Sorry I Bought You A Defective Cat

So you all remember my cat Charlie, right?  He's large and fluffy and Sean adopted him for me on my 23rd birthday when we had just moved to Charleston, and one time Charlie fooled Sean into thinking "Mazel Tov on your Bat Mitzvah" was French for "Happy Birthday."

(Wow, that still makes me laugh! Which I guess confirms that I'm marrying the right guy.)

Charlie doesn't make particularly frequent appearances on this website---and when he does, he's mostly peeing on me, but that's another story entirely, except you'll find out in a second that it's actually not another story, because I'm going to talk about it again---so in case you need a little reminder of what he looks like, he looks like this:

"Mother, could you book me in for a couple of rounds of golf at the club this afternoon? I've got a swell new five-iron I'd like to try out."

Recently, Charlie had been feeling a little skinny to me---he's a big chap normally, a tanker of a kitty---and we'd also noticed that he'd been unusually thirsty, lapping down the contents of his water bowl at light speed, ducking his head into the toilet for a few sips when we weren't looking, sticking his nose into any water glass we left out on any surface. This combined with the errant bed peeing---which later turned out to be both cats, most likely in violent protest to the litterbox I'd hoped was going to change their lives---had us worried enough to make him an appointment with the vet to see what was going on. I have to tell you, though, even as I lugged all 14.9 pounds of him up the hill to her office at the crack of dawn on Friday, I assumed Charlie was going to be just fine. After all, the last time we'd been worried about him, she'd prescribed him a week at Club Med in the Bahamas.

(Well, not really, but she did say he was just "stressed." Which I found sort of funny, seeing as all he ever does is sleep and eat. I mean, come on, Charlie, man up! It's not like you're on the floor all day at Goldman Sachs!)

I'm not sure there's ever a good time to get bad news, but I can tell you that there are certainly a couple of bad ones: Friday afternoons, for instance, aren't ideal. But our vet didn't ever get the memo on this, apparently, and so when my phone rang on Friday afternoon and she was on the other end of it, I wasn't the least bit prepared. "Charlie's test results have come back," she said, and I said "oh wow, that was quick, how's he doing?" Because honestly, who gives you bad news on a Friday afternoon, anyway?

Uh, my vet does. That's who.

"He tested positive for diabetes," she said, and you know how on TV there's always that moment where someone gets their test results back and the test results are positive and the person goes "Positive? That's good, right?" and the doctor goes "Uh, no, actually. Positive is bad." You know how that always happens? Well, that totally happened to me.

"Positive?" I said. "That's good, right?"

"Uh, no, actually," said the vet. "Positive is bad."

"So wait, then he.....has diabetes?" I asked.

"He has diabetes," she said. 

"Ah, shit," I said, except I didn't really say that, because you've got to maintain some sort of decorum when you're talking to a vet, haven't you, even though you want to punch her in the groin for telling you that your poor little fluffernutter is sick.

"Can you come in later this evening so I can show you how to give him his insulin injections?" she asked. "Because you're going to need to give them to him twice a day for the rest of his life. Is that alright?"

"That's alright," I said. "We'll be there."


Look, there are worse things, I know. There is cancer and kidney disease and feline HIV. There are illnesses that are terminal, situations that require you to make heart-wrenching decisions about a pet's quality of life. Charlie, the veterinary technician assured me as she showed me how to stick a needle into the back of my cat's neck on Friday evening---great date night activity, by the way!---hadn't been in any pain. He'd probably just been feeling a little lethargic over the last few days, nothing more. And providing we continue to give him his insulin injections twice a day and keep an eye on his blood glucose levels, she assured us, he'll more than likely lead a perfectly long and happy life.

Still though, it does kind of suck. And I thought about this for a while, about how it sucks---for him, for us, for whoever wanders into my kitchen and opens one of the cupboards only to have a Costco-sized box of syringes fall down on their head while wondering if I've secretly become a heroin addict---and then I realized I couldn't change the fact that it sucked, and so I figured I just needed to try and deal with it instead.

Because having a cat with diabetes---contrary to popular belief, I'm sure---does actually provide a few laughs here and there. We had to get his insulin from Walgreens, for example: yes, the drugstore Walgreens, you know, where human people get their prescriptions. Doesn't that strike you as hilarious? Or at least a little weird?

"I'm picking up a prescription for Burns," I said, as I approached the pharmacy counter, and the technician tapped it into her computer and then looked up at me with a furrowed brow. "Is this for....Charlie the cat?" she asked and Sean and I half-smirked, half-nodded, and we all had a good laugh about that.

So sure, there have been some moments of levity scattered throughout the last few days, moments like the one where Sean turned to me at a stoplight as we were walking home from the vet's office, squinted into the setting sun and said sadly, "Sorry I bought you a defective cat." There was the moment we got home from the drugstore, took everything out of the bag and laid it out on the table, and discovered that paying $120 for a travel-shampoo-sized bottle of insulin is totally almost worth it when the accompanying box of syringes has a label like this:

Who do these syringes belong to? Why, they belong to Charlie Cat Burns! Thank you, Walgreens, for putting my cat's name on his syringes. Or else maybe I might have forgotten that those syringes were for Charlie Cat Burns and started shooting my veins full of peanut butter or something instead.

(Hmm, not actually a bad idea. I do like peanut butter.)

The actual Giving Injections Part isn't really too bad at all; if nothing else, expertly flicking a syringe to dislodge a bubble in the fluid plays nicely into my childhood dreams of being a nurse. And Charlie, for his part, doesn't seem particularly bothered by us sticking a needle into him twice a day; in fact, I rather think it's more traumatic for Charlie's mother and father than it is for him. (And by that, I mean us, of course. Not, like, his cat mother and father or anything. Though presumably they'd be sufficiently traumatized too. You know, if they weren't cats. And in Charleston. And possibly dead by now anyway. AND OH MY GOD ALSO CATS.)

So that was my weekend: feline diabetes and the handling thereof! I'll be happy if you tell me yours was even slightly more pleasant and joyful. Or at least that it involved fewer syringes, I guess. You know, either way.

She Likes Purple
Mar 09, 2009

I didn't have my glasses on when reading, so at first pass I thought the name on the box was "Charlie Gay Burns" and I thought: Well, that's kind of odd of the vet, to insult him on top of telling him he has diabetes.

Mar 10, 2009

He's a cute cat and I bet you love him to bits. I am sure you will do everything you can to keep him as healthy as he can be and he will give you a lot of love back. PS I loved your description of Charlie's stress diagnosis.

Mar 10, 2009

Haha, this post was rather amusing (though also sad). What topped it off for me was the first comment: "Well, that's kind of odd of the vet, to insult him on top of telling him he has diabetes." Thanks for the laughs. I needed them this week. Or rather, this month. March has it in for me.

Mar 10, 2009

I love the name on the box, albeit it doesn't sound French...

Came onto your site just now to find inspiration to carry on with work, and guess what, that laugh was just what I needed. Thanks!

Mar 10, 2009

I actually didn't notice the "Charlie Cat Burns" until you pointed it out, seeing as how my eye was instantly drawn instead to the "Super Thin Comfort Ass." Which kind of sounds ideal, doesn't it? Like the best of all worlds, really.

Mrs. Higrens
Mar 10, 2009

We had a cat with kidney disease. It's not fun keeping an objecting cat stationary for 15 minutes while the human-grade saline drip flows. But it was totally worth it.

Sounds like Charlie is worth it too!

Mar 10, 2009

Hahahaha, awww, poor Charlie! But I read the post from way back in 2006 and Husband and I totally assign our two chihuahuas personalities.

Kitty is a pappy-wawa (papillion/chihuahua) that speaks most French. Petunia is all chihuahua and has a big crush on the youngest Jonas brother. I know, I shake my head at her poor choice(s) but what can you do. She gets so excited whenever he's on TV.


Mar 10, 2009

I have a defective cat too! Except mine was actually defective right out of the box — got her fixed at 6 months of age, and three days later her heart tried to explode. (Side note: add this on top of ALL the other reasons why you should never declaw your cat...I truly believe that if she'd been under longer to do a declawing on top of the spaying, her heart wouldn't have held out. You can't forecast congenital heart defects people!)

It was quite the journey... The emergency clinic took her temperature 3 times, eventually trying a different thermometer because they didn't believe the reading could be that low. After a night on oxygen and the first of several visits to the kitty cardiologist (yes they exist, and yes, they DO cost $350 for 15 minutes!), she was stabilized on a diet of three medications, all with varying delivery times — twice daily, every other day, and once every three days. It sounds like a royal pain but it's really not been that bad. Six years later the mofo is strong as a horse, down to only one pill a day, and her last ultrasound showed she'd actually repaired the damage to her heart. So I hold out hope for dapper little Charlie! Long-term maintenance meds are totally doable.

Mar 10, 2009

What a drag dude. I'm glad that at least your fluffball is feeling better now. Poor Charlie.

Mar 10, 2009

Aww poor Charlie that's no fun. But hopefully if you have the diabetes under control he'll be much happier and might even persuade your other cat to stop peeing all over the place! And he does have a rocking Argyle sweater to wear while he's being injected so life isn't all bad! :0)

Mar 10, 2009

Sorry to hear about your little pal! We just got our dog a month and a half ago and I know how bad I feel when I give him a BATH, I'm not sure how I'd do giving injections. But it's good to hear that you're both taking it like a champ!

Mar 10, 2009

My husband and I assigned a personality to our cat as well -- he sings little duets with us. I know how you feel about the diabetes, though...our cat has FIV, and he's doing great and should be fine if he doesn't go outside or get sick or anything, but it's still a sad thing to hear that your pet isn't well!

Mar 10, 2009

My cat too is defective; he has something called megacolon and it manifest with large bouts of constipation, at which point the vet has to give him an enema. And trust me, after your cat has an enema, you'd kill to be able to just give him an injection.

Now, a hint. $120 seems high to me. I get my pet meds online, and they are so much cheaper than if I got them around here. The vet doesn't like that I do that; makes me pay $5 for the difficulty in communicating with the online pet med people, but I save a lot of money that way, and they come really quickly.

So, the next time you have to order insulin or syringes, take a look at the online pet med people (I use to see if it is less expensive.

Mar 10, 2009

Last year we got a prescription from the Real Live Human Drugstore for our dog and it was indeed addressed to Mervyn Dog Musgrove. I think they do that so you can't claim the expense on your health insurance plan, but it cracked us up all the same.

Mar 10, 2009

I, too, had a kitty with diabetes. The daily shots were more troubling to me than to the cat. Eventually we were able to cut down on his dosage (aside - testing cat urine for glucose is a PIA!, particulary when you have two cats.) He's gone now, but he had a long, happy life, so it was all worth it.

Mar 10, 2009

Oh dear. This has me in a panic. My own cat, Nolan, who looks an awful lot like Charlie, weighs 18(!) pounds. I can't get him to loose weight no matter what I try. Does that mean he's on the path to diabetes?

Mar 10, 2009

Ha! In answer to your question, my weekend also involved syringes, since I spent the day in urgent care with my husband who can't use a chisel and gave himself a nice gash on his finger that needed 8 stitches (and a tetanus shot!) Fun!

Nothing But Bonfires
Mar 10, 2009

Kelli -- not necessarily; the vet told us a lot of it was genetic too. But Charlie IS a big guy, and that definitely contributed. He was almost eighteen pounds at his last vet visit, but now he's only 14.9. He's practically a WAIF!

A couple of things to try: canned food rather than dry food (way lower in carbs, more protein and fiber), and giving him a total of half a cup of food a day, split up into two "meal times," so that if he hasn't eaten it in, say, half an hour, take it away so he can't graze. The vet told us to try both of these things with our cats, which will hopefully help them get back down to their fighting weights.

Mar 10, 2009

My friend's cat, Cosmo, was diagnosed as diabetic, and the vet initially told her that he'd be on insulin injections for life. To get Cosmo healthier, she used a combo of better eating habits like you described in #18 (and the vet recommended switching between dry and wet foods periodically in this case) and high quality pet food (like Evo or Before Grain). Now, Cosmo's glucose is completely under control WITHOUT insulin shots, and he's a much more active, happier, and healthier cat.

She's even inspired me to switch my cat to high quality cat food, now. I mean, if cats didn't originally eat very much grain, and my cat food ingredients rank a number of grains, not to mention BONE MEAL at the top of the list, they can't be very good for kittehs.

Good luck, Holly!

Mar 10, 2009

As a fellow Brit, do you remember the "Charley says" public information films? The cat (was who voiced by Kenny Everett!) used to meow something, then this little boy who was his companion would translate it as a reminder to be sensible when crossing the road, or not to go off with strangers, or whatever other dangers there were in Britain in the 80s. You can see one on Whenever I hear of a cat called Charlie, it always reminds me of them. Ah, PIF just aren't the same anymore.

Mar 10, 2009

Don't know much about cat diabetes (although my cat needs thyroid meds twice a day, which is a pain in the butt), but actually I'm diabetic I can relate on at least some level. I was diagnosed with "juvenile" diabetes when I was 2, and now I'm in my 30's still living healthily. So it's not something I'd wish on anybody--or anycat--but definitely not a death sentence. The worst part about it is probably that you'll need to have somebody come in twice a day to give him shots when you guys are traveling (or put him in a kennel which...ick.)

I always thought our cats were invinceable, so hearing one of them was sick was kind of a shock. I swear, I don't know how I'm going to handle having kids. I'll have a panic attack every time they cough.

Mar 10, 2009

Poor kitty! As a fellow cat mommy, I'd be so sad. Though, I will admit that I did giggle at "Charlie Cat Burns" on the syringes.

That sweater is too much! I have a penchant for argyle.

Mar 10, 2009

Oh my god, I just laughed so damn hard in my cubicle that I snorted. I think my co-workers officially think I am crazy!

Thanks for the laugh, Holly and good luck with Charlie and all of his care. He is lucky to have such devoted parents, that CharlieCat Burns.


Anne & May
Mar 10, 2009

My sister has diabetes and it's EXACTLY like this. Poor Charlie Cat Burns.

I already call your other cat, Sadie, the Naughty One. So it's good that I now have a more formal name for Charlie.

Charlie Cat Burns and his mischievous sidekick, Sadie, the Naughty One.

Mar 10, 2009

my weekend involved 3 syringes (all for my poor pup)

it's a good thing my pup doesn't have diabetes (oh boy, knock on wood!) because it took 3 people (me, a large vet tech and the actual vet) to hold down my 21-pound puppy just so they could get the needle in

I hope Charlie feels better soon, poor thing.

Mar 10, 2009

My schnauzer had to be on tranquilizers, and there I would be at CVS picking up tranks for Teddy Crumpacker. They must have thought I had a disturbed child or something.

And you haven't lived until you've had to give a box turtle twice-daily injections of antibiotics. You're meant to poke in the needle between his head and front leg -- except the little bugger used to pull everything in and close his shell up tight when he saw me coming. At least I didn't have to go to the drugstore for a turtle.

Charlie will be okay, and you and Sean are indeed awesome to take care of him. Lots of people would have just dumped him, you know.

Mar 10, 2009

Aw, Charlie is so lucky to have such wonderful parents. The needle poke process is so hard - but you're great to do it and help him feel better.

Mar 10, 2009

Poor Charlie! Poor Mom and Dad! Aw, what a pain to have to stick your cat with a needle twice a day! Sheesh. You guys must really love your cats.

My weekend consisted of watching my husband trim, varnish, and install mahogany wood trim around our living room sliding door on Saturday. And on Sunday we both painted a wall in our living room a bright cherry red. It took three coats to get it looking perfect! And this was a good quality paint, too. I didn't realize that red was such a pain to get all even coated. But it looks great.

Mar 10, 2009

Holly -- I'm still trying to figure out how you got a sweater on your cat!

Hope Charlie is doing better!

Mar 10, 2009

poor Charlie. i'm sure he's feeling better now.

as for my weekend? job searching, etc. not nearly as fun as playing nurse. will you hire me, Holly? you have my dream job.

Mar 10, 2009

I have an FIV-positive cat, and last month I had to pick up a box of syringes for him too...except that George needed morphine a couple of times a day. So there I am, driving through backwoods South Carolina with a screaming cat (not in pain - he talks about everything, VERY LOUDLY) and a bag of syringes full of morphine, and all I could think was "wow, am I going to have fun explaining this to the cops when they pull me over!"

They didn't pull me over, fortunately, and George is back to his usual carb-fiend self again...So we are proof that sticking a needle into your cat a couple of times a day is really not as horrible as you might think. And also that some cats are just really really strange. (But George would NEVER consent to wear a sweater. Unless, of course, he got a loaf of bread to gnaw on in compensation.)

Mar 10, 2009

We just had to put our 20 lb cat on a diet because our vet warned he might develop diabetes if we don't. At least you are lucky Charlie will let you stick him with a needle twice a day without much trouble- our bahemouth would certainly bite our fingers off if we tried.

*sidenote: I almost choked on my pita chips while reading this post, of course because of your witty writing technique and not because I am some heartless person who does not care your cat has diabetes.*

Mar 10, 2009

I'm sorry about Charlie, but glad you can still see the humor in it. I'd do the same thing. :)

Mar 10, 2009

I have a Siamese with quite a little attitude and once for a RX for antibiotics they had to flavored to get them down her throat without too much blood loss on my end. Flavoring? Well they do that at the human compounding pharmacy of course! 'Would Coco prefer tuna or chicken?' is what I was asked! I loved feeling like a stripper as I walked to the counter after my Coco's name was called over the sound system of the store.

Mar 10, 2009

I'm so sorry to hear about Charlie. My cat has feline HIV. We got her diagnosis a few years ago and so far it has been fine. Similarly, our dog has really horrible allergies and we have to give her allergy shots. I think the first twenty injections I did I was so nervous. One time I did draw blood but now I am a pro. You get used to it I guess. We've also gotten a scrip for her at Target pharmacy and they gave her her own color (each member of a household has a colored ring on scrip bottles to avoid confusion) and it said Bristow K-9 Haaland. I felt weird getting it, like I was trying to do something illegal but the pharmacist just laughed when I said "this is, um, for my dog?"

Mar 10, 2009

Aw, sorry about Charlie. One of my cats had the diabeetus. It was a pain in the ass giving him the shots, but it never seemed to bother him at all. I'm sure it bothers you much more than it bothers Charlie.


Gail at Large
Mar 10, 2009

Poor Charlie! I wish I could say my weekend was syringe-less, but I have to inject one of my cats, too. His name is Beano and he has kidney disease, which means he gets injected every few days rather than every day, but with a SCARY BIG NEEDLE (18-gauge!) to give him 100mls of fluids. So Beano commiserates with Charlie: the injections suck for all involved! (And when I travel, it sucks even more because I have to enlist other people I've trained to inject him.)

Mar 10, 2009

Aw, Charlie Cat... He looks like a sweet boy. My fluffernutter weighs 17 pounds. When he gets his annual shots, he doesn't even flinch. Make sure you check with your petsitter to make sure she's willing and able to give the shots twice a day.

By the way, I'm the one that Twittered you about wedding party nightmares, but I couldn't DM you back because you don't follow me, tsk tsk. (BloomCreatives, FYI.) Ahem. Anyhoo, my so-called-best friend of five years left my destination wedding two days before the ceremony, never to be seen or heard from again, due to a perceived slight to a mutual fried who was being so incredibly drunk, obnoxious and inappropriate that night (my bridal shower) that my brother and father had to chase him down and yell at him. God only knows what that friend told the bridesmaid what happened, but that's not even the point. The point is that she had that little regard for our friendship that she just up and left and hasn't had a word to say to me for five months now. Good riddance.

So quite frankly, Sean may be better off without that groomsman.

Mar 10, 2009

Aw, poor Charlie! But he IS so lucky to have good owners!

Also, a note of caution- my dad had a diabetic cat and one day, when giving him the injection, accidentally went all the way through the cat's scruff and into his own finger. Yes, we had to take my dad to the vet.

Mar 10, 2009

Charlie Cat Burns wants his own remote control and a live-in nurse named Helga. He'll pass on the sponge baths.

Mar 10, 2009

I needed a laugh like that! sorry its at Charlies expense, but it sounds like he's in good hands (and he cant hear me).

Mar 11, 2009

Okay if I call Charlie "the Beetus" from now on? He will be a YouTube sensation!

Mar 11, 2009

i'm glad charlie cat is on the road to recovery! he looks like such a sweet kitty.

after reading other commenters talk about the size of their own cats i am a little offended that my moo kitty's vet told me he was fat when he weighed in at only 12.5 lbs.

Operation Pink Herring
Mar 11, 2009

Oh, man. This totally sucks... Sorry about the diabetes, Charlie.

I'm sure you'll get used to giving him the injections before you know it - take it from a lady who's been giving her cat chemotherapy for the past year. At first I was all distraught, I mean, WHO AM I? CHEMO? FOR A CAT? But it's just a pill twice a week, and hell, the cat already gets four pills A DAY, what's one more on Monday and Friday mornings? I'm sure you'll get used to it in no time... and hey, it should stop the peeing in the bed! Hopefully?

(Sidenote: I got this chemo kitty during an adopt one, adopt another at half price deal at the SPCA. A BOGO sale, who can pass it up? MOST EXPENSIVE BOGO DEAL EVER.)

Mar 11, 2009

We had a much better weekend than you did. We had a lovely brunch with friends, followed by a sweet-ass photo shoot.

Mar 11, 2009


Good luck with Charlie's diabetes. My cat Pepper (who is 15 and weighs 16 pounds) was diagnosed two years ago as a diabetic. I feel it was in response to the tragedy of losing his cat wife, Salt. Remarkably, Pepper only needed insulin shots for about four months and was able to forgo shots for about a year. Recently he is back on insulin after some peeing accidents around the house. It really does become a team effort to have insulin stored, syringes made and extra supplies on hand. Our vet sells a handy plastic box (like the red biohazard box at a Dr.'s office) for use to depose of used needles. I hope Charlie adjusts well and can keep his sugar levels controlled.

Best of luck!

Mar 11, 2009

i'm laughing so hard right now...Charlie Cat's just too much!

Mar 11, 2009

Oh Charlie! He looks a lot like my old cat.

Anyhoo, diabetes in cats isn't all that terrible, oh it is terrible but you can manage it. I had a cat with it and she got very used to the twice daily injections. In fact, I would line up her food and she would wait for the shot before she began eating.

And she lived a nice long time with diabetes partly I think because my family was so precise about her injections. It was the one thing we were actually percise about!

Mar 11, 2009

awww poor little charlie ... but at least he still has great style! hes totally working that argyle sweater.

Mar 12, 2009

So sorry to hear about your cat. I presently have two fuzzy four-legged children, as well as my not so fuzzy two-legged one. I recently wrote a post about another cat I knew:

Kristin Wear
Mar 12, 2009

You are very lucky that you sensed something was wrong and took him in now rather than later. My childhood cat had diabetes, which we didn't find out about until it was too late and insulin wouldn't even help at that point (of course he was a 25lb cat, the reason for the diabetes so what did I expect, really?) Poor Charlie! I hope it all goes well and you can get him to start eating again!
As for the prescriptions, we once had a "stressed out" cat that needed Prozac! No joke, and we picked it up from Walgreens too :)

Mar 12, 2009

Oh Holly, I know this isn't funny at all, but I'm dying of laughter here... The prescription label kind of makes your cat sound like a jazz musician: "Charlie 'Cat' Burns returns tonight on the sax!"

Mar 12, 2009

Poor Charlie! That's good you caught it early. I hope he has a long life of Charlie Cat Burns prescriptions.

(One of my cats is from Germany. She speaks in a German accent and says "scheise!" when she's scared. Her littermate sister is French. I'm glad to hear we're not the only insane cat people around!)

Mar 13, 2009

I have always wondered what Gelsey's middle name is! Now, I know that it is Cat! Let the monogramming begin!

Sensibly Sassy
Mar 14, 2009

Poor Charlie. I am really sorry to hear about his diabetes diagnosis. If it makes you feel even a smidge better, I always get the "positive"/"negative" results mixed up. I have accidentally thought I had many a disease that way.