I suppose it’s time to introduce Columbo, who has owned me since he was a kitten. He’s about 14 now. The photograph is of him when he was a bit younger (and a bit less massive) taken in my old flat in Bethnal Green, London, before I moved to Nottingham and then here to Cardiff. The picture doesn’t quite convey the scale, because he’s a big fellow – he weighs in around 7kg. He’s big boned, but is also quite fat, despite my attempts to control his diet. About three years ago he was diagnosed as being diabetic which means that he needs to have two insulin injections every day. That probably sounds a bit scary, but the needles are very small and the insulin dose is miniscule so it’s actually quite easy to do. It does mean, however, that I have to be there to do the injections every morning and evening or if I go away anywhere I have to try to get someone else to do it instead. I generally use a petsitter service these days if I go away, because they generally employ veterinary nurses, but over the years I have relied on friends a lot to help out, especially when I lived in Beeston.

Many -perhaps even most – people are scared of injections, but Columbo doesn’t seem to be fazed by them at all. His main priority in life is food (since he’s been neutered the obvious other distraction doesn’t affect him). The trick is to put his food down and then inject into the scruff of the neck while he’s scoffing it. The insulin doesn’t go into the bloodstream directly, but into the fatty tissue in the neck which has very few nerve endings in it (which is why you can pick a cat up by the scruff of the neck without it feeling pain). He barely notices the jab.

The only other noticeable thing about diabetic cats is that they drink a lot of water. If the blood sugar level goes very high then the kidneys have to work hard to get rid of the glucose via the urine, a process which uses up a lot of water. I always put lots of fresh water down for him with his food, but he prefers to go outside and drink dirty water from the drains or plant pots. Vets have told me that cats have a very strong sense of smell, much better than ours, and tap water often smells of chlorine to them so they don’t like it so much. Actually the water in Cardiff is very hard too, and tastes very different from where I used to live.

Every six months or so, he usually has to have a blood sample extracted so that the fructosamine levels can be tested. This apparently is a diagnostic of the level of sugar in the blood over the previous month or so, and therefore is a measure of how well the diabetes is controlled. Last time he was fine, and he certainly seems to be in pretty good health, for an old cat. He gets around alright, but at his own pace.

When he was first diagnosed as diabetic it took quite a long time to establish the correct dose of insulin, so I had to keep taking him back to the vet for blood and urine samples to be taken and tested for glucose. The vet always used to take him into another room to do this. I know how they take a blood sample (from the neck), but I was curious about the urine sample as Columbo’s not noted for the accuracy of his aim. When I asked the vet he said that usually to get a urine sample they have to put a needle into the cat’s bladder, which sounds awful, but in Columbo’s case that wasn’t necessary. Whenever they put the needle in to take the blood sample, he always piddled all over the table….

Anyway, Columbo was looked after very well in Nottingham by the Priory Vets who were really excellent. When he first moved down here he was living with a friend of mine in the Whitchurch area while I was renting a little flat and trying to buy my own place. I registered Columbo with Valley Vets, but it’s quite a long way from my new house. Having no car – I can’t drive – it’s quite a pain trekking up there, especially with a 7kg cat in a box to carry. Basically I have to get a taxi, and not all drivers like to take animals in their cars. I’m also very unhappy with the service they provide. I have to order insulin once a month along with special food which can only be obtained from a vet. (Columbo used to be very partial to poppadoms, but can’t eat them now.) They don’t keep a stock of either insulin or food, so I order it by phone and then check by phone that it has arrived before going there to pick it up. The last three occasions I have been told they had my order but when I traipsed up there to pick it up there’s always been something missing or wrong. Sometimes it was the wrong type of insulin. Sometimes there was no food. This morning I took Columbo for a checkup having ordered food and insulin earlier this week. The check-up went OK but when I went to pay and collect the gear, it turned out that they didn’t have the food after all. This was after a 20-minute wait standing in reception with a taxi on the meter outside. I’m afraid I lost my temper with them, said some choice words (which I regret), paid for what I’d got and then stormed out saying that I was going to find a different vet.

About an hour later I got a call from one of the vets, which I assumed was going to be an apology for screwing up again. Instead he was demanding an apology from me for upsetting the staff in reception with my behaviour. In retrospect this wasn’t without justification, and I’m not at all proud I lost my temper. I’m definitely becoming a grumpy old man, and it’s very disagreeable to realise it. I have sent some flowers to the receptionists by way of an apology. But I won’t be going back to them with or without Columbo.

There’s another vet much closer to my house and I’ve now registered with them. Tune in again for later episodes of the continuing story of Columbo and his drug dependency….

5 Responses to “Columbo”

  1. […] think I should post a short message on behalf of Columbo to his many admirers. He’s doing well, having perked up enormously over the past few weeks. […]

  2. […] Once I’d recovered from the shock I started to worry that something might have happened to Columbo, but he appeared very soon showing no signs of harm having probably slept through the whole […]

  3. […] had fireworks on Bonfire Night, so they were special. It’s also a ¬†particular problem for Columbo, who gets very frightened by fireworks if they are let off nearby. Instead of being a scaredy cat […]

  4. […] I took Columbo to his new vets. I was meaning to do this ages ago but I couldn’t find a convenient time […]

  5. […] woken by this critter, and instead got up and had a cup of tea while he says what he has to say. Columbo finds his song quite interesting too, although the bird is always out of […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: