Disclaimer: I am not a vet and this article is not intended to provide medical advice. I am simply sharing our experience as owners of a diabetic cat. Please contact your vet for medical advice.
Lady was a homeless cat that my husband and I took in just before we got married 11 years ago. You can read more about her joining our family here. Because she was a stray we don’t know her exact age but we believe she’s about 12 years old. Lady is a sweet girl that gets along great with our other cat and our dog, also both former strays. As she got older we starting to notice her behavior changing.
Signs and Symptoms
We started to notice some odd behavior in Lady that prompted us to get her to the vet to be checked out. She was grooming a lot, pulling out clumps of hair that we’d find all over the carpet. She was drinking a lot of water and seemed very thirsty. The water dish was empty much more often and the litter box was being used a lot more. She also seemed to be begging for food all the time and was always hungry and restless.
We took Lady to the vet and some blood work revealed that she was diabetic. Our vet walked us through what we’d need to do to take care of our girl and we’ve been treating Lady with insulin shots successfully for nearly a year now. We started with a low dose of insulin which ended up being adequate for her. We learned that too much insulin can cause hypoglycemia which is very dangerous.
A Day With a Diabetic Cat
We manage Lady’s diabetes in two ways: with her diet and with insulin. We needed to get her on a low carb diet so we switched from the dry food she had always eaten to wet food. She eats Fancy Feast pate (the gravy styles have cornstarch = carbs), something you can find in any store and we feed her one can in the morning and one can in the evening.
She also gets two insulin shots a day and we do those at the same time she’s eating, morning and evening about 12 hours apart. It’s pretty quick and easy to give them to her while she’s distracted with her food.
What It Means for the Owner
Life with a diabetic cat is definitely manageable but you have to be committed. Here are a few things we’ve learned that might help you if you have a diabetic pet or are considering adopting one:
Insulin Shots: Insulin is a bit pricey. There’s no sugar coating it. However, the bottles that we get do last quite a while and we get them at CVS where they gave us a prescription card that saved a few bucks each time we refill. The syringes are also available by prescription and they’re not a major expense at all. The needles are pretty short, so if you’re picturing a big long needle, think again! Insulin needs to be kept in the refrigerator and rolled between your hands before drawing a shot. You don’t want to shake it to mix it, just gently roll it before getting your shot ready. It’s very easy to measure but you do need to take care of it. It’s in a glass bottle that you’re not going to want to be careless with and break. And what do you do with all the needles? We keep them in an empty juice or milk carton and when it’s full we take it to the vet to dispose of.
Giving The Shot: We find this is easiest to do when Lady is eating because she’s more focused on her food than she is on getting a shot. It’s a very quick little stick. You’ll want to pull up the loose skin between the shoulders on the cat’s back and give the shot there at an angle, not straight in. Just try to vary the shot spot a bit so you’re not sticking the exact same spot every time you give an injection. The needle is so small and with our cat, her fur is so dense, you may not even feel the needle go in. The more you can visually see what you’re doing the better.
Things to Look For: It’s possible your diabetic pet’s care needs will change over time. We’ve had to have Lady checked once in a while and fortunately her condition has improved. Other than regular vet visits, how do you know when you need to get your pet to the vet because something might be wrong? You need to monitor their behavior and if you notice that they seem hungry all the time that might be a sign that they need a check up. If you notice an increase in their usage of the litter box, or that they’re drinking more water, that can be a sign too. A couple of times Lady was walking around sniffing everything and her balance seemed off, very bizarre behavior. She was hypoglycemic then and we fed her to get her blood sugar up and that seemed to do the trick.
Bottom Line: To have a diabetic pet you need to be committed and stay on schedule a large part of the time. We’ve had times where we’ve had to skip a shot because we weren’t home and it wasn’t the end of the world. But on a day-to-day basis, you need to stick to a routine, and you need to keep your eyes open for any changes in your pet’s behavior. Having a diabetic pet is totally doable if you are willing to make those commitments. In the end it’s just a new routine to get used to and once you do, it’s very rewarding to be able to care for a pet that needs a little extra TLC to lead a happy, healthy life.
If you’re looking to adopt and are interested in learning more about diabetic pets that need a forever home, you can find your closest pet shelter and plan a visit. Let me know if you have questions about Lady and our life with her!