Learn about this difficult disease & how best to control it.



My 13-year-old cat has recently been diagnosed with diabetes. My doctor has me injecting him twice a day with insulin before his meals. I feed him 1/4 small can of W/D in the morning and 1/4 can at night with some crunchy food on the side. I have talked with another cat owner who only gives her cat one shot a day and less food at night. Do you recommend one method over the other? I would much rather only have to give him one shot a day…he would prefer this too I’m sure!


Dr. Nichol:

I know exactly what you mean. As far as I’m concerned less is more when it comes to injections. But diabetes mellitus in cats is a creature unto itself. I can tell that your veterinarian is savvy about this awful disease. While once daily insulin injections are easier for everyone, every 12-hour administration may be best for your cat.


Those of us lucky enough to have a normally functioning pancreas never think about insulin. But we all need it to survive. Here’s how it works: The pancreas in cats is a few inches long and sits next to the small intestine near the stomach. When we aren’t eating it rests. But as soon as food arrives in the stomach the pancreas goes right to work and secretes the hormone insulin. As the sugar from the digesting food absorbs into the blood the insulin is already there to carry that sugar into the body’s cells. But a diabetic is in trouble. The diabetic’s pancreas has little or no ability to make insulin. Sugar builds up in the blood stream but has no way of getting into the cells. The cells cry out to the brain “Hey, we’re starving out here!” So the brain turns on the hunger. Meanwhile there’s a whole lot of sugar in the blood. This causes the kidneys to let go of a lot of water in the urine. So the diabetic needs to eat, drink, and urinate more.


So we give insulin by injection. If we give it just once a day there has to be food in the stomach when the insulin reaches its peak blood level, usually several hours after being injected. If the insulin and the blood sugar are at their highest levels at the same time things work fine. But the rest of the day your cat may eat food that does nothing but cause trouble. If you give insulin twice daily you have a cat who feels better and whose body functions better much more of time.


I know it’s hard. But the needle on the insulin syringe is really tiny. Pinch the skin a few times before injecting to make it a little bit numb. Then feed your kitty as soon as you’re done with the injection. Most cats go along with it just fine. Some even salivate when they see the syringe because a meal always follows. Thanx for loving this kitty. He’s lucky to have you caring for him.