Diabetic Alert Cat?


#1

Even though I’m a dog person, I somehow managed to inherent a cat who decided I was his “person” in college. I inherited this cat before my diabetes diagnoses at 20. About six months after diagnosis, Billy started waking me up when I was having low blood sugars in the middle of the night. He never tried to wake me in the night before this. Also, he licks my eyelids to wake me which is distinctly different from his usual method of waking me when he wants to be fed. At first I thought it was coincidence, but every time he has woken me with eyelid licking (gross, I know), I have always had a low blood sugar. This has happened more times than I can count. I know people have diabetic alert dogs but have any of you had alert cats?


#2

Awesome! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9_eGg7rD8Y


#3

What a great pet.


#4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKxF_bXI50g


#5

What a coincidence! Just last night my 12-year-old T1D daughter was asking about a “diabetes alert cat” as we cannot afford a diabetes alert dog. We currently have two beloved cats and wish there was a way we could train them to be DACs…


#6

Just watched the YouTube videos. Cats rule!!!


#7

One of my cats does it too. She licks me on the face.


#8

Hi ccc. Here's a story from a few years ago: http://www.tudiabetes.org/profiles/blogs/diabetic-alert-cat You and Billy are lucky to have each other.


#9

When I have severely low blood sugars my cat will try to wake me first, and when she can't then she will go to my husband and run and cry between him and me to let him know something is wrong. She is not consistent, but she has done this on enough occasions that I have begun to call her my alert cat.


#10

My Wizberry does come to be near me often when I'm going low. He curls up next to me at night but as far as I know he hasn't tried to wake me, but I'm hard to wake when I'm in a deep sleep. I wish I could train him to do what Billy does!


#11

While I've never noticed my cats try to alert me to a low, when I am low and feeling it, while waiting for it to come back up, I've noticed my cats tend to stay close and behave as if they want more attention than usual. I figure they know something isn't right and want to see it corrected.


#12

LOL, Wizberry! That's an adorably ridiculous name.


#13

thanks, lol... his full name is Wizard, Wiz for short and Wizberry is one if his many affectionate names :-)


#14

My little Snickers also has been able to tell me that I am low a few times.

A few months after diagnosis, I was studying for some of my finals in the dining room. Though my cat rarely sits on the table, she immediately jumped up and sat right on my notes. I tried to shove her off, and she refused to move. I then got up, tested my BG, realized that I was low, ate some carbs, and returned to find her off my notes and acting like nothing happened.

There have also been a few times where I would go low in the middle of the night. Some times, she would see me testing and eating food, and she would refuse to let me leave her sight for a good 20-30 minutes. Other times, I haven't detected the low (happens a lot in the early morning), and she would be right by my door and start loudly crying until I came out, tested, and treated my low.

In some ways, I feel like the cat wants to protect me. She has become far more attached to me since my diagnosis (she now became a lap cat after years of only coming up to me for attention) and has gotten to the point where she wants to be in my sight for as long as possible (including while sleeping).


#15

My cat will bite me if I am low and lick me so hard it feels like she will lck my skin off if I am high. She is very consistant with this and will actually walk past me several times a day stopping to lick me as if she is checking me. Every time she has bit me or licked me intensly and I check with my moniter she is right. I would like to know how to get her registered so I can take her with me when I travel as I have had motels tell me that if she is registered she can stay free.


#16

My late cat,Odo would come lay with me when I was coming up from a low. Especially if I was alone. Nancy


#17

Did a bunch of research on this due to the fact I can no longer tell when my glucose is low. I have been a type 1 diabetic for 40+ years and within the last 5-10 years or so have gradually lost ALL ability to “feel” low blood sugars. Was spoiled when young by extreme early warning system that would alert me even with the most minor low glucose. These symptoms would wake me up from the deepest sleep.

These “automatic notifications” gave me a false sense of security over the years. Then In my late 30’s early 40’s this “ability” started to go away, I had a really hard time adjusting to it. I started to have black outs because I never felt even a twinge at all of lows until I would just “fade away”. Recently, in the last 5 or so years, as I try to maintain a tighter control, these dangerous lows are happening more often. I keep bottles of glucose tablets ALL OVER THE HOUSE. Several times I have woken from blackouts holding one of these bottles, my mouth full of sweet sugary goodness.

Lately this is getting annoying and frightening so I did research on how to deal with these situations and found “CGM” (continuous glucose monitors). Unfortunately they are expensive and inaccurate (they are getting better but not fool proof). Pumps are out of the question. The dangers far outweigh the benefits. I would only consider a newer pump technology. The new ones being developed with glucagon AND insulin. If a pump is going to be pumping insulin… I want it to have some glucagon to go along with it just in case. :slight_smile:

Soooo… long story short… and back to the MAGIC CATS!!!

What is cheaper (relatively) and more reliable than electronic technology??? CATS AND DOGS!!! If someone could figure out how or what those critters are “sensing” and digitize it… yikes!!! Make a bazillion bucks (training dogs and cats involves “sweat” and “smell” but is still fantastically accurate and completely “noninvasive glucose monitoring”. Somehow that little beasts can accurately judge glucose levels just by smell!!!. Millions upon millions have been spent for years and years by scientists desperately trying to find a nonintrusive solution to testing blood glucose… dang cats and dogs just “do it” and are faster and as reliable as any technology.

In the meantime I am debating options. Simply buy one of the dogs that is carefully and specifically trained for you (WHOA!!! Expensive!!!) or… buy a cat or kitten, puppy or dog, and TRAIN IT on my own. There are “legitimate” instructions on the web, not crackpot stuff teaching you how to do this. Apparently what these cats and dogs sense are changes in the smell of our sweat. You swab your skin when HIGH and LOW, save those swabs and use them to train your animals with treats and rewards. When they recognize high or low they are trained to react differently. Secretly but without any evidence or first hand knowledge, I believe these animals recognize MORE than “smell”. I believe they are also sensing behavioral differences.

Now for those of you with animals “already trained” or simply born that way, that’s also a possibility with ANY dog or cat from a shelter or pet shop or from a friend or relative etc. Many dogs and cats are born with this ability. Probably based on loyalty to their owners? Going out on a limb that probably all cats and dogs are aware of those changes in people but not all of them do something about it. Let’s face it… some pets just aren’t that interested in their owners. When younger I had cats that were very indifferent to my existence as long as they had a bowl of food when they decided to come home.

So my choices… love cats, always have. I could put up with a dog if I really had to. I would PREFER an electronic device that DOESN’T lick itself all day, require a box to poop in, walks in the snow with encouragement to deficate on command… but…

… from what I know about this… cats and dogs are WAY MORE EFFECTIVE AND ACCURATE than ANY of the devices out there. A CGM won’t “bite you” when your sugar is low. Some of them have phone apps to call or set off an alarm… still not enough. Would much rather have SHARP TEETH BITTING ME when my sugar is getting dangerously low!!! There have been times when I had to crawl to the bottle of juice or glucose pills because I forgot to stock up. I am sure a dog could be trained to bring something like that to you… a cat??? Uh… maybe not so much. A BIG cat maybe. :slight_smile:

Dogs and cats who sense hyperglycemia can sense dangerous levels up to an hour before it happens. They can sense the approaching dangerous levels before it even becomes an issue. In some cases I’ve heard they can sense low glucose before it would show up with traditional blood glucose testing. Maybe they sense the change in DIRECTION of glucose not just the exact value? Just guessing.

Dogs and cats can be trained to bite you if necessary, to make sure you wake up if you are unconscious or simply to make sure you don’t ignore them. Some of the places that train dogs and cats for this will let you choose how to be alerted. The “DIY” solutions also talk about training with specific alerts.


#18

If this were 10 years ago I would agree with you on the CGM, and if it were 20 years ago I might agree with you on the pump. But as someone who has been pumping for 10 years and CGMing for two years, they have literally changed my life. The CGM especially. Both are established technologies that are way beyond the new and inaccurate or dangerous stage. Though they are very expensive, yes.

As for cats, when I had a cat he did alert to lows while I slept. He would meow very loudly and insistently until I got up and tested. I’m now horribly allergic to cats and dogs, so even though I would love to get another cat or a small dog, that won’t be happening anytime soon.


#19

Good news about CGM and pumps! Will try to find out more accurate information.

Every time I look into it, I hear nightmare stories. People with coworkers who have pumps and simply pass out mid sentence walking to lunch. Someone with a pump who died in their sleep. Even medical papers and reviews on monitoring devices and pumps talk about the dangers of the insulin pumps. The main issue appears to be not checking glucose enough and that pumps administer insulin and not glucagon. You can’t “undo” too much insulin without eating or injecting glucagon.

I can be 99% focused and consistent in monitoring, but make ONE stupid mistake of going to bed or taking a nap without testing or eating something first and I have a horrible day. Pumps terrify me even with the best review simply because a “machine” is injecting me with insulin not me. Granted the results are ten times healthier based on consistent blood glucose levels but doesn’t do much good if I have even more of these dangerous lows.

My MAIN desire is a way to RELIABLY alert me to a specific glucose level ASAP so I know before I black out. At this point I don’t even get the munchies. I don’t get shakey or dizzy, there is no physical warning until it’s too late.

The stories and documented cases of cats and dogs reliably alerting to hyperglycemia feels like the best path for me at the moment. No fears of accidental over dosing of insulin from a machine, just a warning from a reliable intelligent beastie. If it doesn’t work out the pump and CGM could still be an option, I just have to find the right one.

And what happens to the cat? Well… I am sure it will be happy demoted to mouser or simply continue training as a living CGM replacement.


#20

Good luck getting a cat or dog. I hope it’s one that is able to alert to hypoglycemia. I didn’t have to train mine, he just started doing it. But I’m not sure if all cats and dogs will do that. I had a guide dog for several years who didn’t seem to pick up on my lows at all, even though she was highly trained in other areas. If I ever outgrow my allergies and get another service dog, I’d get a combined guide dog and diabetes alert dog.

As for a pump, it’s not magic. People can’t expect to go on pumps and never test and not run into problems. A pump, like injections, is just a way of delivering insulin. The main advantage to a pump is that you can be very precise in that insulin delivery. The pump never delivers insulin that the user hasn’t programmed into it. There are dozens of safety checks done every second, and the pump will stop delivery and give an error message if it detects anything unusual. Of course, there may be some reports of pumps going haywire, but I think they are few and far between.

For me, I find a CGM extremely accurate. I don’t have hypoglycemia awareness to the degree you do, but I get very subtle symptoms and, especially at night, often sleep through a low until I’ve dropped to dangerous levels. There has been perhaps twice in the past two years where the CGM has failed to alert to a low. But cats and dogs aren’t perfect 100% of the time, either—after all, animals have to sleep, while a CGM never has to.

We all have to make our own decisions, so I totally understand that the pump and CGM are not for everyone. I just want you to know that these technologies are safe and effective as shown in many, many studies over the past 20-30 years. So I hope that fear is not your only reason for not choosing them.