I’m Going to College and My Cat is Diabetic. Help!

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.

~ Mina

Claire, a purebred Himalayan available for adoption at HART of Maine

Claire, one of our Sugar Kitty Wednesday cats, went to her forever home today!

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.

  • Connie

    Wow, I am sad for you that your mother is so callous. My husband and I have been taking care of a diabetic cat for years. It is not as problematic as you would think. If you can’t afford the prescription diet, you can feed Fancy Feast Classic wet foods. The insulin isn’t horribly expensive either, and if you can get him on a wet diet without too much grain and filler, you might just be able to beat the diabetes. Unlike humans, diabetes IS REVERSABLE in some cats. Giving the injections is not a big deal either. If you have 2 minutes to feed him, you have the time to give him a shot as well.

  • Gail

    Wow, I do feel sorry for you, also. I have never been in your position Mina, so, in all honesty cant relate to it. From reading what the ‘Esteemed Kitties” said, I would totally go for their comments, they have never led me wrong, ever.
    I also felt Connie had to say was fantastic.
    I believe putting both answers into practise will be the best thing you could do.
    Please let us/me know how it copes… I would love to help financial wise, but living in NZ would make it pretty prohibitive… I look forward to find out how your beloved bady goes…

  • Jenice Tom

    Good luck, Mina! I am glad that you reached out to the Esteemed Kitties for advice. It is sound and you will undoubtedly do the right thing. I am sorry that your mother doesn’t understand the position that she’s put you in. I am sure that DCIN will also do right by you.

  • Ragdoll

    You cat is an innocent soul and depends on you for it’s welfare. Personally, I couldn’t give up my cat and live with myself. I would have a lifetime of guilt not knowing if I took my cat to the shelter, if he was one of the lucky ones that made it out of the shelter alive. 70% of the cats that go to shelters DON’T make it out alive and the older cats don’t stand a chance against the kittens. It’s almost more humane for you to euthanize you cat rather than take it to the shelter and put it through a month of terror and wondering where you are and why you abandoned him, before they euthanize your cat. When that happens, he’ll be around no one who knows him or cares about him when he dies. If you plan on traveling, then you must have money so the cost of the insulation shouldn’t be a problem. I’m guessing you will not be traveling like you think you will be. I thought the same thing when I went to school and never did any traveling until I got out of school and started working, so I could pay for my vacations. Even if you do travel, you can hire a pet sitter to come in to care for your cat daily. That’s what I do. They come in every 12 hours to give my cat her medicine. I pay $50 a day for a sitter to come in twice a day. Again, if you plan on traveling, then you probably have the money to pay for a sitter. You may even find a friend who will sit with your cat for you and give her the insulin. Your cat is depending on you for her welfare and when you adopted her, you promised to take care of her. Don’t disappoint her. You will not regret her company while going to school.

  • http://bellvet.com.au/grovedale-vet-staff-support-online-pet-shop-obay/  Grant

    That is one tough decision you have to make with a diabetic cat. I do feel your anguish, and it would be good if you can find someone who will be willing to take care of your pet while you go to college.

  • http://www.luckycatsitting.com Adrianna Culver

    I had cats while I was in Univeristy in Ireland. I have a number of regrets that are permanent. I filled a passport while living there but wish I had been a better cat parent. I eventually wound up re-homing my cats because I wanted to move to Germany. In retrospect I would rather have had my cats if I had to choose.

    I wish I had kept them! The stressors of college life and travel would have been much lessend by keeping my cats. I understand the wanderlust and support it. And I think you will be happier in life if you keep your kitty. You will find others who love cats and they will be happy to support you. Other cat people are also usually the best people to make friends with.

    Do not forget that college is only a few years of your life and you will have more opportunities to travel after school as well. A good way to find other cat lovers is to connect with local cat rescues and shelters. You might even enjoy volunteering. You can have it all:-).

    Feel free to contact me if you need a hand. JaneA knows me personally. My website is http://www.luckycatsitting.com. Many cat sitters are willing to offer sliding scale fees if you ask. Everybody who works with cats is passionate about forever homes and will move mountains to see a cat in a good home stay there.


  • missy

    WOW….Really? Your mom seems like a heartless witch. I feel so sorry for you. Atleast you want to do what is right for your kitty. I could not imagine just giving your sweet kitty up, especially to a shelter or anywhere else. Some no kill shelters actually do euthanize. I think your best bet is pray about this one and KEEP YOUR KITTY. Animals depend on us for their survival and having taken care of her for so long and just abandoning her…. I do hope your moms traits do not rub off on you. Your kitty needs you. MAKE IT WORK… SHE LOVES YOU. I do hope you choose to keep her and take care of her. You can do it.
    Many people go to college with jobs and children and even families…. you can go to college and find somewhere that allows cats.
    Don’t abandon her…. YOU will regret that more than travelling or anything else.

    Good Luck… You are in my prayers. I hope to hear you’ve kept her and loved her as she has deserved at least this from you!