Medical Care for the Diabetic Cat

Note: I am not a veterinarian, only a cat lover caring for a diabetic cat. These are tips that I have learned over the last two years from treating my cat. Please contact your vet to seek medical care and for any questions.

If your cat has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, it is comforting to know that it is treatable and not a death sentence. Diabetic cats, with proper medical care, can live a long time after being diagnosed. It is estimated that diabetes affects one in every 400 cats. Often cats that are affected are older male cats and are also overweight.

The first step in treating your cat is to seek medical care. If your cat has not been diagnosed, but is sick, you might suspect diabetes. The following are all symptoms that should be evaluated by a veterinarian.

-Frequent vomiting of food- a diabetic cat often feels hungry. If they eat too much, then vomiting may occur

-Weight loss-a diabetic cat will begin to lose weight

-Excessive thirst-Your cat may head to the water bowl several times a day or more than usual

-Excessive Urination-Diabetic cats tend to drink more, thus have excessive urination. They may also begin to have litter box accidents.

-General weakness and dehydration and uninterested in grooming self

If left untreated, diabetes will kill a cat. It is extremely important to seek medical help if your cat shows these signs. Your vet can diagnose diabetes by a blood sugar, or glucose test. Your vet might also order testing for other diseases, such as pancreatitis. The initial diagnosis and hospitalization can cost anywhere from $100 to $500 depending the severity of your cat’s illness. Your cat may require a longer hospital stay if he is very ill or dehydrated.

After you cat has been diagnosed, learning to treat your cat is fairly easy. You vet will probably recommend a special diet high in fiber and complex carbohydrates and low in fat. A diet such as this will help to control blood sugar and help your cat lose excessive weight. Hill’s Prescription Diet W/D is a common choice for the diabetic cat. This cat food can only be bought through your vet’s office and cost about $40 for a 20-pound bag.

The goal in treating your cat’s diabetes is to control the amount of sugar, or blood glucose in the cat’s blood stream. This is accomplished by injecting daily insulin into the cat. By testing your cat’s urine, the veterinarian will be able to prescribe the right kind and the right amount of insulin for your cat. Most cats require two insulin shots a day, one in the morning and one in the evening. It may take a few weeks to determine what amount of insulin is right for your cat. After your cat has been on treatments, your vet might also recommend seeing the cat on a regular schedule to check the cat’s glucose levels.

There are two types of insulin that can treat cats. One is Humilin, which is the same kind of insulin that diabetic humans can take.�¯�¿�½ The other is PZI, which is typically a made of a combination of beef and pork insulin. Humilin is much cheaper than PZI, but may not be affective in some cats. Your vet will tell you what is right for your cat.

It may take a few tries to master giving your cat injections. There are a few basic dos and don’ts of treating your cat.


-Inject your cat on a schedule. If your cat requires two shots a day, find a time and stick to it. For example, if you typically feed your cat at 9 a.m., give injections everyday right before the cat is fed at 9:00 and then again at 9:00 p.m.

-Feed your cat immediately after each injection

-Pick up uneaten food after each feeding. Diabetic cats do not do well with “grazing” or allowing them to eat all day.

-Refrigerate vials of insulin at all times

-Keep an extra vial of insulin and syringes on hand.

-Dispose of used syringes properly. Make a “sharp” box out of old plastic milk container or juice bottle. Put the used syringes in that and cap the container when full to throw away.

-Turn the vial of insulin upside down while filling the syringe. This allows the insulin, not air bubbles, to enter the syringe.

-Have the number to your vet and the number to the closest 24-hour pet hospital available at all times.

-If your cat goes outside at all, have a medical tag on your cat.


-Shake the vial of insulin. This causes air bubbles. Instead, gently roll the vial in your hands to mix.

-Don’t forget to give your cat the injections. If you forget, it’s ok to inject your cat if you are only an hour or so late. If it is later than an hour or so, it’s best to skip the shot and wait until the next dose.

-Don’t use a syringe more than once. The needle becomes dull and will be uncomfortable to the cat.

-Don’t keep insulin past the expiration date.

-If you accidentally bend a needle, don’t use it. Throw it away and get a new one.

-Don’t hesitate to contact your vet for help.

When your cat has diabetes, it is necessary to monitor your cat for hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is when the cat has low blood sugar. Humans who are diabetic can feel the onset of hypoglycemia by feeling weak or light-headed. When a cat has low blood sugar, he will become uncomfortable. The cat may exhibit strange behavior by becoming very still, vomiting, or having seizures. A cat with low blood sugar can slip into a diabetic coma and will eventually die.

To prepare for this, you will need to keep a bottle of corn syrup, such as Karo, on hand. Sugar dissolved in water, honey and pancake syrup will also work. If the attack is mild, a simple snack of cat treats or cheese might help. With a mild attack, put the syrup on your fingers and rub it on the gums or inside the cheeks. If ever in question you should immediately contact your vet or 24 hour pet hospital.

Managing your diabetic cat is essential to the health of your animal. It is also necessary to communicate and work with your veterinarian throughout the treatment. With patience and proper treatment you cat can live a normal and healthy life.

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