Over 16 years ago my family welcomed a little ball of fur into our home, a beautiful kitten who was left abandoned in the sawdust filled ditch that ran along our driveway. A beautiful friend who has become one of my greatest treasures and inspirations, Oliver’s unique personality has taught me so much about life. Love the outdoors, explore your world, and take time to relax!
If your cat or dog has been recently diagnosed with diabetes, read on! I want to show you how healthy a well-regulated diabetic animal can be if you are willing to do a little research and maintain a few easy routines.
My introduction into the world of feline diabetes
Around 6 years ago, Oliver began a new journey battling a sickness that would bring us closer together and teach me how to understand just how strong a Norwegian Forest Cat can be. Over a few weeks, Oliver told me and my family that his physical body was degenerating quickly, rapid weight loss and frequent urination indicating the need for an immediate visit with the veterinarian. After talking with the vet on the phone, I collected a urine sample from Oliver (don’t even ask) and took him to have a blood test taken. A day later, the vet called to inform us that Oliver has Diabetes Mellitus, meaning that his pancreas was producing little, if any, insulin by itself. Struck with this diagnosis, I feared that this would mean Oliver’s days were extremely limited. Yet six years later, as his eyes fade and his legs become less mobile, as he can no longer jump on my bed or run up the stairs, he doesn’t epitomize weakness, he radiates life.
First Few Days
During the first few days of Oliver’s diagnosis, I administered the insulin that we had received from the veterinarian and fed Oliver a dry kibble specially formulated for diabetic cats. During this stage, I spent a lot of time researching what it means to care for a diabetic pet and what the life of a diabetic cat would look like. Reading online forums and veterinary advice online, I quickly realized that diabetes is practically endemic among domestic pets, affecting a larger proportion of cats and dogs than I had ever expected. Not only that, but it seemed that my veterinarian had provided me with an insulin that does not resemble the insulin that a cat would normally produce. As a result, the insulin is short lived (about 4-8 hours) in a cat’s faster metabolic system. Moreover, the dry kibble that was fed to Oliver was probably the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard! One of the primary reasons that domesticated cats have a tendency towards diabetes is because of their high carbohydrate diets. The normal dry kibble that we feed them includes a high cornmeal content, food which would not normally be a staple in a wild cats diet. Even in the ‘special’ kibble, the carbohydrate levels are exceptionally high, making me wonder how much the veterinarian knew about diabetes in general. Researching these topics intently, I quickly realized that cats should be fed primarily meat!! What a surprise! In fact, domestic cats would be better off on a raw meat diet, as their bodies contain the means to digest uncooked food.
If you are looking for a simple source of information for treating and potentially guiding your cat into diabetic remission, I strongly recommend a book called “Sugarbabies: A Holistic guide for caring for your diabetic cat” by Vet Tech Randi E. Golub.
A Few Weeks Later
As I was constantly researching this information, I made a few changes to the way I treated Oliver’s condition.
- I bought and used a proper glucose monitoring kit to understand and chart Oliver’s daily glucose levels.
- I switched insulin types to a longer acting insulin glargine, Lantus (against the veterinarian’s advice) and began testing 12 hour doses. Spoiler alert, glucose levels were maintained between 150-200mg/L with 5 units every 12 hours within a week! Although I was hoping that this insulin switch would allow Oliver’s diabetes to go into remission, this never happened.
- I changed Oliver’s diet to consist of primarily wet food diet with a small portion of dry kibble for snacking.
These three changes have allowed me to monitor and control Oliver’s diabetes without worrying too much about his glucose levels spiking. This mix of insulin and holistic treatments proved to be very valuable as Oliver has thrived over the past 6 years.
Oliver’s story, though overwhelmingly positive, has also met some significant, though expected, complications. For one, as a result of his diabetic state, Oliver’s skin was in a constant state of dryness, causing clumping and matting of his fur, requiring me to shave off some of his beautiful coat! To better combat this, I fed Oliver with special “dry skin treatment” supplements that helped bring his fur back into its fluffy style. In addition, I regularly brush his fur to stimulate the oil glands on his skin.
Another complication, especially common among diabetic cats, is the inflammation of the gums and loss of teeth. To combat this, I bought a special toothbrush for Oliver to ensure that the risk of infection in his gums was minimal. This procedure didn’t end up going over super well, and Oliver lost two of his eye teeth within a couple years after his diagnosis. Although it sounds rather cruel, the best option for dealing with this stage may be to have a veterinarian remove all of Oliver’s teeth. Although that sounds rather ridiculous, considering the fact that dry kibble should not be considered in a cat’s diet anyways, a pate wet food is still easy to ingest without teeth! There have been many many cats that have had this procedure done and it has significantly reduced oral discomfort and increased their appetites and overall health.
The last complication I want to mention is me! Although I have been instrumental in getting Oliver’s diabetes under control, I have been living far away from home intermittently for the last three years. This complication has made it more difficult to know how Oliver is doing on a day to day basis, and has required me to train my family members in how to record and administer insulin to Oliver twice a day.
After 6 years of being diabetic, Oliver looks remarkably well, considering he is also a senior cat. He eats regularly, plays around the house, jumps up on the couches, and basically everything else you’d imagine he should! As I said, he is also a senior cat, and will never have the same energy as a cat half his years. However, Oliver has proven to everyone how beautiful life is despite this diagnosis.
Here are some photos from Oliver, from as early as 2012!