Most RVers who travel on the road full-time have pet companions. They are very much a part of our journey. We take them everywhere. Whether tethered on a leash, huddled quietly in a cat carrier or sitting on the back of the driver’s seat, they love the adventure as much as we do. They wanna go too! However, when they get sick or injured, our wheels oftentimes come to a screeching halt. We must learn to shift gears and seek a different road or…just slow down.
We had been on the road with our two Maine Coon cats, Kandi (Calico) and Krissie (Tortie) since 2014. From their 3600 square foot romper room house, they adjusted quickly to their new lives as nomad cats in their 41′ 5th wheel with lots of windows.
Our 10-year old Maine Coon, Krissie (Tortie on the right), became very ill in the summer of 2017. We noticed she was drinking water excessively, engorging her food and the litter box was filled with mud instead of the occasional pee clumps. She was not acting her former self. Her beautiful, luxurious, Maine Coon fur became matted, rough looking and unkempt. She was balding on her belly, backside and tail. And, it happened so fast. We were parked on a farm in a small town a short way from Minneapolis visiting our son’s family. It was time to take her to the doctor. After we Googled Veterinarians within a 30-mile circumference, we found one and made an appointment immediately. They had an opening for the next day so we grabbed it.
Krissie went to the kitty hospital…
After we arrived at Jordan Veterinary Clinic, we told the Veterinarian Krissie’s symptoms. Without even running tests on her, he instantly knew what was happening to Krissie just by our descriptions and her appearance. But, just to make sure, he took a blood sample and had his lab tech do a workup.
A few minutes later, he came back into the exam room. His suspicions were right; Feline Diabetes. Our hearts dropped when he said those words. We instantly thought our RV travel days were over. We had to give her the care she needed and the best quality of life. She was prescribed insulin and special (and expensive!) dry cat food. We took her back home to our RV and doted on her. Our other cat, Kandi, started to pick on her. I’m guessing because she sensed Krissie was weaker. Its a cat thing.
We contacted her regular Vet at Elk Creek Animal Hospital in Fisherville, Kentucky to give him an update on her diabetes diagnosis and had the Minnesota Vet email her records and test results to him. However, her Vet didn’t seem to think we had to really stop our travels but to just slow down.
Krissie’s and OUR new journey…
Her treatment plan required us to administer her insulin injection exactly 12 hours apart and feed her immediately after. We had to insure she was eating (Kandi is notorious of being a food thief) throughout the day. No more staying out late or going for early morning hikes. No more all-day adventures or excursions, no more dinners out, no more weekend trips away from our RV. Her insulin shots were to be given 7:00am and 7:00pm. We also had to make sure Kandi didn’t beat up her weak sister.
Krissie is ours and we are hers. We made a promise to her that we would take care of and love her unconditionally. And, of course we did. We set our alarms each morning and stayed up late with her at night. We skipped on parties and events. If we did go to a neighbor’s RV for dinner or campfire, one of us would excuse ourself to go tend to her. Our lives certainly changed.
What caused her diabetes?
We’ve come to the conclusion that one or both of the following caused her diabetes. Though I’m not a Veterinarian, through education of feline diabetes, we’ve learned that steroids could potentially cause a cat to become a diabetic.
We also learned about feline nutrition. We should never feed our cat(s) dry kibble again despite what the professionals may say. And you’ll see later in this blog that we’ve proven that changing their diet from dry kibble to low-carb wet food could transition them into diabetes remission. If you read the labels on dry cat food (kibble), you’ll see they are extremely high in carbohydrates and loaded with a whole bunch of other junk and fillers. Much like humans, they can process only so much sugar until falling victims to the diabetes disease.
Four months later we had to fly out to Minnesota leaving our kitties behind…
In late November, two weeks before we were to fly out to Minnesota to see our first grandchild born, we found a caregiver for Krissie (and Kandi) at the RV Resort where we were parked. Ironically, our neighbor was very familiar with diabetes, administering insulin, feeding requirements, what to look for in behavior, etc. We were all set with our arrangement of her coming in to take care of them. On a side note, neither of our kitties do well in cages at animal boarding facilities so it is best to hire someone come care for them.
However, only two days later, they received bad news that her husband’s sister passed away suddenly and had to fly out to take care of affairs in another state. Here we were, only two weeks before we were supposed to fly out to Minnesota. We were frantic in trying to find a solution. Then, Dan agreed to stay back and I fly alone.
But something weird happened…
A couple nights following, I had noticed Krissie exhibiting strange behavior. She was stumbling and falling, acting confused, twitching uncontrollably and drooling. Of course, this had to happen on a Saturday night at 11:00pm when the local Vet’s offices were all closed. I got down on the floor with Krissie and immediately took a blood sample with her glucose meter. She registered 24! (Average for a cat is 60-120). Just as we figured, Krissie had become hypoglycemic. I immediately grabbed the Karo Syrup (recommended by Vets) and rubbed as much of it on her gums to get some sugar into her system.
While I was aiding Krissie, Dan was Googling for area Animal Hospitals. The closest one was an hour away in Las Vegas. In the dark of the night, we sped the whole way from Pahrump to the Emergency Room. I had a flashlight on her to watch for other complications with the bottle of Karo syrup in my lap with her. When we arrived (we called ahead; they were expecting us), they immediately took her in, hooked her up to a ‘sugar drip’, as they called it (glucose), and within an hour, she was revived like nothing ever happened.
We took her home a few hours later; each of us standing watch to make sure she didn’t relapse. For the next few days, she rested and recuperated. We BG curved her regularly and her numbers magically were in the normal range. No insulin was needed and her diabetic symptoms mysteriously vanished. She went back to her old self. She started playing with Kandi (left in photo) again. It was the oddest thing.
We were both able to fly out with strict instruction to her new caregiver (another person in the RV Resort) to contact us immediately of any changes in her demeanor or behavior. We left her numbers of the closest animal hospitals and her Vet records.
When Dan returned a week later and I, another 3 days after him. We noticed Krissie’s hair was starting to grow back, was playful again with Kandi and wasn’t miserable as she was when she was ill. It’s been said that cats have nine lives. Well, this was one of them.
Our little miracle cat…
Fortunately for Krissie, she has been in Diabetic Remission since that night; meaning, her glucose readings are near perfect levels. We still watch her like a hawk; feeding her several times a day but in smaller portions so her soft food doesn’t dry out. We still can’t go out for long periods of time during the days and still, no leaving them overnight to fend for themselves like before her diagnosis. She’s still vulnerable.
Occasionally, we will do a blood glucose curve to make sure we’re not missing anything. Even her Vet in Kentucky is mystified as to why her diabetes only lasted such a short time. He calls it Transitional Diabetes. We are elated, not just for us, but for her too. She’s too young for this; she still has eight more lives left in her. She has lots of new backyards to stare out at the big picture window and lots of birds to watch. She still has a lot of adventure ahead of her.
After her episode, her Kentucky Vet and we think she went into remission because we changed her food; significantly lowering her carbohydrate intake. At the same time, getting too much insulin caused her hypoglycemia event. All of this seemed to shock her system back to normal.
In closing, we hope this story reaches those who take their kitties on the road with them. We also hope by spreading awareness of several issues here; steroid shot potential, diets and nutrition, and feline diabetes. Other RVers or travelers will know what to look for, what to do and how to manage their own cat treatment of diabetes while living on the road. We’re not saying what happened to Krissie will happened to other’s cats however, we’re hoping by sharing her journey, we’ve enlighten other cat owners to look at their kitties nutritional requirements. We encourage all cat owners who feed their cats dry kibble to consider switching to a much lower carb wet food.
Krissie is happy again and she looks beautiful as she did before all of this happened. She loves looking out the windows where ever we are parked. She’s also quite vocal in telling us she hates travel days but well, ‘that’s just Krissie’.