How I Care For My Diabetic Cat

Cat looking up at camera with title "How I care for my diabetic cat"
Cat laying on a woman's lap in a red chair
If I’m in the living room, Sylvie is nearby or on my lap or belly. Ignore the cat hair on my lounge pants, you can’t escape the cat hair in my house.

My cat, Sylvie is sweet, does silly things, and is diabetic. Sylvie will be 11 years old in February and he’s been diabetic since 2016. He is happy and healthy and I had to change my lifestyle quite a bit to accommodate his needs. Having a diabetic cat is not a death sentence, it just requires more love and care than is normally expected for a cat.

About Sylvie

Black cat sitting on floor looking up
My baby

I found Sylvie in my best friend’s barn, with his sister Misao, in 2008. He was a regular kitty, a little on the aloof side, determined to not be a snuggler, and really wanted nothing to do with the family in general. When he and Misao were kittens, I really babied them. We even took them on a family trip to Brookings when they were really little.

When Sylvie was still young, he was attacked by a dog. The vet said he would live or he would die and there wasn’t much we could do about it. He spent a long time sleeping in my parents bed. When he laid down, he was flat and sometimes concave. The poor thing has had digestive issues ever since. Also, he became a family cat. He slept with me almost every night and loved being snuggled or  “mauled” as my dad would describe it.

He sleeps with me every night, and often reminds me when it’s time for bed. He has a place on my pillow or under my arm. We watch movies together on the couch snuggled up. He likes to be held. He truly is my companion and I love him so much.

Cat snuggled under a woman's arm in bed
We often sleep like this

Other than that, he has been relatively healthy. As an inside/outside cat he was pretty active. When we moved away, he became a strictly indoor cat. He was no longer as active as he used to be. He sleeps all night and 90% of the day.

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How I Found Out My Cat is Diabetic

Sylvie had really bad dandruff. When I took him in for a check up I asked the vet about it. He told me the change in climate may be messing with his skin and to add fish oil to his food. I did that, I saw no change.

Shortly after, Sylvie started drinking a lot of water. I was filling his water bowl every time I saw it. Subsequently, he started peeing a lot. He would go into his litter box and cry like he was in pain. Soon, he began having accidents around the house. I could tell they weren’t intentional because there would be little dribble trails before there was a puddle.

I thought maybe he had a UTI because he wasn’t peeing in his box and he sounded like he was in pain when he was in his box. All my google searches said “UTI.” I decided that was probably it because it would make sense for him to be peeing in random places if he associated his litter box with pain.

I made a vet appointment to get him checked out for an infection. I called my mom, she said “Sounds like he has diabetes.” I didn’t believe her because I was certain it was a UTI and we would have it taken care of in no time. My mom has type 1 diabetes, I should have listened to her.

Sylvie’s appointment came. This time he had a new vet. I told them I thought maybe he had a UTI and they asked if it was okay to do a urinalysis, I agreed. The vet came back and said they didn’t find an infection in the urine, but they did find a lot of sugar and that Sylvie is diabetic. He assured me that feline diabetes isn’t a death sentence and we could manage it. As it turns out, dandruff is a symptom of diabetes in cats.

How I treat My Cat’s Diabetes

The vet prescribed Regular Insulin (R, not N) at five units twice daily, as well as told me to get Sylvie on a weight maintenance diet. For a long time he ate a controlled amount of Royal Canin’s weight maintenance formula. He was on insulin for seven or eight months when the vet determined he didn’t need it anymore.

Then it was another five or six months after when we decided he needed to go back on the treatment. He went down to two units twice daily and he still manages to have high blood sugar all the time but we don’t want to up the does yet.

Then another cat moved in the house and we had to make more changes. The hardest part has been getting the cats not to eat each other’s food. I eventually changed Sylvie’s food to what the vet feeds him when I board him and keeping him on an eating schedule. This makes sure he isn’t hungry and eating the other cat’s food and the other cat isn’t eating his food. It’s been surprisingly easy.

How I Accommodate My Cat’s Diabetes

With Sylvie’s diabetes, he can pee a lot. To accommodate that, I bought him the Purina Tidy Cats Breeze Litter System and started out using horse bedding as his litter. That worked out great and was great for the eliminating smell. His urine turned the pellets to saw dust, would fall to the bottom tray of the litter system, and I would empty it outside.

It didn’t work out long term because the climate in the high desert isn’t great for breaking down saw dust outside. What I do now is I fill the system with the pellets that are designed for it and keep it in the shower. It gets a little gross here but it’s what works. Every time I shower, I dump the pee down the drain, clean the system and the bottom of the shower, then I shower, then put the system back in. Because Sylvie can pee so much, this is the easiest and cleanest way to take care of the litter. His poop gets fished off the top of the box and thrown out multiple times a day.

Additionally, I have to make sure I am home everyday at the same time twice a day to feed Sylvie and get him his insulin. This isn’t so much a problem now that I have a schedule, but at the beginning it was a pain making sure I was home for food and insulin when before I just filled his dish once a day.

When I want to travel I have to board him at the vet or take him with me. I can’t just pay someone to feed him once a day like I did before. I’m so lucky to have a vet that only charges $7.50 a day to board a cat, and doesn’t charge extra for giving him his insulin injections. I don’t think I could get that kind of service anywhere else.

When I take him with me for travelling, I put a pee pad in the tray of his litter system that catches his urine and I replace it as needed. This keeps the pee from sloshing around on the drive and provides easier cleanup at the destination. I don’t do this at home because it feels wasteful.

I also have to be fairly attentive to make sure Sylvie isn’t behaving strangely, isn’t suddenly lethargic, isn’t vomiting, is eating his food, how much he is drinking, how much he is peeing, what does his poo look like, what does his pee look like, and a variety of other things to make sure I am doing my best at keeping him as healthy as he can be and happy.

The reward for all of this is the extended life of my beloved baby. Sylvie and I have been together for almost 11 years now and to lose him would be nothing short of devastating. I have an end of life plan for when it is time for him to go, but we are making sure that is as far off as is comfortable for him.

As I said earlier, diabetes in cats is not a death sentence. Sylvie is thriving and is happy and he has diabetes. My diabetic cat may cause a few inconveniences in my life but the companionship and love between us is more than worth it.

I was at a family function when someone said they put their kitty down when it was diagnosed and my heart broke. Diabetic cats can live normal lives if you are willing and able to provide care.

My cat is diabetic and he is happy, loved, and I do my very best to provide him with the care he needs because he is worth it.

Cat staring at camera with a grey bunny in its paws
I bought Sylvie a dog toy bunny and he loves it. If he isn’t brutalizing it, he is snuggling it.

 

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