Guide to a Diabetic Cat – What You Need to Know to Effectively Care for Your Cat

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When Should My Cat Eat?

For cats that are getting insulin twice daily, it is recommended to split the daily calories in to two meals, which are fed before the insulin dose.

For cats on once daily insulin, they should be fed also twice daily with the first meal before the insulin injection and the second meal at the time when the insulin peaks which can be determined based on knowledge of the insulin and the glucose curve.

Most diabetic cats are fed twice daily. Give ½ of the daily calories approximately 30 minutes before the insulin injection. After your cat eats, his blood glucose will naturally increase. The insulin will help drive the glucose levels back to a normala normal level. Give the other half of the daily calories before the second insulin injection (this is assuming you are giving insulin every 12 hours).

Another method is to feed your diabetic cat ¼ of its daily calories in the morning before the insulin injection, and another ¼ of the calories 6 hours later when the insulin is peaking, another 1/4 of the calories at dinner and the last fourth 6 hours later.

Can I “Free Feed” My Cat?

Free feeding is a term that refers to having food in the bowl all the time and allowing your cat to eat when he wants.

Many cats with diabetes are on a strict consistent feeding schedule. However, this can be difficult for some cats. This may work better for cats that are nibblers and not food motivated.

Scheduled feedings work best on cats even though they may prefer small frequent meals. The idea behind meal feeding is that you can observe your cat and ensure he or she eats prior to insulin administration.

For cats that want to eat more frequently, you can use timed feeders so your cat can eat several times during the day but allows you to control calorie intake.

Can My Cat Get Treats?

Diabetic cats can get treats as long as they are approved by your vet. Generally treats that are low in sugar and carbohydrates are ok. Larger treats can even be broken up into small pieces to provide multiple treats.

Treats can be given as a reward for blood glucose testing or when the blood glucose is at its lowest – approximately 4 to 8 hours after injection.

Good treat options include: baby carrots, snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower, green or red peppers, canned pumpkin, tofu, a kibble of your cat's regular cat food, and/or freeze dried meat treats. Recommended commercial treats Stella & Chewy's Carnivore Crunch, or other all natural freeze dried meat or fish treats.

Some diabetic cat owners make their own treats by taking an approved canned cat food and using that is as the base to make treats. They generally will empty the can onto a cookie sheet, smash down to about ¼ to ½ inch thickness and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until dry and crispy. Some foods can be refrigerated and sliced, then baked the same way. Store baked treats in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

The calories in the treats should be considered in the overall calories requirements for the day. Treats should be given in moderation.

How Should I Exercise My Cat?

Regular exercise is good for your cat. It can help lose or maintain weight and lower the blood sugar.

The best approach to exercising your diabetic cat is to do it regularly and routinely. Try to do the same amount of exercise every day at the same time.

Large changes in exercise routines can change insulin requirements. An unusually long or vigorous play session can cause the blood sugar levels to drop too low. If you plan a change in your cat's routine, do it slowly and gradually.

What is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone that is formed and released by beta cells residing in the pancreas. Eating prompts the release of insulin. When insulin is not produced in sufficient quantities, it can be administered in the form of an injection.

There are various types of insulin treatments, each with a different duration of effectiveness.

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