Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I have two cats, Tigger and Roo, 11-year-old siblings. In May I found out that Roo has diabetes. The vet put Roo on insulin at 4 units. She was fine for a week on that and then I went on vacation for two weeks. While on vacation, my mom gave her the shots. I got back, took her for a recheck and she wasn’t doing well. They upped the dosage to 5 units and I thought she was okay. Brought her back for a recheck and now her dosage is up to 7 units, twice a day. I feed both cats Iams senior and Iams Multi-Cat Household kibble. They don’t like wet food; I’ve tried it before. Roo drinks and pees a lot a, but she is eating fine. But tonight I found a pee spot on my sofa. I’m very concerned because she has only had one or two accidents in her life, and even then they were near the litter box. Is there anything I could do to help her? I asked the vet if I should switch her food. He said to leave her with what she’s on. She only weighs 10.5 lbs.; she used to weigh more. She looks and feels boney to me though. My mom thinks we should put her down, but I really don’t want to. Also, I’m unemployed and the expenses for weekly vet visits and supplies are very difficult. What should I do?
Siouxsie:This question came to our Facebook page, but Bella begged us to answer this question on the blog. Knowing how passionate she is about diabetic kitties, we agreed; after all, we think this is important, too.
Thomas: First of all, Sandra, don’t give up! There are lots of things you can do to help Roo feel better, and there’s even financial assistance available.
Bella: So far you’re doing a really good job, even if it doesn’t seem like it right now. The fact is, you care enough about Roo to do whatever you can to help her, and that’s wonderful! *purrrrrr*
Siouxsie: Getting a newly diabetic cat stabilized can be overwhelming, for sure, but it can be done. Once Roo is stable on insulin, she’ll start feeling better and you won’t have trouble with her peeing on the furniture.
Thomas: The first thing you should do is get on the Feline Diabetes Message Board. This is the go-to group for supporting caretakers of kitties with diabetes.
Bella: Yeah. They’ve got a huge message board and lots of easily understandable information on how to take care of super-sweet kitties like us.
Siouxsie: For those of you who don’t know the basics of diabetes, FelineDiabetes.com has all the information you need.
Thomas: Now, let’s address your question about food. You really are going to have to switch Roo to a low-carbohydrate, grain-free canned food. Many diabetic cat caretakers report that their cats do very well on a diet where carbohydrates compose less than 10 percent of their total caloric intake. Cats on this type of diet have much more stable blood sugar levels than those that eat kibble.
Siouxsie: Dr. Pierson has also written a guide to cat foods that lists the protein, fat and carbohydrate percentages of each, and there are plenty of canned foods that will meet the carbohydrate guidelines. This also means there are a lot of different flavors and brands to choose from, so you’re bound to be able to find something your cats like.
Thomas: Full disclosure: some people outside the feline diabetes world take issue with this chart and don’t think it’s fully researched, and some vets insist that diabetic cats eat a prescription diet allegedly designed to meet the nutritional needs of these felines.
Bella: But so many people have actually experienced success when feeding their diabetic kitties using Dr. Pierson’s information — including the people at HART of Maine, where I lived before Mama adopted me — that we think she’s got the right idea!
Siouxsie: Now, you don’t have to buy super-premium $2.00 a can food to get that low-carb thing going. Many appropriate brands and flavors can be found at the supermarket.
Thomas: Another thing you should know is that there are different types of insulin, and you and your vet might have to try different kinds to find out which one works best for your cat. Most of the cats at HART do well on Lantus (glargine), but one is getting Humulin. There are a couple of other types as well.
Bella: One more thing — some vets know more than others about managing the care of diabetic cats. We’re not saying your vet is bad or incompetent, but given the importance of diet in controlling diabetes, we’re surprised that he told you to keep Roo on the same food she’s been eating.
Siouxsie: We’d recommend that you ask your vet for a referral to a specialist or ask around on the Feline Diabetes Message Board to see if there are vets in your area who might be able to help more. If not, you and your vet might be able to get a phone consultation with someone else, or your vet might be able to query other practitioners through the Veterinary Information Network.
Thomas: That’s what Doctor Alden did when she realized the extent of Kissy’s leg deformity, and she got some very complete answers and even what amounted to free specialist consultations!
Bella: One thing that can spare you a lot of expense is learning to test Roo’s blood glucose at home. That way you’ll be able to keep track of how she’s doing without going to the vet all the time. FelineDiabetes.com has information and links to videos that will show you how to do it.
Siouxsie: We know it’s very expensive to get a diabetic cat stabilized, and particularly since you’re unemployed, that can be a huge burden. But there’s good news for that, too. An organization called Diabetic Cats in Need offers a financial assistance program for people willing to give appropriate treatment (home glucose testing, insulin injections, low-carb canned or raw food, etc.). Please look into that as well, Sandra.
Thomas: We know that you can help get Roo back on the road to health. If there’s one thing that might actually be a benefit of being unemployed, it’s that you presumably have the time to stay with Roo and be available to monitor her for most of the day.
Bella: Good luck, Sandra, and please try not to feel too overwhelmed. We’re all rooting for you and Roo. Please let us know how things go!