Caring for a diabetic cat isn’t easy. The kitty needs to receive regular doses of insulin to extend its life. But in the worst case scenario, we can’t help but wonder: how long can a diabetic cat go without insulin? It largely depends on your cat’s diabetes type, specific insulin production level, and insulin sensitivity.
There’s no single formula here so it’s important to discuss various factors that will affect your cat’s survival rate in the absence of insulin shots.
How long can my diabetic cat survive without insulin?
If I were in your position, I wouldn’t dare miss a single insulin shot for your cat. There’s a good reason why vets recommend a specific insulin shot schedule. This ensures that your cat will have a steady supply of insulin to keep its blood sugar levels at a normal pace.
But if you’re in an emergency and can’t go home to give your cat the shot, I think it’s important that I discuss various factors and scenarios here. Usually, both diabetic cats and diabetic humans will experience the same physiological changes when deprived of insulin.
Most of the time, each insulin shot will have a 12 to 24-hour effect. After that wears off, the glucose level of the blood will shoot up and start leading to ketoacidosis. Take note that the efficacy of each insulin shot is highly varying per diabetic cat.
Every hour that your diabetic cat doesn’t get its much-needed insulin, glucose will keep leaking into urine(How often should my cat pee). This will make your cat thirsty. Over time, the diabetic cat will start to have ketones in its urine, which is where the life-threatening phase starts.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a complication of diabetes mellitus in both cats and dogs. DKA happens when the body doesn’t have enough insulin to utilize glucose. With this, the body uses ketones as an alternative. This isn’t normal and this condition is life-threatening.
Remember that diabetic cats that are in the DKA phase will no longer drink or eat(Learn here how long can kittens go without food). In just a day or two, the kitty will become dehydrated and weak. From there, the feline will slip into a coma and die if not given immediate veterinary attention.
Take note that all of these can happen at varying speeds among diabetic cats. Some kitties will succumb to DKA in the absence of insulin in just two to three days while others can hold on for weeks.
It’s never safe for your diabetic cat to skip insulin shots. If you run out of supply or can’t afford more, several organizations can help. I’ve listed them below to help you out.
Do all diabetic cats need insulin?
No, some cats with a higher insulin production may not need regular insulin shots. Instead, the vet will formulate a special diet plan to improve the kitty’s quality of life. This will help maintain a healthy blood glucose level, though this requires intensive monitoring and hands-on care.
Meanwhile, some cats will need a few insulin injections on the first part of the treatment to normalize the blood sugar levels. From there, the owner will stick to a special diet to maintain healthy glucose levels.
Regardless if the diabetic cat needs insulin injections or not, it’s important to visit the vet regularly. This is to get the diabetic cat examined to assess any necessary changes in its diet and overall care.
Can diabetic cats live without insulin?
If a diabetic cat maintains a healthy blood sugar level for four weeks without insulin injections, it’s called diabetic remission. Many cats that undergo remission can live without insulin for years. However, some may relapse after a few months so continuous monitoring is still necessary.
However, not all cats will achieve remission. Experts say that approximately 17 to 67% of cats that underwent insulin therapy will experience remission. As you noticed, there’s a wide range, so there’s no guarantee even if your kitty receives the treatment.
Still, there are a few factors that will affect a diabetic cat’s remission. Diet, glucose regulators, the timing of treatment, and overall health are just some of it.
Should I put down my diabetic cat?
Euthanizing a diabetic cat is always the last resort and reserved only for the worst cases. Veterinarians and owners should first consider all possible treatments to save the kitty’s life. (Please read here how to get a kitten to sleep)
If the prognosis for the diabetic cat is poor, the vet may advise that the feline be put to sleep. This is because the treatment is less likely to improve the cat’s condition and that it would be painfully expensive. Above all, it will put more suffering to the cat.
On the other hand, some diabetic cats are put to sleep if their owners are no longer financially capable to support their veterinary care. This is a heartbreaking decision, but many owners are left with no choice.
Organizations that provide assistance for diabetic cats
If you’re struggling financially to support your diabetic cat’s vet bills, you can tap the help of various organizations. As much as possible, putting the cat down should be the last option.
The following are some of the organizations, charities, and groups that could help:
- Diabetic Cats In Need. DCIN is an organization that helps shelters, rescue centers, and low-income individuals with insulin costs. They also provide aids on blood glucose testing and supplies needed for the examination. This organization is based in Minot, Maine but they accept applications all over America.
- Care Credit. If you’re trying to secure a loan to support your diabetic cat’s needs, you should try with Care Credit. They offer pet financing to cover the vet bills of your cat. They include emergency services on their coverage, so they are better than other pet financing services.
- RedRover Relief. The RedRover Relief provides financial aids to low-income pet owners who are struggling to provide for their sick cats’ needs. They also cater to pet owners who are survivors of domestic violence and are trying not to give up their cats or dogs.
- The Pet Fund. This non-profit organization provides financial assistance to non-basic, non-urgent care, including cancer treatment, insulin shots for diabetic pets, and more. You can send an application, though they have a waiting list of other beneficiaries.
How long can a diabetic cat go without insulin? It could be anywhere from a few days to several weeks. However, it’s not about how long your cat can hang on. You shouldn’t put your cat’s life at risk by skipping insulin shots. If you’re struggling to afford your pet’s vet care, many organizations could help. You can also launch a fundraising drive to save your diabetic cat’s life.
Marco Vasquez is a passionate animal lover and writer with extensive experience in the pet care industry. He has worked with various pets, including dogs, cats, birds, and fish, and deeply understand their unique needs and behaviors. Marco’s love for animals has driven him to become an expert in pet health, nutrition, and behavior, and he is always eager to share his knowledge and insights with others. As a member of the Petcosset team, Marco brings his expertise to help pet owners make informed decisions about the well-being of their little friends. He enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors with his pets in his free time.