Cat Diabetes - Cat Diet Questions

by Judy Fenton
(Shrewsbury, England )

Our 11-year-old male, semi-feral and highly strung male cat has just been diagnosed with feline diabetes. The vet put him on cat insulin injections twice daily.

It was an absolute nightmare, but we managed eventually to give him some injections. However, he now runs away from us every time we came close to him or call him. He has quickly learned when the time is due for his injections. Two days ago he completely went missing and had nothing to eat or drink all day and on his return was totally stressed and hid away.

We contacted our vet and he has now taken him off insulin and put him on a Hills special diet food (both dry and wet variety). Our concern is that he weighs 6.5 kilos and is solidly built. He is a 'grazer' and his daily diet since being a kitten consists of about 400 grams of freshly cooked whitefish (cod or Haddock), some prawns in the morning and he sometimes helps himself to our other four rescue cat's food dishes which contains ordinary wet cat food and dry food. The vet has said wean him off the fish.
It is not possible to feed him separately, so all the other cats will also have to on the Hills veterinary diet food.

Our concerns are:
1. Will this course of action help to manage his diabetes as his current diet is high on protein and low on carbs?
2. As our other cats will now also have to go on the special diet, will it in any way detrimentally affect them?
3. Are there any other treatments for diabetes that can be given orally?

Can you recommend any other course of action, because we are out of our minds with worry about our diabetic cat.

Dear Judy,

First, let me start by saying that I'm surprised your cat even became diabetic on the low carb, high protein you have been feeding him for what sounds like the majority of your kitty’s life. Perhaps he got into more of the regular dry and canned cat food than you had realized over the years.

In all honesty, I do not believe that the Hills veterinary diet will work to control your cat's diabetes. While the Hills dry cat food is lower in carbohydrates than most commercial dry cat foods, both the dry and canned prescription diets are still too high in carbohydrates for diabetic cats, and arguably, all cats.

If you are going to try to control your cat's diabetes with diet alone, I would strongly recommend visiting Binky's page and consulting the canned food charts found there and begin feeding all of your cats a strict, canned cat food only diet containing 5% or less carbohydrates. This diet may not only help control your diabetic cat’s condition, but will likely make your other kitties healthier as well.

Human foods like the fish you have been feeding, and/or other meats, should be fed to your diabetic cat as a treat only. This is because, although the fish is low in carbohydrates and high in protein, this as a diet alone does not contain the essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that cats need in their diets. Feeding canned cat food will provide what a cat needs nutritionally.

That said, however, without insulin, I fear that your kitty's future may not be so bright. Uncontrolled feline diabetes can take quite the toll on the cat’s body.

I would suggest that you consider confining your kitty to one room in your home for a while. By doing this, you can take time to give your cat a chance to get used to receiving the cat insulin injections and eating the low carbohydrate diet. Many owners find that it is easiest to give the insulin shot while your kitty is eating.

There are oral medications to control diabetes, but they are usually prescribed for humans and are generally not effective in cats. But, should giving insulin be completely impossible and should diet alone not control your cat's diabetes, an oral diabetes medication may be worth discussing with your veterinarian.

Best wishes,
Dr. Neely

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