Today is Blog the Change Day, a day where bloggers post about a cause that is important to them. In 2007, I adopted a diabetic cat whose owner was going to put him to sleep because she couldn’t afford to take care of his newly diagnosed diabetes. Actually, my intention was just to foster him until he was regulated and then find him a new home. I failed fostering big time and fell in love with Woody so he stayed.
Woody passed away this May and over the summer I began thinking about adopting another cat. From being on the diabetic cat forums, I knew there were often posts of diabetic cats looking for homes so I began visiting The Feline Diabetes Message Board and soon learned about Diabetic Cats in Need (DCIN). DCIN works to keep diabetic cats in their homes, find homes for those cats that are in need and to educate people about caring for their diabetic cats. I adopted 2 diabetic cats through DCIN this year, Minuit- a newly diagnosed diabetic cat and Poughkeepsie, who has been diabetic for over 5 years. I am so impressed with the work DCIN does to get help to owners and find home for cats that I asked Venita, the founder, if I could feature DCIN on Blog the Change day. She was kind enough to take some time and answer some questions about DCIN.
How did Diabetic Cats in Need get started?
2005. “Maxwell is diabetic,” said the vet. “I didn’t know cats could get diabetes,” I replied.
I joined the FelineDiabetes.com Message Board (FDMB). I began helping to develop the Diabetes in Pets wikia when my life got sidetracked by cancer treatment and recovery for two years. The side effects of treatment ended my professional career.
With appropriate treatment, Max went into remission and no longer needed insulin. But my involvement with feline diabetes continued because I had diagnosed Max’s littermate Ennis as diabetic in 2006.
People came to the FDMB wanting to rehome their diabetic cats. I would help, mostly on transport. I began a blog to organize those requests and called it FDMB Cats in Need.
A rescue developed in 2009 from that rehoming blog. It got a new name—Diabetic Cats in Need (DCIN). A nonprofit animal rescue accepted DCIN as an affiliate. DCIN’s primary focus now is keeping diabetic cats in their original and adoptive homes through its Financial Assistance program. DCIN still has its Rehoming program, and hopes to start a Shelter/Rescue program. I also hope we can establish DCIN as a stand-alone 501c3 in 2012.
Demand for DCIN services continues to exceed its ability to provide them. DCIN grew this year with the addition of Jennifer as a case manager. We are now in the process of training other case managers.
How many cats have you helped stay in their homes? How many cats have you helped find new homes?
DCIN doesn’t have the time to keep performance accounting records. Given a choice between helping cats and keeping records, we help cats.
But, if I had to guess, I would say that DCIN helps keep about 50 diabetic cats a year in their homes. DCIN rehomes about 15 diabetic cats each year.
With so many cats looking for homes, is it difficult to find homes for cats with special needs?
Dawn, I truly don’t know how much the need for homes for “regular” cats affects DCIN’s placements. DCIN’s Facebook page has more than 1,000 “friends.” So we have that many opportunities for people to know about the diabetic cats on our site. But the need for homes for unwanted diabetic cats certainly outpaces the supply.
When DCIN began, there were a few “regulars” who would adopt some of the diabetic cats we posted about. We are now finding homes with people that have not previously adopted a cat from DCIN. Most of the time, those adoptive homes are experienced in caregiving for a diabetic cat. But sometimes not. That is the exciting part—growing the community of people who will adopt diabetic cats.
I do want to stress for those reading your blog, DCIN does not have a shelter or a foster home network for diabetic cats. When someone comes to DCIN to rehome a diabetic cat, DCIN’s job is to facilitate the adoption to a new home. We try to find an adoptive home, transport the cat there, and pay for initial vetting. DCIN pays about $700 to rehome a diabetic cat.
But DCIN’s primary mission is to keep diabetic cats in their original homes. When a cat is diagnosed as diabetic, there are many challenges for its caregiver. Is my cat going to die? How can I fit my life around twice-daily insulin shots? How can I afford this on my tight budget? What should I be feeding my cat? Should I be testing my cat’s blood glucose levels at home? DCIN can point caregivers to useful Internet resources. And when there are budgetary issues, we try to help with our Financial Assistance program.
What is the most difficult part of what you do?
There are many difficult parts, as there are with any rescue. But the situation that still brings tears for me is the surrender of cats to shelters solely because they are diabetic. It is rare for shelters to treat and adopt out diabetic cats. Usually, shelters, even “no-kill” shelters, destroy diabetic cats within several days after they are surrendered, without even attempting placement with a rescue.
If a diabetic cat is going to be destroyed anyway, I would rather the caregiver take the cat—a cat that usually has been a pet for eight or more years—to a veterinarian for that procedure. The cat will be less bewildered and terrified, and will die in a more caring place than a shelter.
How can people help DCIN?
Certainly there are all the normal ways that people help animal rescues—donating cash (including sponsorships for our general fund and for specific cats), donating supplies, offering to foster, and volunteering for
projects that we post on our Help Wanted page.
However, a special way that people can help DCIN is to learn why they should feed their cats a species-appropriate diet, and then do so. Most cats become diabetic because they are fed high-carbohydrate, dry food (kibble), usually by well-meaning caregivers. Diabetes is epidemic among domesticated cats (and even feral cats in managed colonies). A great online source for information about a species-appropriate diet is http://catinfo.org, a site written by Lisa A. Pierson, DVM.
A better diet for cats means there will be fewer diabetic cats. Even with that, however, there still will be plenty of diabetic cats to keep DCIN in business for a very long time.
Having adopted from DCIN, I appreciate all the work they do to help these special cats. To learn more about Diabetic Cats in Need, see you how you can help and see more cats looking for homes, visit the DCIN website, the DCIN Facebook page or the DCIN Yahoo Group
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