four-legged diabetes…yikes!!!

Bad news from the vet yesterday. Juneau, one of our maine-coone-mixed breeds is overweight. At 15 pounds, he’s ripe for developing diabetes it seems. Not that I was surprised since it’s obvious he’s bigger and bulkier than our other cats, Sitka, his litter-mate, and Sunkist. Gosh, even our dog Mocha’s slimmer. So as they say, “today’s a new day.”

Growing up in a home where my mom struggled to feed our family, pets were obviously “low man on the totem pole.” They got leftovers, and probably not a whole lot of them either. And while they had a roof over their heads like we did, they were free to roam the neighborhood, except for the dogs. They were tethered to the outdoor stair railing.

We usually kept only one cat and/or one dog at a time. They were usually strays, or rescues from the animal shelter. When one cat we’d had the longest gave birth to a litter, we kept two of her kittens, especially after their mom, Toby, died. My friend and I found her one day lying in a neighbor’s backyard. She looked malnourished. Of course I felt badly, but my mom couldn’t concern herself with making sure the pets had enough to eat. She could barely keep food on the table for us the entire month. We knew her paycheck had run its course when there were only a few cans of tuna and sardines in the cupboard, along with what remained of the 25-pound bag of rice.

Trey food

Image via Wikipedia

When I married and began adopting cats, I made certain they had lots to eat. I think I fed them a reasonable amount. I didn’t just let them have a go at the cupboards. But until now I’d never heard of anyone feeding each cat separately, in different rooms. That boggles my mind! Not that it doesn’t make sense, considering I now have to do that for Juneau. I only wish I’d have known earlier.

When the vet had done their physicals before, he would ask about the cats eating and potty habits. I couldn’t give him definitive answers, because they ate and went about their “business” without my overseeing them. He never insisted I change this routine, so I didn’t. I think he felt it would be overwhelming with 3 cats. In fact at one time there were 4 cats. One died of cancer a few years ago.

In speaking of my dilemma with the receptionist yesterday, Sandy informed me that she feeds her 3 cats in separate rooms. That way she can keep an eye on one in particular who is a slower eater. She knows the cat’s had enough when it curls up for a nap in the closet. At that point her food bowl is put away until the next feeding. The door to that room is kept closed until meal-time is over. The rooms in which the other cats are fed are not closed because they eat their food in one sitting.

Sandy proceeded to describe her feeding ritual in great detail, down to how many pieces of a certain kibble are given at what meal, and for what snack. As she spoke, waves of fear and nausea overwhelmed me. I felt Juneau was doomed to dying of diabetes if I didn’t get this feeding thing down pat. But after speaking with my husband, we are taking steps toward managing our pets’ weights.

Sitka, who needs to gain weight, and Sunkist who is elderly and needs to maintain her current weight are being fed together as usual. We’re bringing Juneau upstairs in the morning and apportioning him his own special weight loss food, gradually so as not to upset his digestive system. We’re still mixing it in with the “old” food to wean him from it. Juneau will need a little time getting comfortable with the new arrangement. I’m not sure what the final routine will encompass, but we’re taking it one day at a time, now that we know what needs to be done.

The inconvenience is much more attractive than the alternative. Just as I don’t want to encounter the devastating effects of diabetes in my human loved ones, I don’t want our pets succumbing to the disease as well. It would be physically painful for Juneau, emotionally draining for me, not to mention the expense of insulin shots, medication, and constant trips to the vet.

Pets, like children, don’t choose their lot in life. They have no say in when and where they’re born, nor the names they’re given, nor the manner in which their lives unfold. They’re pretty malleable in the beginning. Given a home, nourishment and lots of love and affection, pets and children will flourish. So Juneau is in good hands.

especially now that we’re more attuned to his specific needs…hugmamma.