Diabetes in cats

There are cats who develop diabetes at about eight years old or above. It is prevalent in obese, male cats and whose diet consists of a lot of carbohydrates.  

It is a debilitating, chronic condition that needs to be addressed and managed immediately.

Cat Hospital of Tucson, in “5 Signs Your Cat Has Diabetes,” said  diabetes “is a disorder that results when the cells develop a resistance to insulin, a hormone that aids the entry of glucose into the cells. This causes a build-up of the glucose levels in the bloodstream.”

Early signs of diabetes in cats.

Garfield is rather on the heavy side. When he  became lethargic, we decided to have him tested for diabetes. He was borderline diabetic.  We changed his diet and  his next test  showed normal blood glucose levels.
1.Excessive Urination & Thirst

If your cat is urinating frequently, your cat may have Type I or Type II diabetes. The kidneys are trying to release excess glucose from the body through urine. Too much glucose pulls excessive amounts of water into the urine. Frequent urination can mean a significant body water loss, dehydration, and increased thirst.

2. Increased Weight Loss & Appetite

A diabetic cat’s cells can no longer absorb the glucose from the blood appropriately. Starved cells will lead to the breakdown of  fats and proteins in the body as it looks for an alternative source of energy. This will lead weight loss and an increase in appetite to compensate for lost protein/fats.  

Later signs of diabetes

A combination of the symptoms below requires immediate medical intervention. The cat’s condition may be critical and intensive care will be needed.

3. Inability to Jump & Loss of Interest

If your cat can not jump on the furniture as he used to, he may be sick. Please keep track of your pet’s activities. If he can no longer do some activities which he used to do, please have him/her checked by the vet.

4. Change in Gait

Diabetes weakens cats. They may walk flat on the back of the hind legs.

“Following the elevated blood sugar level, neuropathy affects the nerves in the hind legs, and the condition may result in permanent paralysis if left untreated for long,”  Cat Hospital of Tucson said.

5. Lack of Appetite, Vomiting, Lethargy

Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and lethargy  are other symptoms of diabetes.

Please bring your cat to the vet as soon as you see two or more signs described above.


Once your cat is diagnosed with diabetes, the vet will explain the recommended treatment.

In “Feline Diabetes,” Cornell Feline Health Center said the goals of treatment are:

· to restore normal blood glucose concentration (glycemic control)

· to minimize or eliminate signs of weight loss

· to minimize or eliminate signs of increased thirst and urination

· to normalize the appetite

· to avoid inducing inappropriately low blood glucose levels with therapy

Allow them  to roam freely. Rescued kitten Mia loves to play in the garage. 
Insulin Therapy

Diabetic cats are most often treated with injectable insulin.

“Oral drugs for humans (hypoglycemic medications) such as glipizide rarely work in controlling diabetes in cats. Insulin injection (see Figure 1) can be taught to most owners and, with a bit of experience, both owners and cats usually adapt to these injections very well. There are a variety of insulin preparations available, and each works for a different duration and has different effects on the ups and downs of blood glucose. Ideally, your veterinarian will perform a 12-24 hour glucose curve, during which insulin is administered intermittently and blood glucose is measured to establish the type of insulin and dosing frequency that best controls blood glucose while avoiding inappropriately low blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia),” Cornell Feline Health Center said.

Dietary Management

The vet will most likely recommend a diet with limited carbohydrates.  Such a diet has been shown to improve control of blood glucose levels.

“When it comes to diet, it’s important to help your cat combat the weight loss that often occurs as a result of this disease. In diabetic cats that are underweight, this often means feeding multiple meals per day or allowing access to food at all times. If your cat is overweight, however, work with your veterinarian to institute a weight loss program, as managed weight loss in overweight diabetic cats will likely help the cat maintain steadier glucose levels,’ Cornell Feline Health Center said.

It added: “The optimal timing of meals for diabetic cats is controversial. Many veterinarians recommend feeding at the time of insulin injection to avoid a dangerous drop

in blood glucose levels. However, there is no definitive evidence that the timing or frequency of meals in diabetic cats protects them from insulin-induced hypoglycemia. If food must be withheld for any reason, your veterinarian will usually recommend giving 50 percent of the usual dose of insulin, with careful follow-up monitoring to assure good glycemic control.”


There is no cure for feline diabetes. However, the symptoms can be managed “with appropriate education and support of owners,” said Cornell Feline Health Center.

If the diabetes is managed well, cats will live for many years and enjoy “quality” life.

“Some cats may lose their need for insulin treatments (termed “remission”), but even in these cases it is recommended that owners continue to monitor for the recurrence of clinical signs of diabetes and keep the cat on a low carbohydrate diet, “ said Cornell Feline Healh Center.

To avoid diabetes,  here are some suggestions: 

1. lessen carbohydrates in their food;

2. make sure they get some exercise like walking, running and playing by letting them out of their cage  if they are caged;

3. keep to the recommended  number of meals per day which is usually twice a day; and

4. limit treats.

Topics: Diabetes in cats , Cat Hospital of Tucson

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