS. A few follow the link from my signature line on the Feline Diabetes Message Board. Some come from AOL search or MSN search. But the vast majority -- truly the bulk of people who land on this blog -- get here because of a search entered in Google.

And I can see what they searched on.

I suppose the intent of this feature is for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), where the truly traffic-motivated plant keywords in their blog (or whatever) in order to maximize the number of readers, ultimately leading to fame and, no doubt, fortune. Me? I just like to see what search led people to my little blog. I ain't optimizing, I'm just curious.

This post is an exploration of the top 10 Google searches that lead to this blog. On account of I'm so nice, I'm even going to answer the questions:

Number Ten: Where to get methyl B12, and how much to give
I buy mine online from Vitacost. It's also available in health food stores and such. As for how much -- Isabella gets 5mg per day, smooshed up in her food. I understand that any excess is harmlessly excreted in urine -- but I haven't verified that.

Number Nine: There's a lump on my cat.
Bummer. Mine too. Take yours to the vet - pronto.

Number Eight: What happens if I skip an insulin shot?
One shot? Fluffy will probably feel like crap and have pretty darn high blood sugar. More than that? You're risking seriously life-threatening complications such as ketoacidosis, which requires hospitalization and intensive treatment to fix - assuming it can be fixed. Skipping shots is not to be recommended. It's cruel to Fluffy and can be very, very devastating to your bank account.

Number Seven: What feline blood glucose reading is normal
I can just imagine the scenario that leads up to that question: Owner and cat are at the vet, where the owner is told "Fluffy's blood sugar is 8592. She's diabetic, here's some insulin." The owner is left stunned and wondering, well, just how diabetic exactly, is my little Fluffy? Is 8592 just a little high, or a lot high? Just what is normal? Here's the answer: normal is about 60-100. Fluffy definitely needs that insulin.

Number Six: What kind of glucometer to use on a diabetic cat, and where do I get it?
Any kind of meter that works on humans will work on your cat. It doesn't need to be fancy. The most expensive part is buying the strips for the tests (because, no, your health insurance will NOT cover strips for your cat, even if you think it should), so keep that in mind. The blood sample size needed varies among meters - so keep that in mind too. You might want to balance cheap strips and size of blood sample. Me? I pay $$$ for strips that take the tiniest sample of blood. If you've ever met my cat you understand why.

Number Five: My diabetic cat is ______.
Fill in the blank with any number of symptoms of hypoglycemia: limp, shaking its head, howling... Yikes. All I can say here is that if your cat is diabetic one of the first things you should do is learn the symptoms of hypoglycemia and how to treat it. Print this out and put it on your fridge. Have the phone number of an emergency vet handy. Keep Karo syrup or other high-carb food available and have a plan on how to get said sugary food into your hypoglycemic cat. And, for pete's sake, read Number Six (above) and Number Two (below) and learn how to test your cat's blood sugar.

Number Four: Why is my diabetic cat barfing
Sadly, I don't have an answer for this one, but that fact that's it's this high on the list shows that I spend way too much time discussing Isabella's intestinal issues.

Number Three: I need a spreadsheet to track my diabetic cat's blood sugar
Yay!! You can use Excel, or if you prefer an online option, try EditGrid or Google Docs. It doesn't need to be fancy. Ask the members of the Feline Diabetes Message Board, and someone will no doubt send you a template to get you started.

Number Two:
How to get blood from my cat
Short answer: poke its ear. Longer answer: watch this video - it's a great demonstration of how to do it.

And the Number One search that leads people to this blog: What kind of treats should I give to my diabetic cat?
Well, they should be low carb. Something like bonito flakes (found in asian groceries) or freeze-dried fish or meats (found in pet stores, where you can spend lots of dollars for a few precious ounces of nasty-smelling chunks that will make your cat dance in circles of joy.) Experiment. See what your cat likes. Cook up a chicken breast now and then and put it in the fridge for Fluffy. She'll love you!

Lastly, the search that just plain made me laugh out loud: Feline Diabetes Message Board crazies
Hey! We are not! Well, maybe a little, but we try to hide it in public.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


A few days ago I prepared to test Isabella as usual. I got out the meter and lancet-clicker, put a test strip in and then something distracted me. I turned back to find Isabella messing around with the test strip - not with her paws, but with her mouth.

I pushed it into the meter, expecting an error message (she's pulled this trick before) but all was well. So I assumed that she hadn't actually gotten hold of it and proceeded with the test. Except that when I touched the strip to the blood drop, it looked sort of funny. Runny. Kind of thin.

The meter calculated and then spit out this result: 28

Spit indeed. Isabella smirked at me (I swear it) as I yanked out the strip and got a new one. New poke. New blood. Ah ha - not runny this time.

The new result: 317. And now I know what cat spit does to a blood glucose test.