Saturday, 11 June 2011

Tommy the diabetic cat

When my girlfriend moved in she brought her cat Tommy with her. Tommy was the laziest cat I’d ever seen. We bought him a scratching post with a dangling toy mouse that he could toy with, chase around the post and generally relieve high spirits. The closest he got to the mouse was to slump by the post and look disdainfully at it before transferring that same expression to me.

Tommy was also diabetic. He had been allowed to grow too fat, fed tit-bits and human food by those who loved him the most and couldn’t say no. His general lack of movement (his idea of going outside was to sit under a bush for ten minutes and then come back inside) didn’t help him any. He was on insulin twice a day administered through injections.

My girlfriend and I came back from a local bar on New Year’s Eve, about three in the morning, and on seeing him it became obvious Tommy was in some distress as his breathing was shallow and short. We thought it was related to the diabetes as he hadn’t been eating much of late so we rubbed honey on his gums. The vet had told us to do this once before when he slipped into a hypo after having a tooth removed and not eating properly.

But it was worse this time, his little heart was giving up. No doubt it was related to his diabetes and being overweight. He was 13, which wasn’t young but he could have had a few years left if he was more sprightly. And that is the nub.

Having a diabetic cat in a home with a diabetic man caused no end of hilarity to my friends. ‘Do you share the same insulin – one for him, two for me?’ I did find it quite amusing to talk to him as a fellow sufferer and that certainly made me feel better from time to time. Feline diabetes isn’t too different from our own. Losing weight and plenty of exercise is still the key to helping control it. Tommy did neither.

His favourite activity was to lie on our bed with the sun streaming in through the window and fall asleep, although he also very much enjoyed falling asleep by the radiator, and on the chair in the front room when the sun came through in the morning. His approach to life was very calming and he was usually up for having his head stroked but never his belly tickled – I like to think he was a bit sensitive about his weight.

I was certainly guilty of feeding him bits and pieces, some cheese here and some tuna there – you just had to look into his soulful, wistful eyes and you couldn’t resist. He really grew on me, and at the same time his death has been a lesson as to what happens if you don’t get your diabetes under control. It may be slightly high and you see no real side effects, but in the long run it will get you.

I miss Tommy when I wake up in the morning and when I come in from work especially. But my girlfriend, who had him for three years and took him on after her Grandma died, misses him even more. I’m sure we’ve both asked ourselves if we could have done more for him, but I think he was simply enjoying his last few years.

I will always remember Tommy’s soothing, cuddly yet slightly acerbic (in a feline way) nature. However I will also pay attention to the fact that heart disease is a big killer of people with diabetes. His death is a lesson for me and so will not be in vain. He will be missed – a lot – by those that cared for him.

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