Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I’ve had my cat, Shilo, since I was 13. I’m 19 now and planning to head off to college and do some traveling. But Shilo was recently diagnosed with diabetes, and my mother says she will no longer take care of him. I have two options: give him up for adoption or take care of him myself. Right now, giving him up for adoption doesn’t sound like an option: I’ve had him since he was a kitten, and giving him up seems like abandonment. I couldn’t live with myself. On the other hand, I don’t know how I will take care of him — financially or emotionally — and go to college. I’m afraid I might resent him for missed opportunities and the stress that will come with trying to take on this responsibility. He is very attached to me and I to him. I don’t know what is best for him. Any help at all would be great.
Siouxsie: Wow, Mina, that is a tough situation. We think it’s wonderful that you want to do what’s best for your sweet Shilo, and we think we might be able to give you some options beyond giving him up or finding yourself totally stressed with sole responsibility for a diabetic cat.
Thomas: First of all, giving him up for adoption at a regular shelter probably is not a good option. If the shelter is open-admission, he will probably be euthanized. Because these shelters are usually overcrowded, they are more or less forced to put down cats that are unlikely to get adopted. No-kill shelters are an option, of course; however, they might not have the space or the staff knowledge to care for a diabetic cat.
Bella: Also, the stress of a shelter environment could make his diabetes worse.
Siouxsie: On the other hand, it’s definitely going to be hard for you to give Shilo the best care because your life as a college student is going to be very busy and you’re probably not going to have a lot of money to spare for his insulin and food.
Thomas: But we know about some resources that could be of help.
Bella: First of all, to learn more about feline diabetes, we highly recommend FelineDiabetes.com. It’s the oldest and most comprehensive information site on feline diabetes on the whole internet!
Siouxsie: FelineDiabetes.com also offers the Feline Diabetes Message Board (FDMB), where people who take care of diabetic kitties can go for help, advice and support. If you join FDMB, you’ll have access to a list of people in various parts of the country who know about diabetes and may be willing to help you out with Shilo’s care.
Thomas: There’s a nonprofit organization called Diabetic Cats in Need, whose whole mission is to help diabetic cats like your Shilo either stay in their homes or find loving foster homes where they can get the care they need.
Bella: In order to help diabetic cats stay in their homes, DCIN can offer financial assistance for medications and supplies. They can also help you if you’re interested in trying to get him off insulin by adjusting his diet to a grain-free, low-carb food.
Siouxsie: That’s right. Some diabetic cats can go “off the juice,” as the diabetic kitty world calls it, by eating the right kinds of food. Bella doesn’t have to take insulin anymore, do you, Bella?
Bella: Nope! And neither do a lot of the diabetic kitties I lived with when I was at the shelter.
Thomas: If you can’t take care of Shilo, DCIN can help you find a foster home for him with people who understand how to take care of cats with diabetes, or a placement at a shelter where he won’t be put down just because of his condition.
Bella: We know you love your Shilo, and we can’t even imagine how heartbreaking it must be to think of not having him in your life. We can guess that you’re probably feeling guilty about this situation, because neither choice seems to be a good one.
Siouxsie: But we want you to know that whatever choice you end up making, you’re obviously doing it with Shilo’s best interests at heart. You clearly love him and want what’s best for him. Many people when faced with this choice would just drop him off at the shelter and not give it a second thought.
Thomas: So obviously, you’re just awesome! *purrrrrr*
Bella: We’re not going to lie: it’s going to be hard for both of you if you need to find Shilo a new home. But if you take advantage of some of these resources, you may find it easier to keep Shilo in your life, or at the very least, get him into a home where he’ll be well treated and where he’ll have a chance at being adopted by someone who has the resources and time to give him the care he needs.
Siouxsie: And remember — be gentle with yourself. You’re 19 years old, and very few people your age are faced with such a huge decision. It seems to all of us (Mama included) that you’re doing a really good job handling it. You’re being guided by your love for Shilo; you’re learning everything you can about the realities of Shilo’s condition; and you’re willing to do the best thing for your friend. We congratulate you for the maturity with which you’re approaching this. Blessings to both of you.