What To Feed A Diabetic Cat
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Many people don’t realize that cats can get diabetes just as humans can and the warning signs are similar in some cases – lethargy, not eating, drinking a lot. But the fact is that diabetes is no more a death sentence to a cat than it is to a human and giving them a regular shot of insulin can seem intimidating but is easily learned. However, one of the elements of diabetes that is important is managing their diet. So what do you feed a diabetic cat?

Background

The reason cats get diabetes is basically the same as in humans – the disease affects insulin, the hormone that assists in moving glucose, or sugar, through the bloodstream to the cells. The type of diabetes that cats get is more similar to the human Type 2 condition where the body becomes less sensitive to insulin, despite the body still making it. This allows sugar to build up in the bloodstream and leads to the familiar symptoms such as increased thirst and excessive urination. If it is left untreated, it can lead to life-threatening problems.

While a definitive explanation of why it occurs has yet to be found, obesity is one element that seems to have an effect on making the body less sensitive to insulin. It is also more common in older cats while conditions such as hyperthyroidism and chronic pancreatitis also often bring on the condition while those being treated with corticosteroids also are more prone.

Diet

The two main principles of a cat’s diet doesn’t alter just because they are diabetic – they are meat eaters and they don’t process carbohydrates well. In the wild, cats evolved as carnivores so the basis of their diet has to be meat to get the protein they need to function. On the turn side, they would rarely eat anything containing carbohydrates so their bodies don’t metabolize them as humans can.

In fact, for a diabetic cat these two principles become even more important. Most canned cat foods are made to be high in protein and low in carbohydrates but dry cat foods tend to have more starch in them, meaning more carbohydrates. A vet may recommend a canned-food only diet for a diabetic cat.

Weight is the other important factor for diabetic cats, so portion sizes need to be managed. An assessment from the vet again will tell you if your cat is overweight or even underweight, as those who have lived with diabetes undiagnosed for a long time often tend to be. If the cat is overweight, then losing the weight gently is the aim and a special diet may be needed to do this. This weight loss also helps the cat’s body use up the insulin in its system and lowers blood sugar levels.

Managing meals

Cats are often grazers, eating a little of their food and wandering off then coming back later for more. However, if a cat has diabetes then it may be that this is no longer an ideal eating pattern. This is because meals often need to be timed alongside their insulin so that they can absorbing calories when the insulin peak is occurring and ensures they don’t get low blood sugar, called hypoglycemia.

Usually, this will mean feeding your cat twice a day and giving them their insulin straight after this. Regardless of what pattern you chose, the important part is that the cat eats their food before their shot, otherwise they cannot receive their insulin and could be at risk of being ill.

The right food balance for a cat can even help reduce their blood sugar levels and make managing their condition easier. While it won’t go away, it can reduce and make them feel more themselves again.


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