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Diabetic Cat? How to Prevent, Identify, and Treat Feline Diabetes

10 Sept 2022.

If you’re worried your kitty may be diabetic, you’re not alone. Cat diabetes affects around 54,000 felines in the UK. However, there are ways to prevent diabetes, and even after diagnosis your fur friend can still lead a happy, healthy life. Not sure how to prevent, identify, and treat diabetes in cats? Below, Cat in a Flat answers all your questions about feline diabetes. 

What is feline diabetes? 

When your kitty eats, their food is digested and absorbed into the bloodstream. This digestion results in glucose, which provides your fur friend with energy. The pancreas processes the glucose and allows it to enter the body’s cells—this translates into an energy source for your kitty! 

When a cat is diabetic, they are unable to process glucose properly. This can mean that their pancreas can’t provide enough insulin, or that their body can’t respond properly to the hormone. When this happens, a feline’s fat and muscles are used to provide energy instead, which can make the cat very ill. 

Generally, diabetes affects middle-aged and older felines as well as cats that are overweight. 

How to prevent feline diabetes

Best ways to prevent diabetes in cats

It’s always best to be preventative rather than wait until your cat is sick to make lifestyle changes. Like with humans, a healthy lifestyle is necessary to help prevent diabetes in cats. By providing your kitty with a balanced diet and daily exercise routine, you’re helping them to stay healthy in the long-term. Here are three preventative measures you can take:

Watch your cat’s weight

One of the best ways to prevent feline diabetes is by keeping an eye on your cat’s weight. Domesticated cats no longer need to roam and hunt for food, which makes them particularly prone to weight gain and obesity. It’s estimated that around 50% of cats in the UK are overweight or obese. 

Here are a few tips to help Mr Whiskers stay trim and fit! 

  • Identify if your cat is overweight. Weight gain tends to happen gradually, which makes it hard for pet parents to know if their felines are overweight. A layer of fat over the ribs and back, a bulging tummy, or fat pads around the face, legs, and neck are all signs of an overweight cat.
  • Monitor your cat’s weight. Ask your vet what the recommended weight is for your kitty and weigh them regularly. Remember, a pound may not sound like much, but it can be a lot on your whiskery friend! 
  • Avoid too many treats. We paw parents love to treat our kitties, but be careful about over-indulging Mr Whiskers. While the occasional treat is great, daily treats can lead to serious weight gain. 

Regulate your cat’s food

Because of their independent nature, it’s common to allow our furry friends to manage their own diets. However, letting your kitty graze or have access to food around the clock isn’t always the healthiest approach. Another way to help prevent diabetes is by regulating your feline’s food. 

  • Feed your cat on a schedule. If your kitty tends to graze or eat whenever they like, it may take some time to get them used to a feeding schedule. Remember, sticking to a schedule will be healthier for Mr Whiskers! Aim to feed your cat twice a day: in the morning and in the evening. Once your kitty has eaten, put away the food until their next scheduled feeding so your fur friend isn’t snacking throughout the day.
  • Provide your fur friend with a balanced diet. This includes both wet food and dry food. Check that the food is protein rich instead of carbohydrate heavy. If in doubt, ask your veterinary to recommend some healthy food choices. 
  • Don’t overfeed your cat. Useful calculators like this one will help you to find out exactly how much your cat should eat every day.
  • Make sure your kitty drinks lots of water. Access to multiple water sources is important for a healthy, happy cat! 

Make sure your cat gets exercise

Just like you need your gym sessions to stay healthy, your cat needs daily exercise to stay healthy too! Here are a few tips to help keep your fur friend active.

  • Play with your cat daily. Try to maintain the same schedule and have multiple 10-15 minute play sessions throughout the day.
  • Source good cat toys. Make sure the toys are safe for your kitty and that you have a variety—both toys that they can interact with on their own and toys you can play with together. 
  • Use a maze feeder for treats or food. This provides a challenge for your kitty and can be a fun way for them to ‘work’ for their dinner!

How to know if my cat is diabetic

Sometimes, even if you’re preventative, your kitty may still develop diabetes. Not sure if your cat is diabetic? Here are signs to watch out for.

  • Increased thirst or appetite. Cats drink a lot of water, but if you notice your kitty is constantly thirsty or hungry, it may be a good idea to get them checked out by a vet.
  • Weight loss. If your fur friend is eating and drinking more than usual but still losing weight, this could be a sign of diabetes. 
  • Lethargy and weakness. Lethargy can be a sign of many different illnesses, not just diabetes. So, if your kitty seems listless and weak you should take them to the vet immediately. 
  • Vomiting. What pet parent hasn’t had to clean their kitty’s vomit off the carpet every now and then? Occasional vomiting can be normal for cats. However, if your kitty vomits more than three times in a day and seems particularly tired, these could be signs of something more serious.

How to treat diabetes in cats

If you suspect your feline may be diabetic, take them to the vet immediately. Your vet will take blood and urine samples from your kitty to assess their glucose levels. If your cat is diagnosed with diabetes, there’s no need to panic. These days, it’s easier than ever to successfully treat feline diabetes. Treatment can include:

  • Insulin injections. Most diabetic cats will require one or two injections every day. While some cats may need insulin for the rest of their lives, others can become non-diabetic again if their symptoms are treated early on. Your vet will show you the steps to properly give your kitty insulin injections. Online videos like this one can also help walk you through the process. 
  • Diet. Your veterinary will recommend the proper diet to stabilize your cat’s diabetes and help them lose weight.
  • Medication. Another option for some cats is a combination of medication along with their weight-reducing diet. 

If you’re worried about leaving your diabetic cat at home while you’re away on a trip, our amazing cat sitters are here to help! Look for a cat sitter with experience giving felines medication and/or shots. Before you head off on your holiday, make sure you walk your cat sitter through every step of your kitty’s diet, exercise, and treatment schedule. If possible, book twice a day visits so Mr Whiskers can maintain a steady routine. This way, your cat will stick to their healthy lifestyle, even while you’re gone! 

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