This morning when I got up and wandered toward the coffee pot my cats made a beeline toward the kitchen, meowing like they hadn’t eaten in days. This, of course, is not true, no matter what they might tell you. I have a skinny male cat who refuses to eat more than a few bites at a time. And I have a voluptuous female cat that has been on a diet for the last 11 years. I’m sure both felines would like to file a grievance with pet protective services that I’m starving them. The skinny cat doesn’t understand why food isn’t available at all times. Obviously this is because my voluptuous cat would somehow find a way to get it. And the food motivated rubinesque cat thinks I’m just plain daft. Though neither of my cats are diabetic, I actually do feed them low carb food as I worry about them becoming a type 2 diabetic.

My pets know my patterns. They know if I’m putting on scrubs I’ll be gone for hours. I swear my old Labrador knew how to tell time! She wasn’t a rocket scientist but at five minutes to 6 o’clock she knew to get out of her dog bed and stand by the office door at work because we’d be heading home soon! She knew tennis shoes meant we were going to walk the river path. Per my neighbors, my cats magically appear on my windowsill shortly before I get home. Pets like routines and get used to the routines we choose.

If I leave for a few minutes I don’t expect a welcoming committee at my front door. Oftentimes I wonder if my critters even moved since I left. If I’m gone for hours or more, it is their job to greet me when I come home. I take this as a sign of love, but if I’m honest with myself it’s that they are hungry after I’ve been gone all day. Food is never left out for obvious reasons.

Two Cats Sitting Next to Empty Food BowlWhy am I telling you this? It crossed my mind that I get emails from clients all the time telling me of their “routines” and asking how they can improve their pets’ diabetes regulation. Often in these routines people will tell me they give insulin and meals at unexpected times. For example: Insulin given at 7:00AM and at 5:00PM. That seems inherently wrong to me and when I ask why such odd times, rather than the traditional 12 hours apart, I often get the answer that the pet is pestering the owner for food. Or maybe they feed at these times because the family is sitting down for dinner at 5PM. Sometimes people tell me that they give the food and insulin at different times rather than together. I’m no longer surprised at what folks choose to do. Night owls might choose 3AM and 3PM. The actual times don’t matter as much as that we strive for 12 hours apart.

We all know people who don’t take care of themselves. Often these are our loved ones who eat junk food or don’t exercise. They may even be diabetic. They may not do what their doctors and nutritionists advise and consequently frustrate the heck out of those who love them. Pets don’t get to make these choices. WE make these choices (injection times, portions fed, the pet’s “routine”) for our pets. Humans who don’t take care of themselves suffer the consequences of their own actions. Our pets deserve to feel good. We owe it to them to make good choices for them.

Pets may tell us that it’s time to eat, but ultimately we are the decision makers. As I have mentioned many times in past newsletters, my voluptuous cat was starving when I met her on a spay/neuter campaign in the South Pacific many years ago. She will likely always believe she is starving. She is the most food motivated pet I’ve ever had. It is a battle of her will versus mine. She will always try to sneak the food from my skinny cat. I understand how difficult it can be to say, “No”, to a hungry pet.

In general, we achieve better blood glucose regulation when we feed equally portioned meals, 12 hours apart and give the insulin at the time of the meal. Life is not perfect. Sometimes you’ll get stuck late at work or at a social engagement, but in general, do try to be consistent in timing and feeding schedule. If you currently feed at unusual times (not 12 hours apart), consider your schedule. Is there some way that you can make it work 12 hours apart? And if your diabetic pet tells you it is starving, take it from me, it probably is not. Those mid-meal snacks that many pet owners give their diabetic pets can cause unwanted elevations in the blood glucose mid-day. I prefer avoiding mid-meal snacks for diabetic pets altogether. We make the food choices for our pets. We are their health advocates even if it makes us unpopular at times.

Have a question or comment? Post below or email me at I always enjoy hearing from my readers!

NOTE: Consult your veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your pets special health needs.

Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr. Joi Sutton is a 1993 graduate from Oregon State University. She has practiced both in emergency medicine and general practice. Dr. Sutton has done extensive international volunteer work though Veterinary Ventures, a nonprofit organization that takes teams of veterinarians to undeveloped countries for humane medical care. She also runs a small animal practice in South Florida.
Dr . Joi Sutton

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