Symptoms & Treatment for a Diabetic Cat

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In these economy-strained times, the last thing folks want to do is add pet medical expenses to their already crunched budget.

Since there are over 90 million pet cats in the United States, at some point in time, your cat may need medical attention either at a veterinarian’s office or at an animal hospital.  In addition , since the average life expectancy for indoor cats is 14 years  {although the oldest known cat, Creme Puff, lived to age 38 and some cats live to 18, or 20}  the costs for their care is increasing along with their age.

Statistically, cats are prone to diabetes at age 9, and our cat was no exception. Since we had suspected, diagnosed and now corrected his affliction, this diary might be helpful for those of you who will experience a similar situation.

According to the National Pet Pharmacy, 40 percent of cats are considered to be obese! Only 5 to 10 percent of all cats can be classified as only slightly overweight. In recent years Feline Diabetes Mellitus (diabetes) has become almost a daily diagnosis in animal hospitals all across America. Our cats are at risk for a number of obesity related disorders. Documented research indicates obese cats are far more prone than cats of normal body weight to Diabetes, arthritis and a very serious disorder called Hepatic Lipidosis.  And the 40 percent obesity figure seems to be growing.

Along with the above, a cat’s history may have a genetic predisposition to diabetes, along with a sedentary life style.  Our cat, who used to be an active, outdoor cat and became an indoor cat, LOVES to be sedentary; he was also overweight.

Like humans, who take in more calories than they burn, Goombah, our cat, had the luxury of a feeding contraption where he could graze from during the day. He was a nibbler and visited the feeding station more than he should have and was approaching about 15 pounds when he first showed signs of diabetes.

Coupled with his obesity  (the vet’s word, not mine, I love him round) and his lack of exercise, his disease became apparent while we were on vacation. We have left him before and at the vet’s suggestion — at home —  since he is familiar with his surroundings and not farmed out where he may become disoriented and/or feel abandoned. We always left someone in charge to cat-sit, to feed and pet him. This time was no exception.

An ‘exception’ occurred the day after we departed. Our area had a forest wildfire, a devastating forest fire that destroyed 70 homes nearby and continued to char 31 square miles near our home.  Damage estimates rose to $16 million for the three-day blaze. The fire came within 3 miles of our development and neighbors tell us that ash and smoke were heavy on our street.

I’m mentioning this because the caretakers for our cat also live in our development and were anxious and preparing to evacuate if necessary. Although Goombah was being taken care of, we’re assuming that anxiety was high for both humans and animals. Goombah, just adjusting from his ‘parents’ not being there, aware of surrounding smoke, unstable feeding times and anxiety were factors, we feel, in contributing to his onset of diabetes.  Our vet concurs.

When we returned some weeks later, Gombah greeted us – he was three pounds lighter –  a lot of weight for a cat to lose in a few weeks’ time.   He was thin and his gait was different, his legs were wobbly.

He was constantly hungry and thirsty and we thought as long as he was eating, he would be OK.  But, his routine had changed, too.  He no longer slept curled up with us; he would find a corner in the house to sleep curled up in a fetal position. Something definitely was not right.  He wasn’t gaining weight and he was eating and thirsty all the time.  He didn’t play much anymore and was lethargic.

When we brought him to the vet, he was checked and his sugar count was very high and after two overnight  stays, he was diagnosed as diabetic and would need insulin twice a day.  He was given a high protein diet  (40%) and no wet food as it contained too many carbs.  No more food grazing all day; he is allowed one cup of dry food a day.

The cost for blood work every 6 months – about $75; insulin for month – about $30 – needles for a month about $15.

Goombah has stabilized and now weighs 14 pounds. The hardest thing was not giving him needles, as we thought.  The vet trained us how to do that and it is not hard to do.   Goombah purrs while he is being injected.    The hardest part was rationing his food. The vet told us he wouldn’t be happy with his lowered amount and he’s not. He meowed more and sat over his bowl and stared at it.   Eventually, he got use to the routine and is not as adamant about eating constantly.

The best part is he is healthy again – we have him checked every six months.  He no longer sleeps in corners; he snuggles with us and is his affectionate and playful self again.  He is 15 years old and we hope to enjoy his company for many more.

Marie Coppola July 2015