How I got my diabetic cat off insulin

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My 7 year old cat, Dobby, was diagnosed with what I was told was type 1 diabetes when she was just a year old. My vet told me that she was the youngest cat he’d ever diagnosed, and he didn’t expect her to ever be off insulin. If you’ve ever owned a diabetic cat, you know how much this illness can cost. From what I’ve been told, cats really only respond to glargine insulin, brand name Lantus. Other types of insulin can work for short periods of time, but cats for some reason become immune to other types of insulin over time. Lantus doesn’t have this same reaction, which is why most vets will give it to diabetic cats. This is great, but Lantus is a very expensive medication. As of right now in my city I was paying $312 for a vial, and I would need to buy a new vial every 2-3 months. Throw the cost of syringes on top of that, and we’re talking about a lot of money.

About a month ago I noticed Dobby acting a bit strange first thing in the morning, and it was alarming enough to take her into the vet. Of course the first thing the vet did was test her blood sugar, and to our surprise it was 72. This number is fine for a cat who is not diabetic, but considering she’s diabetic and had no insulin for about 18 hours at that point, it was shockingly low. My vet told me to experiment by giving her no insulin for a week, and then told me to bring her back in after a week to see how she was doing. A week later, she was still around 72.

My vet looked at me and said, “congratulations, looks like she decided not to be diabetic anymore.”

How did I manage to get my cat who was told she could never be off insulin completely insulin-free? It was pretty simple, just took a lot of diligence and hard work. Now I’m not saying by following these steps you can cure your cat’s diabetes, these are all just common-sense steps that you can follow to help control your cat’s diabetes. Of course you’ll want to check with your cat’s vet about any changes you’ll be making to their diet or medication, never make major changes to their lifestyle without a vet’s approval. All of these steps have been approved with my vet and worked for me, so I thought they were worth sharing and will hopefully help your cat out.

Strictly follow an insulin schedule

While your cat’s on insulin, you need to keep their insulin schedule as tight as possible. If your cat gets two shots a day, make sure you can give those two shots at the exact same time every single day. Dobby got her’s at 7am and 7pm, and that meant I never got to sleep in past 7am. I had daily alarms set on my phone to remind me to give her her shots. If I was going away for more than 24 hours, I had to board her at the vet.

Of course, sometimes you’ll need to skip injections. For example, if your cat is ill and not eating, or if for whatever reason you just can’t get home and do it. Things happen, you’ll mess up. The goal is to stay as close as you possibly can to a perfect schedule. This will keep their insulin levels as steady as possible, and their body won’t need to deal with the shock of sudden drops and spikes in their insulin levels. A cat with steady insulin levels is a healthy cat, and that should be your primary goal.

Keep your cat’s diet as low-carb as possible

My biggest mistake early on after Dobby’s diagnosis was with her diet. I still gave her treats and dry food here and there. This is a big no-no. Diabetic cats do not need dry food. If you currently give your cat any type of dry food, including the “diabetic” dry foods, this is something that’s good to get away from. According to my vet the diabetic dry foods are better than the standard ones, but they still aren’t great. After Dobby had most of her teeth removed, which I’m guessing was due to me not keeping her diet as strict as I could, I decided to really buckle down and get her diet as healthy as possible.

I did tons of research, and I settled on giving her Fancy Feast Classic Pate foods. Most of the varieties in that Fancy Feast line are outstanding as far as carb content goes. Since Dobby is the type of diabetic who has trouble keeping weight on, she eats 4 times a day, which means I stick to the varieties with the lowest carb counts. The following chart contains the Fancy Feast flavors with the lowest carb counts, and the ones that are approved by my picky cat.

FlavorCarb Count (g)
Fancy Feast Classic Chicken Feast4Buy Now
Fancy Feast Classic Cod/Sole/Shrimp Feast4Buy Now
Fancy Feast Classic Ocean Whitefish & Tuna Feast4Buy Now
Fancy Feast Classic Savory Salmon Feast1Buy Now
Fancy Feast Classic Seafood Feast3Buy Now
Fancy Feast Flaked Fish & Shrimp Feast0Buy Now

Is Fancy Feast made with the highest quality ingredients out there? No, of course not, but the cost is very reasonable (at about 60 cents per can) and the carb content is well within reasonable limits. Plus, my cat likes many of the flavors, which is an extra bonus.

Foods with gravy are a no-no

I don’t know why, but it took a while for it to click for me that any cat foods with gravy are not low carb. When you make gravy at home, how do you thicken it? By adding flour. That’s exactly what is done with gravy in cat foods. Those varieties tend to have loads of carbs, so stay away from them. A little “hack” I found, since my cat loves gravy foods, was to mash up her food and then mix a little water in it. She laps up the watery part then eats the solid food. I don’t think she can tell the difference.

Skip the treats

This can be hard, but getting your cat off treats is crucial. At least as far as the typically crunchy treats you give cats. Those processed treats are absolute garbage, keep them away from your cat whether they’re diabetic or not.

Then I found some freeze dried treats on Amazon. They were just little pieces of freeze dried chicken and salmon, no other ingredients other than meat. My cat LOVED them. I served them to her both as a snack and an addition to her every day meals (they crumble easily and are a good way to mix up your cat’s food if they start getting bored). Those treats are fairly expensive though, with a tiny bag running about $5.

Then I started thinking, why don’t I just give her regular chicken? I can get a few pounds of chicken drumsticks or thighs at Trader Joe’s for $3 – $4. Just one package, even if I give her some every day, will last a couple of weeks. So that’s what I’ve been doing for about 6 months. I’ll boil one piece of chicken and keep it in a tuperware container in my fridge. Then I just tear off little pieces and give them to her throughout the day. She loves it, in fact she runs into the kitchen any time she hears the fridge open in hopes of getting a treat. She actually tried crawling into the fridge to find where I kept the chicken. Thankfully she hasnt’ figured out how to open the door yet.

Talk to your vet

Don’t make major changes to your cat’s diet without consulting your vet first. None of the things I mentioned here are all that radical, so more than likely your vet will be fine with them, but it’s always a good idea to check with them anyway and make sure you’re making good decisions for your furry friend.

2 Replies to “How I got my diabetic cat off insulin”

  1. How do I get my cat to eat wet food? He has never liked it and now being diabetic I am struggling trying to get him to eat it………

    1. Senior Cats Staff says:

      Hi Tracy! My cat was the same way at first. What I did was buy freeze-dried meat treats. These ones are my cat’s favorite. They’re just meat that’s been freeze dried, so zero carbs or sugar. They have the nice crunch that treats or dry cat food has. You can crumble them over your cat’s food, and at least in my cat’s case, she goes crazy for them.

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