Elijah Teaches Himself How to Detect Low Blood Sugar Levels in His Guardians and Others
"I may not be stabbing my finger anymore. I may just have Elijah come up and tell me if I'm okay."
-- Peter Shute
The record is not exactly clear, but at least some cats have been trained to detect low blood sugar levels in humans. In Tampa, however, a two-year-old orange and white cat named Elijah has confounded the medical profession by, apparently, acquiring this valuable skill on his own. (See photo above.)
It is theorized that Elijah taught himself this skill as a means of self-preservation while residing with a woman who suffered from both diabetes and sleep apnea. C'est-a-dire, he understood that if something were to happen to her, there would not be anyone around to care for him. He accordingly would alert her whenever either her blood sugar got out of whack or she stopped breathing while sleeping.
After she died, he tragically wound up at the SPCA's notorious killing factory in Lakeland and it likely was only the belated discovery of his special talent by a diabetic staffer that saved him from the hangman. (See Cat Defender post of May 11, 2006 entitled "Mass Murderers at SPCA Are Operating an Auschwitz for Cats and Dogs in Lakeland, Florida.")
He has since landed on his feet and has a new job and a home caring for Peter Shute, a diabetic nurse. In practical terms, this involves sniffing his guardian's breath two or three times a day in order to check for either an excess or an absence of ketones.
If Shute's blood sugar level is normal, Elijah does not say anything and goes on about his business. If there is a problem, however, he meows.
"I know that if I run into trouble that he is going to do something," Shute told Zootoo on March 2nd. (See "Rare Cat Tests Diabetic for Low Blood Sugar.") "He's got a job. He knows what he's doing and he does it."
Having only been diagnosed with diabetes four years ago, Shute is still in the process of learning how to properly gauge fluctuations in his blood sugar level and this is where Elijah comes in especially handy. "I may not be stabbing my finger anymore," he added. "I may just have Elijah come up and tell me if I'm okay."
Unlike medical professionals who hoard their resources and skills and then niggardly parcel them out to the highest bidders, Elijah is an egalitarian practitioner in that he not only checks his guardian's blood sugar levels but those of all individuals that he encounters. Since numerous individuals suffer from diabetes without knowing it, he is indeed performing a much needed public service.
This also would seem to undermine the notion that Elijah is motivated solely by reasons of self-preservation in that he has absolutely nothing to gain by vetting complete strangers. Just because altruism is a foreign language to most humans, it does not necessarily follow that the same holds true for cats and other animals.
Although dogs currently are being trained to detect low blood sugar levels, there certainly is plenty of room for additional practitioners in this emerging field. Cats in particular would be especially welcome in the homes of diabetics who are unable to properly care for dogs.
Just as cats recently have been shown to be able to detect cancers and to anticipate seizures and attacks of emphysema, their willingness to help regulate blood sugar levels in humans opens up all sorts of vistas for the development of mutually beneficial relationships between them and diabetics. (See Cat Defender posts of April 11, 2009 and April 18, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Tiger Saves Calgary Man's Life by Alerting Him to a Cancerous Growth on His Left Lung" and "Blackie Stays Up Nights Monitoring His Guardian's Breathing for Emphysema Attacks.")
Most importantly, this would be a way of saving feline lives as well as drastically reducing the number of blood tests that diabetics are forced to perform on themselves.
Photo: John McQuiston of Zootoo.