In Sickness and In Health

Posted on: May 22nd, 2015 by

My cats Hemi and Cosette have been with me for years, and I’ve been blessed: they have been relatively healthy.

Until last week.

It started with my beloved Cosette. She suddenly lost her appetite, had diarrhea, was lethargic, and withdrew. No interest in sleeping in momma’s bed. I tried coaxing her to eat, and when that didn’t work, I called the veterinarian for advice and an appointment the next day. “Try baby food, chicken or turkey,” a staff member told me. But the cat showed no interest.

That night, I slept on the couch. Cosette usually likes curling up on my chest and sleeping when I lie down on the couch. She initially curled up on me, but she couldn’t get comfortable all night long, and she was clearly in pain.

Worry kept me awake that entire night.

I truly believed that my 16-year-old cat had possibly reached the end of the line. And this was a trigger for me. After all, I got Cosette the day after my breast cancer diagnosis, and she saw me through cancer and a divorce. She comforted me all those days of my feeling ill, all those days of post-marital loneliness.

Now my concern was for her. What if she had a tumor? What if I had to have her euthanized? These worries coursed through me all night long, and I decided I would rather put her down than have her endure chemotherapy, which is utter hell.

I brought her to the veterinarian and tried to keep medical flashbacks at bay. I’ve written about how being at the doctor triggers me, but going to the veterinarian also causes flashbacks for me. Anything medical related will trip me up. I had to do my best to overcome my own fears and bring my cat to the doctor.

Luckily, the x-rays were normal, and after her receiving fluids and a shot of anti-nausea medication and me stocked with anti-nausea and anti-cramping pills, we were on our way home. Within a day she got some of her appetite back, and her appetite would increase within a couple of days. I was relieved that she became her old feisty, crotchety, and affectionate self.

I was so elated, I barely noticed that all was not well.

Something was terribly wrong with Hemi.


Hemi is my affectionate 9-year-old tuxedo Manx, named after a Hemi engine on account that he purrs so much. He’s the perfect cat with one flaw: he gobbles up Cosette’s food after he’s done with his own. This has led him to be overweight, and as hard as I’ve tried, I’ve been minimally successful at keeping the weight off. It doesn’t help that Cosette is a finicky grazer, and she always leaves food available for Hemi. I must constantly keep him from wolfing down Cosette’s food by keeping her food out of paw’s reach.

The day Cosette and I returned from the veterinarian, Hemi started having the same symptoms as she had the day before. Lethargy, not eating, withdrawing. At the veterinarian’s office, it was obvious to the doctor and me that the cats had a nasty stomach flu. He had blood drawn, was treated with fluids, and then released with anti-nausea medication.

My mind was at ease. Except for the weight part. He lost too much weight too quickly. I attributed it to his not eating due to the flu.

Vet's office

The next day, the veterinarian called. Hemi has diabetes. Would I be able to come in with him for an insulin orientation and demonstration?

Now, after the training, and before his insulin treatments, I’m scared shitless. Ironically, when I was a teenager with aspirations to become a veterinarian, I worked at an animal hospital, administering shots and all sorts of medications. I should draw on that memory, I thought, and know I still have it in me to administer insulin to Hemi.

But a lot has happened since I was a teenager. First of all, I’m out of practice. And it showed during my fumbling with filling the syringe with sterile water, as well as my awkwardness with the medical equipment. Secondly, my history as a cancer patient has introduced clutter to my mind. Needles are a painful reminder of what I endured. I’m now sensitive and squeamish.

But the treated now has to become the treater.

I need to quell these disquieting fears to help my sweet Hemi. He deserves the best. And I think back to a post I wrote in January about the three words I would live by this year. One of them was “courage.”

I must summon up my courage and proceed in treating Hemi. And in doing so, perhaps I’ll hear his carefree purring once again.

Do you have to administer medical care to a pet? How has the experience been?

Do you have a pet or did you have a pet? I would love to hear about him/her/them.

Cosette (in foreground) and Hemi chilling in a favorite spot.

Cosette (in foreground) and Hemi chilling in a favorite spot.

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12 Responses to In Sickness and In Health

  1. Caroline had this to say about that:

    Our cat was diagnosed with diabetes about six or seven years ago. I am petrified of needles and made my husband be the one to administer his insulin twice a day. Then one day, he was really sick and finally asleep and it was getting late for the cat’s insulin. So I put on my big girl panties and gave him the insulin. He didn’t even notice. I had been so freaked out about it. I am not sure I would ever be able to give myself an injection. Currently my husband does that for me.

    And the best news is after being on insulin for about six months, his blood levels went back to normal and we could take him off insulin. He just died this past spring of old age. Good luck! You can do it!

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      I’m sorry for the recent loss of your beloved cat. I’m glad that he was eventually taken off the insulin — what a relief for you.

      I can understand why you were hesitant to give your kitty insulin. Since I’ve written this post, I’ve given him his insulin three times, with no problems. He doesn’t even feel the shots! All this worry for nothing.

      You are right: I could do it! And so did you.

  2. Corrie Painter had this to say about that:

    May you have steady hands and many more years with these little loves:)

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Corrie, thank you! I am happy to report that I’ve administered the insulin with steady hands. Yay! :)

  3. Rebecca had this to say about that:

    I am sorry about your furry friend. It is very hard to see your pets sick because they can’t tell you what’s wrong. I’ve found myself in this situation many times and it is frustrating and scary.

    I have a cat too and she is a tabby. Thought she had diabetes for a while but they could not put her on medication because her levels were not high enough. It would have been dangerous for her so I kept testing her urine at home. She was sick on and off and it was awful to watch because I did not know what was wrong with her. She always got better though. Recently I had her teeth cleaned. That seemed to have helped with her health a lot. Poor baby had three teeth taken out because of an infection. Anyway, the last blood work showed no sugar so it looks like she is still considered healthy. But I need to check her blood 2x a year to make sure. The times I had to administer other medications to her had been challenging because she bites. I call them “love bites.”

    I had 3 guinea pigs. One is still alive. I had to administer medication to the other two and it was also challenging because they were small and quick to react. It hurts me to see my little ones suffer or be sick.

    I hate needles too.

    Regardless of your fears, I think you can do it.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Becky,

      Thank you! Since this post was written, I did give him the insulin with amazingly no problems. :)

      I’m sorry your tabby has been so ill at times. It is truly difficult to watch them suffer and feel so powerless to help them. Dental work is key to keeping pets healthy, it seems. I’m sorry she’s had three teeth removed, but if it will improve her overall health, then that’s a good thing.

      It’s rough giving medication to a “biter.” My tabby is a bit of a biter. I’m amazed I’m able to pill her. Hemi is a sweet Romeo who is unbelievably good-natured.

      Guinea pigs are sweet animals. I wonder how your cat and guinea pig get along.

      • Rebecca had this to say about that:

        Beth, I am glad it’s working out for you.

        I bought a special furniture for my piggies where they’re positioned up high. My cat doesn’t bother them at all. I sometimes make them interact but I need to watch my cat because she is very sneaky. My piggy defends herself very well though. Once she bit my cat. She gets away with everything.

        • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

          Becky, wow, your Guinea pigs have seemed feisty, which is great with a cat around. I’m glad the cat doesn’t bother them and they have been positioned out of paw’s reach.

  4. Nancy's Point had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth,
    Well, I’m so glad Cosette is feeling better and Hemi, too, of course. I’m sorry to hear that Hemi has diabetes. That’s too bad and I don’t blame you for being scared about treating him. Needles are no fun for anyone. And cats aren’t always all that cooperative either, so yes, it will be challenging. But you will do what you need to do to take care of Hemi because you love him. I bet Ari will learn a lot by observing all this too. Thank you for sharing with us about your dear kitties and good luck with things.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Nancy,

      The insulin administration has gone remarkably well. You are right: my love for Hemi is what pushes me on to help him. I’m glad Cosette and Hemi are doing much better. As you know, animals are our family members, and we love them.

      Ari has historically been upset watching the veterinarians making our cats unhappy. I usually take the animals to the vet when she’s at school, but lately, I’ve had to plan the insulin-administration training when she was out of school, so she was there for that.

      Surprisingly, Ari took it all in stride. I think she will be a great helper and, as you say, learn a lot.

  5. Kathi had this to say about that:

    Oh, Beth…massive hugs to you & your fur babies.

    One of my cats long ago had diabetes. I hated it, but was thankful that the insulin shots could be given sub-Q, and he never minded my pinching lose skin of his scruff to give him one.

    Now, years later, I’m down to one kitty, Fiona, who has hyperthyroidism. The onset of symptoms was one of the scariest things I’ve ever gone through with a pet, including respiratory distress, weight loss, a rapid heart rate and even seizures. Good lord… when the thyroid med finally brought her thyroid level under control, all the other symptoms disappeared. Now, I just have to cut up little pills and crush them in her wet food. It’s not always smooth sailing, and she has to have lab tests regularly, but she’s okay.

    I can so relate to feeling that same wretched trauma taking her to the vet that I felt during cancer treatment. I hope your kitties continue to be stable and love you for a good few more years at least. xoxo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      I’m glad your diabetic cat tolerated his shots well. I’m sure Fiona’s hyperthyroid symptoms were terrifying; I know they would scare me.

      I’m glad her illness is being controlled by medication. I hope Fiona continues to give you joy for years to come.

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