Signs of Diabetes in Cats: Causes, Treatment, Prevention, and Daily Care

icon October 31, 2023

Diabetes is not a condition limited to humans; it can also affect our feline companions. Diabetes in cats, also known as feline diabetes mellitus, is a complex and increasingly common disease. Understanding the signs, causes, treatment options, prevention strategies, and daily care of cat diabetes is vital for any cat owner. In this comprehensive article, we will explore these aspects to help you keep your beloved pet healthy and happy.

Unveiling Diabetes In Cats

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic metabolic disorder characterized by elevated blood sugar levels, resulting from either insufficient insulin production or resistance to its effects. In cats, diabetes typically falls into two categories: Type 1 diabetes, where the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin, and Type 2 diabetes, where the body's cells become resistant to insulin.

Cat Diabetes: Symptoms

Recognizing the signs of diabetes in cats is crucial for early detection and treatment. If you notice any of the following symptoms, consult your veterinarian promptly:

1. Increased Thirst (Polydipsia): Cats with diabetes often drink more water than usual due to elevated blood sugar levels.

2. Frequent Urination (Polyuria): Increased water intake leads to more frequent urination.

3. Weight Loss: Despite a healthy appetite, diabetic cats may lose weight because their bodies can't use the sugar from food for energy.

4. Increased Appetite (Polyphagia): Some cats with diabetes may experience an insatiable hunger as their bodies struggle to utilize glucose.

5. Lethargy: Diabetic cats may appear lethargic or less active than usual.

6. Vomiting: Some diabetic cats may experience bouts of vomiting, which can be a sign of an underlying issue.

7. Unkempt Coat: Diabetes can affect a cat's grooming habits, leading to a disheveled or unkempt appearance.

8. Weakness in the Hind Legs: In advanced cases, cats may develop weakness in their hind legs due to nerve damage.

How Do Cats Get Diabetes

Understanding the underlying causes of diabetes in cats is essential for effective management and prevention. Several factors contribute to the development of this condition:

1. Obesity: Obesity is a significant risk factor for diabetes in cats. Extra body fat can lead to insulin resistance, making it more challenging for the body to regulate blood sugar.

2. Age: Older cats, typically over the age of 8, are more susceptible to diabetes.

3. Genetics: Certain breeds, such as Burmese, Siamese, and Tonkinese, are more prone to diabetes.

4. Inactive Lifestyle: Cats with a sedentary lifestyle have a higher risk of developing diabetes.

5. Diet: A high-carbohydrate diet can strain the feline pancreas and contribute to diabetes. Cats are obligate carnivores and require a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates.

Diagnosing Diabetes in Cats

Diagnosing diabetes in cats requires a combination of clinical signs, blood tests, and urinalysis. If you suspect your cat may have diabetes, consult your veterinarian, who will perform the following steps:

1. Physical Examination: Your vet will conduct a thorough physical examination, checking for common signs of diabetes and evaluating your cat's overall health.

2. Blood Glucose Testing: A blood sample will be taken to measure the cat's blood glucose level. A diagnosis is typically made if the blood glucose level is consistently elevated.

3. Urinalysis: A urinalysis can help determine the presence of glucose in the urine, a common sign of diabetes.

4. Fructosamine Test: In some cases, a fructosamine test may be performed to assess the average blood glucose level over the past few weeks.

5. Additional Tests: Your vet may recommend other tests to rule out underlying conditions or complications.

Cat Diabetes: Treatment

If your cat is diagnosed with diabetes, there are several treatment options available to help manage the condition:

1. Insulin Therapy: In most cases, cats with diabetes will require insulin injections. Your veterinarian will determine the appropriate type of insulin, dosage, and injection schedule based on your cat's specific needs. Insulin administration may take some time to perfect, so patience and regular communication with your vet are crucial.

2. Dietary Changes: Switching to a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet is often recommended for diabetic cats. Your vet can provide guidance on selecting the right cat food or even suggest a homemade diet tailored to your cat's needs.

3. Weight Management: If obesity is a contributing factor, your vet will work with you to develop a weight loss plan for your cat.

4. Monitoring: Regular monitoring of blood glucose levels is essential. Your vet may teach you how to perform at-home blood glucose testing.

5. Lifestyle Adjustments: Encourage regular exercise and play to help your cat maintain a healthy weight and manage blood sugar levels.

6. Stress Reduction: Minimize stress in your cat's environment, as stress can affect blood sugar levels.

7. Regular Veterinary Check-ups: Continue to schedule regular check-ups with your vet to monitor your cat's progress and adjust the treatment plan as needed.

Preventing Diabetes in Cats

Prevention is always preferable to treatment. To reduce the risk of diabetes in your cat, consider the following preventive measures:

1. Healthy Diet: Feed your cat a balanced, high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. Consult with your vet to choose the best cat food for your pet.

2. Portion Control: Avoid overfeeding and ensure proper portion control to maintain a healthy weight.

3. Regular Exercise: Engage your cat in regular play and exercise to keep them active and help manage their weight.

4. Spaying/Neutering: If you're not planning to breed your cat, spaying or neutering can reduce the risk of certain health issues, including diabetes.

5. Stress Reduction: Create a comfortable and stress-free living environment for your cat.

Daily Care for Diabetic Cats

Taking care of a diabetic cat involves some specific daily routines and practices:

Insulin Administration: Administer insulin as prescribed by your vet at the same time each day. Be consistent with the dosage and schedule.

Balanced Diet: Feeding your cat a balanced and appropriate diet is crucial. Cats are obligate carnivores, so their diet should be high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Consult with your vet to determine the best diet for your cat's specific needs.

Weight Management: Obesity is a significant risk factor for diabetes in cats. Keep your cat at a healthy weight through portion control and regular exercise. If your cat is overweight, work with your vet to develop a weight loss plan.

Regular Veterinary Check-ups: Schedule regular check-ups with your veterinarian, so they can monitor your cat's overall health and detect any potential issues early.

Stress Management: Reducing stress in your cat's environment can help prevent diabetes. Ensure your cat has a comfortable and stress-free living environment.

High-Quality Cat Food: Feed your cat high-quality commercial cat food or a balanced homemade diet, if approved by your vet. Some veterinarians may recommend specialized diabetic cat food for cats at high risk.

Supplements: Some supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, have been suggested to have potential benefits in managing blood sugar levels in cats. However, you should never administer supplements without your vet's guidance, as they can interact with other medications or medical conditions.

Puainta™ Sardine Fish Oil for Dogs and Cats | Omega-3 Fatty Acids Supplement:

Spaying/Neutering: Consider spaying or neutering your cat, as unspayed female cats are more prone to diabetes.

Regular Exercise: Encourage your cat to be active through playtime and exercise. Physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of diabetes.

Monitor Blood Sugar Levels: If your cat is at high risk of diabetes or has been diagnosed with prediabetes, your vet may recommend periodic blood sugar monitoring.

Early Detection: If you notice any unusual symptoms in your cat, such as increased thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, or changes in appetite, consult your vet promptly. Early detection and intervention can help manage or prevent diabetes.

What Foods Should Diabetic Cats Avoid

Diabetic cats need a well-controlled diet to manage their blood sugar levels effectively. Therefore, it's essential to avoid certain foods that can exacerbate their condition. Here are some foods and dietary components that diabetic cats should avoid:

1. High-Carbohydrate Foods: Diabetic cats should steer clear of foods rich in carbohydrates, as they can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. This includes many dry cat foods, which often contain high levels of carbs.

2. Sugary Treats: Avoid giving your diabetic cat sugary treats or snacks. This includes commercial cat treats with high sugar content.

3. Fatty Foods: While fats in moderation are necessary, excessive dietary fat can lead to obesity, which may exacerbate insulin resistance.

4. Free-Feeding: Instead of allowing your cat to free-feed, establish a consistent feeding schedule with measured portions to control calorie intake.

5. Foods with Fillers: Choose cat foods with high-quality protein sources and limited fillers like grains or corn.

6. Consult Your Vet: Ultimately, consult your veterinarian for specific dietary recommendations tailored to your cat's individual needs. A controlled, balanced diet is crucial in managing feline diabetes, and your vet can provide guidance on the best dietary options for your pet.


Diabetes in cats is a manageable condition when detected early and treated properly. The key is to be vigilant about the signs, consult your veterinarian for a diagnosis, and follow their guidance for treatment and daily care. With the right approach, your diabetic cat can lead a happy and healthy life. Additionally, taking preventive measures, such as providing a balanced diet and maintaining a stress-free environment, can significantly reduce the risk of diabetes in your feline companion. Remember that your veterinarian is your best resource for information and support in managing your cat's diabetes, so don't hesitate to seek their expertise.

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