Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: July 14, 2023 by Crystal Uys
You’ve probably heard of diabetic alert dogs. These dogs are trained to monitor smells in the air for a specific scent on the human breath that is indicative of rapidly dropping or low blood sugar levels, and to alert the diabetic person. Goldie, a 6-year-old tortoiseshell cat who resides in Maine, has been performing this life-saving service for her human dad. What’s truly remarkable is that nobody trained Goldie to do this. But why don’t I let Goldie tell you what she does in her own words.
On a dark night in Deer Isle, Maine I was found on the side of the road. I was very hard to see because of my tortoise shell coloring, but a family friend said she saw my eyes in her headlights. She scooped me up and took me home with her, knowing she would have to find a home for me. I was full of fleas and worms and I was hungry.
I stayed with this family until my human Dad saw me and said, “my wife wants a kitten”, and brought me home with him. He treated me very nice on the way to my new forever home, and I knew I would be forever in his debt, so I sat on his cloth dinner pail all the way home. Ma knew I would be Dad’s cat because as soon as he brought me home with him he had to go to the store. I didn’t know what to do, as I looked around scared, so I climbed up on the couch, over onto the end table and sat on Dad’s dinner pail until he came back. Ma took my picture because she thought what I did was so cute.
To show my appreciation I have been entertaining my human family since June 2010 with antics typical of most cats (begging for treats, jumping out and attacking legs, chasing balls, toys, etc., tearing through the house for unknown reasons, sitting in boxes of any size, sunning) and some not so typical of cats. For instance, I drink water from my paw. Yes, I have to dip one of my extra toed paws in the water bowl and lick it off. I have 5 toes on one front paw and 6 toes on the other, my back paws are normal.
My other not-so-typical behavior is that I have taught myself to detect low blood sugar in my human Dad. My humans noticed that I would come up to them and smell their breath. This is how I register everyone. I am a bit picky about whom I “register,” but so far I have smelled the breath of almost everyone who has walked through the door of my house (you know I own this house, right?).
It took my humans a few times of diabetic low detection to figure out it was me who was waking Dad up. I could tell by his breath that he was experiencing a sugar low in his sleep and I had to wake him up! Anyway, I could! I would walk over him, several times, back and forth, until he woke up. Once he woke up he could take care of himself or wake up Ma to help. But there have been a couple of times that I could not wake him up because his blood sugar was too low. I knew I had to do something so I sat on Ma’s hip until she woke up and took care of Dad!
I change how I wake up Dad from time to time; I guess it’s what cats do. I do the usual “smelling of the breath” routine, but I don’t always walk all over him. Sometimes I will paw at his face and then walk straight down him like a tightrope walker, sit at his feet and then do it all over again until he’s awake and alert.
My humans loved me enough to bring me into their hearts and I will continue to take care of my humans.
Thank you to Goldie’s human Terri for sharing this wonderful story with us.
All photos © Terri Hutchinson, used with permission
About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.