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Cat Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options

Are you seeing symptoms of diabetes in your cat (or maybe you’ve already received a diagnosis)? You likely have several questions. Our veterinarians review risk factors for the disease and treatment options. We’ll also offer insight on when to seek help from your vet with treating cat diabetes.


What is cat diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is the clinical name for cat diabetes, a chronic disease that stems from the inability to produce or effectively use insulin - the hormone the pancreas creates to control the flow of glucose (blood sugar) to the body’s cells. The rest of the body would then receive the energy produced.

However, if the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, the cells in your cat’s body won’t receive the glucose that’s so essential. Instead, your cat’s body will feed on protein cells and fat for energy, while glucose remains unused in the bloodstream. Eventually, it will accumulate.

Types of Cat Diabetes

Similar to humans, cats can get 2 types of diabetes.

Type I (insulin-dependent)

The cat’s body does not produce or release enough insulin to send to the body’s cells.

Type II (insulin-dependent)

While sufficient insulin may be produced, the body’s tissues or organs resist it and require more insulin than a healthy cat’s body would need to properly produce glucose. Type II diabetes is most often found in obese male cats 8 years of age and older.

Those with a diet high in carbohydrates are also at higher risk. Since their bodies are unable to use the fuel in their food, their appetite may be insatiable.

Signs & Symptoms of Cat Diabetes

Instead of properly using glucose, a diabetic cat’s body breaks down fat and protein - so even cats who have a normal, healthy appetite and eat on a regular schedule will lose weight. If not treated, cats with diabetes can experience other health complications or symptoms, including:

  • Increased urination
  • Unhealthy coat and skin
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Increased thirst
  • Bacterial infections
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Liver disease

Subtle Signs

  • Walking flat on the backs of their hind legs (as a result of nerve damage)
  • Decrease in physical activity (uninterested in or unable to jump)

What are my treatment options if my cat has diabetes?

Though there is no cure for cat diabetes yet, treatment typically involves getting an official diagnosis carefully managing the condition with daily insulin injections. Ask if your veterinarian can train you to provide these at home.

You may need to change your four-legged friend’s diet to make sure they’re receiving the proper combination of protein, carbohydrates and fiber. They may also benefit from a prescription food formulated especially for diabetic cats.

What can I do?

Though you and your vet must closely monitor the disease, your furry friend can still enjoy quality of life if they’ve been diagnosed with cat diabetes.

Along with the daily insulin injections, your regular checkups will give your vet the opportunity to monitor your cat’s blood sugar and his response to treatment. You might also ask if their glucose can be tested at home. You should also closely track appetite and litter box use.

Your senior pet’s annual exam will be more critical than ever so your vet will be able to spot any emerging health issues, then diagnose and treat them. This is especially important as issues that are detected early can often be treated more effectively.

If you think your cat is exhibiting symptoms of cat diabetes, schedule an appointment with our veterinarians today.

Do you suspect your cat may have diabetes? Our veterinarians can diagnose diseases and conditions, and plan treatments. Contact Us today.

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