Diabetic senior cat finds his place in adopter’s lap

Leanne Parker smiling and holding Stannis the cat on her shoulder
When Leanne visited the Sanctuary, she said she had a good home for a cat with special needs and Stannis took her up on the offer.
By Sarah Thornton

Stannis was a little timid when he first arrived at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary from a shelter in Colorado. All of the new sights, sounds, smells and roommates were a bit of an adjustment for the senior tabby cat, so he kept to himself as he figured out his new home-between-homes.

What brought him out of his shell was his love of people. Once he realized all of the new people around him were more than happy to scratch behind his ears and rub his belly, he quickly turned into a snuggly lap cat. His enthusiasm for attention along with his ridiculous acrobatics — twisting and rolling around on people’s laps to make sure they petted all the right spots — made him quite popular among caregivers and visitors.

He loved going on sleepovers and cuddling up in bed with the volunteers, and once he overcame his initial trepidation of being wheeled around in a stroller, that, too, became a great way for him to spend more time with his human friends. But even with his outstanding personality (and all the people who fell in love with it), he didn’t seem to be landing a home.

Having been diagnosed with diabetes, Stannis needed insulin twice a day, as well as regular blood glucose checks to monitor any changes in how his body was handling the insulin. Of course, he was always a perfect gentleman when it came time for both. But blood checks and twice-daily injections can, understandably, be a rather daunting idea for adopters.

When Leanne Parker came to volunteer at the Sanctuary for a week, she didn’t come specifically to adopt but she had left the option open. “I mentioned that if there was a good fit, I had a very good home for a special-needs cat,” she says. Upon hearing that, several staff members perked up, looked at each other and said: “Stannis.”

An open heart for a special cat

Leanne was open to any cat needing some extra care, but it was a happy coincidence that Stannis was the kitty everyone suggested. She already had past experience taking care of two cats with diabetes.

“I can do a glucose curve and monitor for signs,” she says. “I’ve never had a cat go into a diabetic crisis but I keep honey on hand in case I need to rub some on their gums. I used to be part of a diabetic cat group, so I feel pretty comfortable with diabetic cats.”

When Leanne went into Stannis’ room to meet him, he was in her lap immediately, purring up a storm before dozing off while she stroked his fur. He seemed to agree with his caregivers: She should take him home. When she took Stannis back to where she was staying for a sleepover, he tucked right up against her like a little spoon, claiming his spot as though he’d always been there. And, of course, she couldn’t help but fall in love with him.

[Senior diabetic cat finally gets her day in the sun]

Word of Stannis’ adoption spread quickly among his human friends. “It’s amazing how well-known he was,” says Leanne. “The rest of the week I had people stopping me and asking, ‘Are you the one who’s adopting Stannis?’” Though they would miss him, everyone was happy to see him finally on his way home.

When it was time for Leanne and Stannis to begin the two-day drive home, the staff packed up the essentials needed in his new home: a new vial of insulin, syringes and plenty of the food he was used to — both wet and dry. “(They) did an awesome job of setting us up,” Leanne says. “I just can’t say enough about everybody sending me off prepared, so that I had some time to transition into finding my own way to get insulin here in Idaho.”

Settling into his new family

At home, Stannis got his very own room to give him time to integrate with the rest of the household, which included Leanne’s other kitties. While he’s not yet a fan of his new cat siblings, he is pretty content with his setup. He can curl up in one of his cat trees, sunbathe in front of his big window or watch the birds for hours. He tumbles around with his toys, full of enough energy for some impressive senior cat zoomies. And when he's out and about in the house, he likes tracking down all the catnip mice the other cats have stashed.

Leanne has also discovered that he’s pretty adept at climbing. To give him a view outside his door when he’s in his room, she tried putting up baby gates. But even when she stacked them, it was kitten’s play for Stannis to scale them if the mood struck him. “I went upstairs and he was literally half over it,” she recalls with a laugh. “He just kind of looked at me, put his hind legs on the top and jumped down. And that was it. He managed, at 14, (to climb) six feet over that gate.”

[Playful cat with special needs falls in love with his foster sibling]

Stannis is full of love and purrs for his new person and any visitors. “He loves people,” says Leanne. “So (with) anybody who comes in the house, he’s ready to flirt and be petted … He’s a total lovebug. He really is.” He’s also fully won over the staff at his new vet’s office, and spends his visits rumbling happily as everyone fawns over him.

When it comes to the special medical needs that caused some adopters to shy away, Leanne says it’s been a breeze and not as intimidating as some might think. “It’s very doable. There’s a little extra expense involved, but it’s not too bad. I get his insulin at Costco, so that helps.

“Needles used to creep me out,” she adds, “and now I can give him his shot as he’s walking by. It’s just part of the routine. He doesn’t even flinch. They’re tiny little needles. I don’t even think he notices.”

It’s clear by the way Stannis stretches and rolls around in Leanne’s lap that he’s trying to get every bit of her attention. It’s also apparent that he’s pretty happy with his new life — even if it took him some extra time to get there.

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