Warning: This is a LONG post. I have lots to say -- all of it stuff I
wish I had been told up front when I was dealing with feline diabetes.
Penny died at age 20.5 after 3 years of daily insulin shots. So you
have some time, yet, to enjoy each other! I hope that what I
have to share in this post is helpful to you both.
I agree with Kateyes that self-education is critical. Google everything
you can find, talk to your vet, ask us questions. Knowledge really
Some things Kateyes didn't cover. These are as they occur to me, and
in no particular order:
1. Feline diabetes is extremely difficult to regulate. Feline metabolism
is simply not designed to be diabetes friendly. By "regulate," we mean
finding the correct insulin dosage for steady, healthy blood sugar levels.
Feline metabolism is built specifically for short, fast bursts of power
and speed, not long chases, unlike dogs. It can take a very long time
to find the right dose of insulin, and the "right" dose can change on you
with little or no notice. Stress, even things that don't appear to us
to be stressful, can set off sugar spikes in cats.
Thus, you MUST monitor your cat at all times. At any sign of trouble,
at least call your vet. You'll get better over time at recognizing what
needs immediate attention.
2. Keep light corn syrup handy. If you over-insulin (which is all too
easily done) you will need to get come easy sugar into your cat
3. Signs of trouble (over-insulin) include:
Balance loss, unsteady walking (they'll act drunk ...)
Sudden crazies - this is different from the regular feline nightly
run around and be active crazies. The first time it happened to
Penny, she let out a horrible witchy yowl at top voice, spun
madly around chasing her own tail 4-5 times, jumped into the
air, then fell on to her side, panting.
Loss of consciousness.
There are probably others I've forgotten - ask/read all you can. If this
happens, spoon a bit of corn syrup into your cat, and RUN do not walk
to the nearest Animal hospital or vet.
4. As with humans, cats pee singificantly more with diabetes, so make
sure your cat gets lots of water. By the same token, however much
you've been cleaning the litter box, double your efforts now. You
should invest in more litterboxes, as well -- I had 6 boxes for two cats
over two 1750-foot stories; four upstairs, two downstairs. You need
to lessen the area between litterboxes, because a diabetic cat literally
cannot hold it over the previously-normal distances.
5. Eating is crucial - and it is equally crucial that your cat eat something
immediately before or after the insulin shot (just like human diabetics.)
This can be difficult, as cats often don't eat when they don't feel
well, so start finding all the creative treats you can find that will
entice your cat. I used: home-made (no salt or spices) chicken broth,
which gels when cold; baby food (all meat, NO spices, particularly
onion powder, which is poisonous to cats); wet food (from the vet,
particularly made for kidney problems); TUNA (the special favorite.)
I actually overfed poor Penny - I would make her eat 2-3 spoons of
baby food -- and she gained too much weight. So don't go overboard,
but underboard is more dangerous.
The good thing about giving the treat following the shot is that it
acts as a reward/motivator. Penny got to the point that she came to
me when it was time for her shot (and later, Tigger came to me for
her subcutaneous saline when she had kidney failure.) The medicine/
treat ritual can become a bonding time, which you will be very
grateful for eventually.
6. As the diabetes progresses, be on the watch for other complications.
Joint problems (Penny couldn't get on the bed, which is raised for
my GERD condition, after a while), need for heat, blindness. You'll
need to make environmental changes to accommodate such things
as they develop. Some cats can come down with renal failure as
a secondary condition to the diabetes. These are all treatable,
but it will add to the adjustments you and Indi will need to make.
7. This next is not meant to be harsh, but to be realistic, which you
really need. Diabetes in cats is fatal -- you may have weeks or
years, as I did, depending on how well your cat's blood levels regulate.
Now is the time for the two of you to come to an agreement about
what constitutes a quality-of-life threshhold. In retrospect, I
realize that I kept Penny alive about a year longer than I should have;
that she was ready long before I was, and she held on just for me.
She died the day I finally gave her permission -- of a stroke. The
last lesson of many that she taught me was the lesson of letting go
when it's time. Only you and your cat can decide when that is for
the two of you. But it is a conversation you should start, now,
while you can still enjoy yourselves together as you have it.
8. About the shots: I found some sites on the Web that actually
showed pictures. I no longer remember the URLs, but you'll find them
if you do some research. Also, don't be afraid to ask your
vet to train you and supervise. Mine actually had me
inject harmless saline solution into his own cat, who is used
to being a trainer cat. :-)
The insulin is given subcutaneaously, that is, directly under
the top layer of skin, and NOT into the blood. What you'll do
is lift Indie's skin somewhere around the scruff or near that
area, just as you would do to check hydration (something you'll
want to do daily, by the way ...) You'll then have a little tent
of skin lifted off from the body. You'll insert the the needle
along the long line of the tent (think of a long pole supporting
the tent like a roof line) rather than from side to side of the tent.
Inject and you're done. You'll get to where you can do it easily.
Again, I used it as a time to hold Penny in my lap, croon to her and
scritch her in her favorite places, then injection, then treat. It
was a loving ritual we both actually enjoyed.
9. About stress. I didn't know about Feliway when I had Penny
(it might not have existed), but now that I know about it, I
recommend it. It's a pheremone that relaxes cats, which is spread
by a diffuser that plugs into an outlet, like air freshener. It has a
bit of a smell that is not to my taste, but it's not intolerable. It
might help Indie stay a bit calmer and thus more easily regulatable.
I'd ask your vet about it.
YOU will be a primary source of stress unless you approach all
of this from a calm perspective. Indie will feed off of your emotions.
Don't be tentative about the shots, and he'll feel better about them.
Take the disease in stride and so will he.
10. Find out where your nearest emergency animal hospital/clinic
is NOW before you need that information. Because you will need it.
Unless you are extremely blessed, there will be at least once or twice
that you will need to rush Indie for immediate care, because he
goes into diabetic coma (the warnings I mentioned above.) Keep
the number someplace where you can find it at a moment's notice.
11. Towels are your friend. They can be used to wrap a cat who
struggles when given shots (Penny didn't, but some do); they can
be used to put under a cat who is retching to catch the vomit (towels,
unlike rugs and floors, are easily thrown into a washing machine!);
they can make emergency beds as Indie's ability to navigate the
environment changes. They can be used with plastic to catch
extraneous urine around the litterbox (again - washable!). (Penny
developed the inability to wait until she was entirely IN the box,
and would let go while her backside was still hanging out!) Start
collecting old towels from anyone who has them to give away.
Eventually, when you don't need them any more, donate them to
your vet or local refuge, who will gladly take them!
12. Talk to your vet about Indie's diet. He may already be on
lower-protein food given his age. If not, it may be time to
introduce it. Kidney problems necessitate lower protein foods
than normal -- I no longer remember if we had to put Penny on
special food. But it's better to ask and anticipate.
13. - Lucky 13th thought. Please do NOT let all this info overwhelm
you. I could have parcelled it out over time, but I hope you'll
print this out, or save it, and refer to it as often as you need.
This can be a GOOD time, for all the direness it sounds. I have now
nursed three cats through fatal illnesses, ranging from 6 months to 3.5
years. In each case, those periods when I was nursing were
truly gifts. In each case, the cat and I came closer than we
had been before. We deliberately carved out more time for one
another, as we knew it was now limited, although we had no way
of knowing for how long. Every scritch, every tongue bath, every
purr, every paw pat became special and precious. We slept closer
together; all three in their time came to sleep ON me, as the closest
they could get. There is an intensity to the relationship that is
the gift side of the trouble -- and it is a wonderful, worthwhile gift.
Enjoy this time, because you both have earned it, you both deserve
it, and you both have it to give to each other.
And remember -- for me it was 3 years!
Ask anything else you need to ask. I promise to be less verbose
Best of luck to you both!