The complications of having a cat with diabetes – by Rosalind Anderson
Around one in 200 cats get diabetes according to research carried out by Danielle Gunn-More, Professor of Feline Medicine, and Head of Companion Animal Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. Cats are slightly more prone to diabetes than dogs, she says. Fatter, older male cats that don’t have much exercise are generally at higher risk than other cats.
Here, Rosalind talks about a typical day looking after her cat Jasper, aged 10, who has diabetes.
I knew Jasper wasn’t quite himself. He’d lost some weight and had started sleeping against the wall behind the armchair – usually he’s on the settee or on my husband’s chair. He was also eating an awful lot.
I’d looked up his symptoms and I was pretty sure it was diabetes – although I was surprised. I tend to know what’s wrong with one of the cats before I take them to the vet. (Last time I went to the vet with one of our other cats, I said ‘he’s got a haematoma in his ear’ and the vet had a look and said ‘so he has’.)
The vet did blood tests and rang the next day and confirmed that Jasper had diabetes and had lost about a kilogramme in weight – which is quite a lot in a cat. His blood sugar was very high so he needed insulin to bring it down.
I was worried as I’d got to inject him and had never done anything like that before. I thought he wouldn’t like it – and it would put him off me.
I spent half an hour with the nurse at the vet. She showed me how to do the injections at the back of his neck (we injected water). Jasper was stoical but he wasn’t terribly pleased – he doesn’t like the vets anyway.
I took the insulin home and started the injections. He wasn’t too keen but then I found some really nice dried chicken bits which he absolutely loves. Now when it’s time for his injection he jumps on the table and waits to have it done so he can have his treats.
It is another thing to remember – but you do get into the swing of it. You have to inject twice a day – once at 7.40am and then at 7.40pm. But it means you can’t go out in the evening or stay with family. My husband’s hands shake so he can’t do the injecting.
Our vet bills are much higher as you pay for needles and insulin and blood tests which Jasper has to have about every six months or so to monitor his dose. He was on two milligrams of insulin twice a day but it’s gone up to three. But he’s been fine on the whole. He’s started to fill out.
The other night when I was watching Strictly Come Dancing, I forgot and only remembered afterwards. I knew because he hadn’t had his supper – he’s supposed to eat before his injection otherwise he could have a hypo. I’ve got some liquid glucose in the cupboard to rub into his gums if he looks like he’s having a hypo which he hasn’t yet.
Mind you, he has always demonstrated odd behaviour. He was squashed by a bigger cat in the womb and brain damaged or they thought he was for the first year. He didn’t go out and he couldn’t jump on the settee when he first came to us. He’s sort of developed and that’s no longer a problem.
I think diabetes is commoner in males that have been neutered. Jasper’s a Somali cat and his uncle, Justy, who’s 11 and also with us has started drinking a lot so we’re keeping an eye on it.
The vet says Jasper will probably go blind in a couple of years – one of the complications – and there are already signs of it. But the vet says Jasper won’t mind as long as things aren’t moved about at home. But that’s OK because we don’t do major changes.
I’ve read in America that you test your cat’s blood levels but that would be too stressful for everyone to be honest. He should have a normal life span. It’s going to cost an arm and a leg but he’s worth it. He’s gone back to himself – and he’s back sleeping on the settee again.
The Cats Protection charity website has a diabetes guide for cat owners and a has a register of volunteers who will share their experience of looking after a cat with diabetes. The International cat care charity website also has guides and links to useful videos about how to care for a pet with the condition.