Cat Sanctuary

Our Sweet Diabetics

November is Diabetes Awareness Month – but not everyone may be aware that cats, too, can suffer from diabetes.

Nikki and his Shadow (KN)

There are two types of diabetes in cats. In Type I there is a decrease in insulin production, and therefore blood glucose concentrations are high. In Type II diabetes, glucose levels are high because cells in the body do not respond appropriately to insulin. In both types, the body cannot access the sugars needed, even though there is plenty of sugar in the blood, because insulin can’t transport the sugar from the bloodstream into the cells that need it.  Type II is the more common variety, and though it cannot be cured, it can be controlled with injections of insulin, and in some cases, with dietary management.

Mojo is one of our larger cats (BC)

Currently we have five cats with diabetes at the Sanctuary: Luke and Careen in the DoubleWide, and Nikki, Blaze and Meepos in the SingleWide. Two other cats are watched: big Mojo lives in the offices, where we can control his diet; his diabetes is currently in remission, and as long as we don’t let him overeat, we can probably keep it that way.  And newcomer McGregor (in next week’s blog) came into our care with possible diabetes, but also seems to have it in remission – we watch him carefully for signs of recurrence. In his case, elevated blood sugars may have been a sign of stress.

Nikki holding court – look at those big polydactyl feet! (KN)

Nikki Sixx-Toes was diagnosed diabetic when he came into our care. He was a semiferal cat, wary about being handled, and the pen where he was living did not allow the med-staff to treat him without additional stress to his system. Reluctantly, we brought him inside and caged him – and unlike most feral cats, he grew to love it, and the attention it brought him. He got lots of fussing in his enclosure near the staff office, and received visitors with regal enjoyment.  Four years later, his throne has moved to be the papasan chair on the deck, where he is attended and guarded by his girlfriend Shadow.

Shy Meepos (KN)


Also on the deck, but usually hidden away, is fellow-diabetic Meepos, whose condition is of more recent diagnosis. Meepos has been with us for more than eleven years; he was trapped as a feral on Mitchell Island in the company of his buddy Bossanova, and the two of them were initially pretty shy, and took great comfort in each other. Meepos was initially the friendlier of the two, but never became as sociable as Bossanova – he will emerge and accept gentle attention if it’s quiet, but he prefers to stay out of the way. His is late-onset diabetes – most of his time with us, he’s been fine, but he’s not an active boy, and between his inaction and aging, his system quit processing blood-sugars properly.

Blaze (MW)

Luke (BC)

Sweet Blaze is the sister of fellow-tortie Toes, who lives in the front courtyard. The two were separated when Blaze developed skin problems and was brought inside where she could be treated more easily. She can usually be found on the shelves backing on to the big cage, and loves to have attention so long as she can remain in her own space. Like the other diabetics, she’s something of a chonk – it’s hard to balance the need to give them extra food at the same time as they get their insulin injection, with not overfeeding them. Their extra is mostly protein, with a few treats, but with so many cats around, there’s no way of stopping them eating more of the crunchies that are out for the cats who prefer to graze. With food and insulin every 12 hours, they have no reason to be hungry, though, or to raid the crunchie-bowl.

In the DoubleWide, Luke is the younger of the two diabetics. He is part of the Tuxedo Club that hangs out on the deck, and he has also suffered from dental problems, which have necessitated occasional caging while he heals. He’s an active and social cat, both with humans and with other cats, and just loves attention – which makes it much easier to give him his doses. The other diabetic in the building is Careen. Careen was an outside cat for some time, and shared cuddle space with sweet Willow in Pen 5. When we recently noticed her changed habits in terms of eating and peeing, she was brought in for testing, and remained caged for a bit longer. As an outdoor cat, there was some discussion about her release – she’s friendly and handleable, but trying to find a grey cat on a dark night to give her insulin could well be a problem. However, Careen decided that having been moved into the DoubleWide, she might as well stay in warmth and comfort. She can usually be found peering down from the cage-tops, and her one bad habit is that when it’s meds time, she moves herself to the most inaccessible spot, and takes some coaxing to come and enjoy her special plate of goodies (and the minimal needle prick that goes with it).

Careen on the DW cagetops (BC)

Diabetes in a cat is a long way from being a death sentence, and doesn’t need a vet to do the injections; the insulin needle is very fine, and the dose is very small – the only disadvantage is that the cat-parent needs to schedule their activities in order that the dose is regular. And getting special plates of food – they must feel as if they are being treated as the royalty they consider themselves to be.


Blog by Brigid Coult
Featured image: Careen by Michele Wright, Furry Friends Photographic
Photos by Brigid Coult, Karen Nicholson, Michele Wright