A pregnant cat was dropped off at St. Francis Animal rescue last week by an older couple who said she was feral and that they had been feeding her. As Mama’s abdomen was huge and stretched to capacity, the couple assumed that she was overdue and the fetuses were dead. This lovely, small golden tabby was extremely friendly, purred and allowed us to rub her enormous tummy. An X-Ray revealed 9 kittens at full term and alive per our Veterinarian, Dr. Nicole Kushmaul of Veterinary Care of Venice. It appeared as if she would deliver within 24 hours so with a great deal of coaching from Dr. Nicole, I took her home. We named her Gemma and by 11:00 p.m. that night she began labor. I stayed to keep a watchful eye since she was high risk and occupied myself in between kitten births with ironing clothes. By 4:00 a.m. there were 9 tiny kittens; 7 dark tabbies and 2 orange little ones. One tabby was not viable and only survived about 30 minutes. Gemma was malnourished and I was told not to expect much milk production, which was the case. She did have four nipples that had a watery, milky fluid that was likely colostrum. I helped alternate the remaining 8 kittens on the nipples so that they could get some of the nourishment and immunity from Mama. I had kitten replacement milk ready and these tiny ones immediately began nursing from a bottle within a few hour. Only one did not take to the bottle but did accept milk in small amounts from a syringe. Gemma was tired but ate a big bowl of wet food and settled in with her kittens. I set my alarm for two hours later to check on the kittens and give them a feeding. It was early Friday morning and I knew it would be a weekend without much sleep.
I wrote in my last post about Dante, my diabetic foster cat, who is a four paw declaw. Few people realize that declawing can cause permanent harm whether it is performed with a scalpel or with the newer laser technique. If such a procedure were performed on humans, it would be the equivalent of cutting off each finger at the last knuckle! Declawing is painful and may lead to infection, tissue death and lameness. Even a procedure without complications changes the way a cat’s foot meets the ground and creates discomfort similar to when a human wears ill-fitting shoes. Post surgery, the cat may experience pain using the litter box and develop and aversion to the box. We have several friendly, tame cats on our permanent resident side of St. Frances Animal Rescue who are botched declaws and unable to use a litter box due to severe pain or box aversion.
Dante was adopted from our shelter and returned three and one half years later. The reason given by his adopters was that over a period of months he did not always use the litter box. This friendly, handsome black kitty appeared to the staff to be sick and our veterinarian quickly diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and diabetes mellitus. Dante had not had any medical attention since being adopted except to have all four paws declawed! Luckily, it was not pain caused by declawing but the infection and the frequent thirst accompanying diabetes that caused him to not use the litter box. We also noticed that he had licked off most of the fur on his lower abdomen which is a stress reaction in cats called psychogenic alopecia.
Dante was place on a special diabetic diet of low glycemic index dry food and given small doses of insulin. He initially needed a unit of long acting insulin twice and day but now only received one unit. It is very easy to give subcutaneous insulin to a cooperative cat and they rarely react to the needle stick. We rotate his shots between his shoulders and his thighs. We tried to give him DM wet food but he will not eat it, even if we do not give him dry food. Dante spent some time as a foster with me while we were adjusting his diet and medications. He is exceptionally friendly and talkative and religiously uses his litter box. While there is a moderate cost for medication and special food, this loving kitty is worth it. An ideal owner might be an older person with diabetes who would understand his needs. He has no claws so there would be little chance of any injury to someone with frail skin.
Although the incidence of Diabetes mellitus in cats is between 1-2%, it appears to be developing at an alarming rate as obesity becomes a serious health problem for out pets. As in humans, this disease is the inability to produce enough insulin to balance blood sugar levels . Left untreated, it lead to symptoms such as weight loss, loss of appetite, vomiting , extreme thirst and urination, eventual dehydration, coma, and even death.
Diet control is certainly an important component in treatment of this disease. Generally a low-carbohydrate diet is probably best for cats with diabetes and special food needs to be purchased. DM food is available for cats in both wet and dry food. Another treatment is insulin therapy. It is important that owners work with their veterinarian to adjust a cat’s insulin dose. Blood tests will determine whether your cat’s blood glucose is elevated and how your cat is responding to diet and insulin therapy. Properly treated, your cat can live for many years with this disease.