Caring for Diabetic Cats
Updated: Jul 10
Several years ago, my cat experienced massive weight loss and seemed to be dehydrated constantly. Concerned, we took her to the veterinarian to figure out what was going on. She was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, a chronic disease similar to diabetes in humans. My cat has become insulin dependent, and must be given insulin shots twice a day. Initially it was a bit challenging adjusting to new routines, but with care and treatment my kitty is still fiercely kicking (and scratching) at 15 years old.
1 in 230 cats are affected by feline diabetes. The condition is treatable with the proper care, and diabetic cats can live just as long as non-diabetic cats. Keep reading to get answers to common questions about feline diabetes.
What Symptoms Might My Cat Have?
Diabetic cats will show sudden weight loss or gain, along with excessive drinking and frequent urination. Cats may also pee outside of their litter box. Their appetite can increase up to three times more than what’s normal for them or they may lose their appetite completely.
When a cat has diabetes, glucose is no longer being used as a source of energy like it should be. You can use a fasting glucose blood test to determine if your cat is diabetic or not. The test is taken with a glucose meter by pricking your cat’s ear to obtain blood.
Most diabetic cats only need to be fed twice a day, with an insulin shot before/after the feedings.
What Do I Feed My Cat?
There are differing opinions on what people should feed their cats. Some feed their pet dry food, while others opt for canned wet food. The ideal diet for a diabetic cat is one with high protein and low carbohydrate content. Some owners even make their cat meals from scratch, but this is optional.
How Expensive Will Care Be?
The cost varies greatly. The cost of insulin can range from $30-$150 per month. Syringes are typically $8-$16 per month. Some owners may need to or want to monitor their pet’s glucose levels, which requires a glucose monitoring machine. These can cost as little as $20 and as much as $500 and must be purchased with lancets and test strips, usually ranging from $5-$15 per month. If this seems overwhelming, don’t fret- if owners do not want to purchase a monitoring machine, they can get their cat’s glucose levels checked at the veterinarian. Finding a generic insulin brand and visiting online pharmacies to find the best prices can also drastically lower the cost of care.
Is There A Cure?
There’s no cure for feline diabetes, but there is remission. When you start treating their diabetes by getting their blood sugar under control and adjusting their diet, many cats are able to enter partial or full remission.
Consulting with your veterinarian to get the right treatment is essential for your pet’s health. With time, symptoms often disappear or owners are able to get them under control. One of my biggest recommendations to those who own a diabetic cat is to always keep fresh water bowls out for your pet. Because they are urinating more frequently, cats with diabetes need to drink lots of water. I put out several bowls for my cat, ensuring they’re full and replacing the water daily. Precious Fur has many cat sitters who can administer shots to your kitty, however if you’d rather opt for a vet tech, we are happy to recommend skilled Bay Area vet techs to clients!
Diabetes doesn’t have to hinder a cat’s quality of life. At first it can be difficult to manage a cat with diabetes, but once managed, many diabetic felines are just as bright and playful as non-diabetic cats.
-Watson, Stephanie. “Feeding Tips for a Cat With Diabetes.” Fetch by WebMD, WebMD, 8 June 2012, https://pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/feeding-tips-for-a-cat-with-diabetes#1
-“Diabetes in Cats.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 June 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diabetes_in_cats
-Eckstein, Sandy. “Feline Diabetes: Symptoms, Treatments, Prevention, and Diet Tips.” Fetch by WebMD, WebMD, 21 Apr. 2012, https://pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/feline-diabetes-symptoms-treatments-prevention-diet#1
-Pendergrass, JoAnna. “Feline Diabetes: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Remission Demystified.” All About Cats , 18 Aug. 2019, www.wwwallaboutcats.com/feline-diabetes.
-“Cost of Treating Diabetes in Cats.” Canadian Insulin , 22 Jan. 2020, www.canadianinsulin.com/articles/cost-treating-diabetes-cats.html.