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How to Care for a Diabetic Cat


You've just been told that your cat is diabetic and you're probably panicking because you don't really know what this means. The first thing that you need to do is to relax and start calmly thinking about how you're going to deal with this. Gaining a full understanding of what it will mean to care for a pet that is diabetic can help you make the choice as to how to move forward. In doing so, you will need to learn how to properly care for the cat but this is something that isn't really that difficult as long as you've made the commitment to do it.

Here are the steps that you should take to start properly caring for a diabetic cat:

  1. Do your research. Start reading about what it means for an animal to be diabetic. The better an understanding that you have of the situation, the better you're going to be able to care for your cat.
  2. Make an informed decision about whether or not you want to care for the cat. The reality is that some people don't have the time or inclination to care for a diabetic pet. After reading about what it will take to care for the cat, decide whether or not you're really willing to make this commitment. If you aren't, you need to take responsibility for finding a great new owner or no-kill shelter for the cat. Otherwise, make the full commitment to caring for your sick cat so that you can move forward with providing proper care that comes from your whole heart.
  3. Get a great vet. There will be a lot of things that you're going to do in the home to care for the cat but there will also be plenty of things that require a vet. Make sure that you have a great vet that can help you through this issue. If your current vet doesn't have experience with diabetic pets then ask for a recommendation to someone who does.
  4. Invest time in the early stages. It is the first few weeks or months that are going to be toughest as you adjust to this new change in your life. First of all, the cat is going to need to start medication and may even need to be hospitalized to get the diabetes under control. Sometimes this is simple; the vet gives you medicine and the cat takes to it perfectly. Other times, it's more complicated with repeated trials of medication and doses having to be tried out before the right combination is found. Make sure that you have the time to deal with these first few weeks; cut back on other commitments and even consider taking time off at this time.
  5. Start your cat on a healthy diet. The thing about diabetes is that a cat needs to eat right to prevent the disease from getting out of control. Your vet will prescribe a diet based on the information uncovered during those first few weeks. It is going to be your responsibility to purchase the right food, measure out the amounts that are given to the cat and make sure that the food is given at the right time of day. You will also need to monitor the cat's eating to make sure that your pet is getting the right amount of good food.
  6. Regularly give your cat medicine. In most cases, this is going to mean that you have to give a daily shot of insulin to your cat. Have the vet train you as to how to properly do this. Make sure that you understand the time of day and amount of insulin that is supposed to be given.
  7. Monitor the cat's urine glucose. This isn't fun but it's part of the job when you're caring for a diabetic pet. You will need to purchase glucose test strips and catch the cat's urine on them to monitor glucose. This needs to be done regularly but not daily; ask your doctor about the exact plan for this type of monitoring.
  8. Monitor the cat's blood glucose. This is done more rarely but is important to giving you updated information about the status of the cat's health. You can pay to have the vet do this (it's done two or three times per year) or you can get a kit that lets you do this at home.
  9. Spend time with your cat. Basically, the only way to really know if your cat is getting better or worse is to spend time with your cat. This will allow you to notice changes in the daily habits of the cat. Changes should alert you to the fact that something might be wrong. Medications may need to be changed or there may be other health complications that occur in conjunction with diabetes.
  10. Get help. The reality of your life is that you're probably not going to be able to do all of this stuff every day without a break. You need to keep other appointments and take vacations. Make sure that you have someone in your life who is reliable to take care of the cat when you need to be somewhere else. A spouse, an older child, a good friend or a paid pet sitter can help out in this way. Make sure that they are trained in advance to take care of the cat in case an emergency comes up that requires you to leave the cat.

Taking care of a diabetic pet isn't easy but it's really not all that difficult either. You'll get used to measuring out the right kind of food. You'll adjust to giving insulin to your cat. You'll become conscious of changes in the cat's behavior that indicate that there may be a problem. And you'll probably continue to have many good years with your cat. Be aware that it's time-intensive and that it can get expensive. (You might want to look into options for pet insurance if you don't already have that.) But as long as you're willing to make the commitment to caring for the cat, it shouldn't be a problem that you can't handle.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


Not Pollyanna on March 28, 2011:

"After reading about what it will take to care for the cat, decide whether or not you're really willing to make this commitment. If you aren't, you need to take responsibility for finding a great new owner or no-kill shelter for the cat. Otherwise, make the full commitment to caring for your sick cat so that you can move forward with providing proper care that comes from your whole heart."

It's always so nice to read remarks like that from people who live in Theoretical Land. What if you can't find someone "great" enough to take on a chronically ill cat and there are no no-kill shelters in your area *and* you can't commit to this kind of care with a full heart--not to mention a full bank account?

I'm doing my best with my diabetic cat, but the time and the finances are a huge struggle. It's not that I don't care about him, but I'm in it alone, and there's only so much I can do. If I find I've reached my limit, I'll make my choices with a clear conscience, even if they mean that his life is going to be shorter than a cat's life already is. Unless you have a list of "great" people you can send me who can handle a time-intensive and expensive illness because they're so "great" and not merely human like the rest of us, you can take your superficial la-la description of my choices and stick it.

sabryee on January 20, 2011:

I have a 7 year old cat who has been diagnosed with diabetes! She's had it since the summer and it is now January, I give her two insulin shots a day and 1 1/2 cans of rx m/d a day! She is not getting better and I don't know what to do! The vet keeps telling she will get better but she isn't! She weighs only 4 pounds! She can't eat any hard food or she gets very bad diarrhea almost instantly! She acts as if she is a crazy starving cat I had to put locks on my cupboards and nothing can be on the counter, bowls plates and cups have to be washed so she doesn't lick them, she rips food out of our hand while we are eating! She also won't use the litter at all! Her poops and pee's are in front of the litter box and I have to clean at least 3 poops a day and about 10 pee's a day! The vet keeps telling me she will get better but its been forever and she's medicated and fed properly! Why is she doing this and why isn't she getting better I love my baby but I can't watch her suffer anymore :(

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bynow4413 from Lubbock, TX on November 15, 2010:

Great article!

Here is something that I have also found for treating pets with diabetes

maolaun from Boston, MA on September 21, 2010:

I have a 16 year old coon cat that was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 10. For years we fed him a low-carb diet prescribed by the vet but were having a hard time stabilizing his blood-sugar. I agree with pseuzieQ that you should always test the level before injecting insulin. We had a handful of emergency trips before we started doing this. However, I have been feeding him raw meat for three years and he has been off insulin since the switch. Not only has this made my Kitty healthier in many ways, I know have extra money in my pocket and don't have to rush home at certain times to inject insulin. This is something to think about and to do your own reasearch on if you want to make yours and your cats lives easier. :)

pseuzieQ on July 22, 2010:

I've cared for a diabetic cat for 3 years now. I'm a registered nurse, so it makes it a lot easier for me. The cat got into trouble with low blood sugar once-his pupils dilated, he twitched all over, tried to lick the carpet, and seemed incoherent, confused, and his front paws were cramped and stiff. I believe this happened b/c I was giving insulin shots without knowing what the blood sugars were, and some cats can actually revert to being non-diabetic for periods of time. So I may have given that morning's shot to a cat with normal blood sugar-causing him to bottom out.

I took him to the emergency vet (very expensive), and he recovered. He stayed off insulin for 4 months. He could've died from that afternoon tho. Low blood sugar can kill in minutes, whereas high blood sugar can kill in weeks. It's important to know the type of Insulin being used, and that what time of day it will PEAK-that's when the blood sugar will be the lowest.

Also, depending on the type of insulin you're giving, the vial may need to be swirled and mixed, since it may be a combination of fast-acting plus long-acting insulin. You wouldn't want to get a syringe full of unmixed insulin-you might have inadvertently drawn up all short acting, or all long acting from the vial, and could bottom out the blood sugars. Insulin is a DANGEROUS drug, and owner education is so important. Insulin is also a miracle.

My new rule is that I NEVER give insulin without knowing what the blood sugar is. I test his sugar on his ears twice a day. It took several days to get used to doing it, but now I know where the "sweet spots" are on his ears, and it's no problem. He doesn't react to my sticking his ears at all, and as long as the lancets are nice and sharp, its not painful for him (or, at least, he doesn't react in any way.) I'm feeding him Hill's Rx M/D dry food-lower carb food to help regulate sugars.

Diabetic cats are super high-maintenence at first, but once a routine is established, and the whole family knows what the signs of low (and high) blood sugar are, things are a lot easier. I keep light Karo syrup at hand, in case of hypoglycemia, and emergency vet #s on the fridge. I saved his life with Karo syrup that day.

Garnetbird on April 20, 2010:

NICE Hub--my kitty is getting very Obese; I am thinking of changing her to wet food as I read that dry catfood can trigger the weight gain (carbs)

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