Forever Pets: Dealing With Jack's Health Issues

By Iris Rohr

I’m no expert, but I’ve had to deal with health issues from both of my cats. When Jack was only a couple years old, she stopped eating. Stopped moving. Just laid in the middle of the living room, unwilling to get up. I took her into the vet right away, and they diagnosed her with pancreatitis. In dogs, pancreatitis is caused by a diet of too many high-fat foods. In cats, no one is really sure why or how pancreatitis happens. Jack was on a vet-prescribed diet, and I thought I was doing everything right.

Chronic pancreatitis is scary. There’s no cure. They said they would give her pills to increase her appetite and get her eating again, but whether she pulls through is up to her. I was so happy that she did get better in a few days and thought I was in the clear. A couple years after that, I was struggling with a lot of frustrating behavioural issues from Jack. She was urinating outside of her box often, destroying my clothing, shoes, and hardwood flooring. I took her into the vet and they couldn’t see anything immediately wrong with her for months.

Then one day, she was laying down on the rug and looking very absent. I called her, and she didn’t move. Jack always answers to her name, will come when I call her, but instead, she just stared at the wall. Then she urinated all over herself, her leg, the rug. I knew something was wrong again and took her into the vet. They diagnosed her with diabetes. Likely, her earlier bout of pancreatitis had destroyed her pancreas and it no longer functioned.

Diabetes in cats is unique. Unlike humans, cats can go into remission, and some aren’t insulin-dependent, and only need a diet change. Jack was only 5 or 6 years old when she got her diagnosis. I learned how to draw blood from the tiny veins along her ear for the glucometer. I learned how to inject insulin into the scruff of her leg or neck, and was told I would have to do this twice a day, every day, for the rest of her life. I couldn’t stop crying that night. I felt like I couldn’t do it, like I had somehow failed her, and it broke my heart every time I had to insert the needle into her skin.

Thankfully, Jack is the perfect patient. I think she knows that it makes her feel better. My bathroom is now a needle station, and twice a day, she waits patiently by the bathroom door for me to let her in. She jumps into the sink on her own, and I pet her to warm her up and make the blood draw easier. She gets treats, she gets pets, and she probably feels a hundred times better after her insulin injection. Diabetes is not the death sentence I originally thought it was.

It’s definitely not easy – knowing I need to be home and up at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. every day. Finding someone to look after her when I go on vacation. And she still has pretty frequent “accidents” around the house. Then there’s the cost: each glucometer strip costs a dollar, and she needs two a day. The glucometer itself is almost a hundred dollars. Needle tips are about $30/100, and regular needles are even more, and she uses two of each every day, too. Then there’s the insulin itself, and the diabetic-friendly vet prescribed cat food. It all adds up very quickly, especially if you don’t have pet insurance, like me. And on top of it, diabetics are more prone to other diseases and infections, and also need to go to the vet for check ups, blood draws, and monitoring much more frequently.

I wanted to share my story for anyone else who may be facing the issue of having an insulin-dependent diabetic cat, and like I was, struggling with what to do. It’s been a year and a half since Jack’s diagnosis, and when she sits in the sink and purrs as I pet her, I know I’ve made the right decision. Ultimately, it comes down to quality of life, and since she’s still happy, playing, eating, and napping in the sun beams at my house, I’m comfortable with the bi-daily needles because they extend her life and give her the best quality of life I can possibly offer. I believe that when we adopt a pet into our lives, we’re making a commitment to them, to be responsible for their well-being, through sickness and in health, and to do everything we can reasonably do for them.


Above: Jack, after surviving pancreatitis.