My Cat is Diabetic and I’m Overwhelmed. Help!

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?

~ Sandra

Angus, a black kitty, lounging in a sunny window

This is Angus. He was very sick with diabetes when he first came to the shelter, but he’s a lot better now. You’ll meet him in the next Sugar Kitty Wednesday feature!

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, 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.

Bella: It can be hard to get a kibble-hound to switch over to canned food, but it can be done. Dr. Lisa Pierson of has easy-to-follow instructions on how to manage the switch.

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. 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!

  • Margaret B

    Beautiful reply! I couldn’t have given a better answer! Great info.

  • Mechelle

    We had a senior with renal issues who we had to take completely off dry food. Our other cats eat only Natural Balance which is lower carb/higher protein food and do well on it. One of the foods that worked with our little one when we took her off the dry food is the Fresh Pet refrigerated nibblets. It’s still solid pieces but they’re very moist and made with real chicken and other good stuff rather than the breads. That might be a good “transition” food to try while trying to adjust to wet food. By the way Natural Balance also has a wet food, including a limited ingredient, that our guys love!

  • Gail

    Thanks for the amazing information you have given out…It is sure to help lots of diabetic cats. I had a cat whom, I was told was diabetic about 10 years little Kezia. When I took her to the vet to have her checked (umm, I should say I am also diabetic, so feel I know what to look out for), the vet just told me I was being kind having her put down… I unfortunately believed him!
    Now reading your column, I am finding that cats with diabetes are very similar to us – it is a case of trying and if that doesnt work, try something else… Diabetes, is no longer the killer it was.
    Thanks for your comments.

  • Bagheera

    And don’t be too worried about testing us diabetic cats. I used to fuss at my human when he did it, but now I tolerate it even though I will never like it. But he gives me treats afterwards, so that is a plus!

  • dawn

    Excellent advice and resources! When I adopted my first diabetic cat in 2007, I found the Feline Diabetes message board and it was a great resource with a lot of support. I now have 2 diabetic kitties that I adopted through DCIN and both became diet controlled after switching to canned (Poughkeepsie had been on insulin for over 5 years and so it was a happy surprise when he went off the “juice” {insulin}).

    All my sugar cats switched to canned easily, but 1 of my non-diabetic was pretty stubborn in making the switch. He did come around and they’ve all been better with the switch.