Diabetes in Cats

Diabetes in Cats: Treatment and Management

Cats can develop diabetes, just like humans, and it’s usually linked to weight and lifestyle. Unfortunately, diabetes in cats is a fairly common disease that can significantly impact a cat’s overall health. Fortunately, treatment usually allows a kitty to live a happy, long life. This article will cover the causes of diabetes in cats, general symptoms, and how the disease is managed and diagnosed.


Diabetes mellitus, the condition we’ll explain in this article, is a disease that attacks the body’s blood sugar regulation. This is separate from diabetes insipidus, a much rarer condition that attacks the body’s water balance.

Blood sugar (glucose) is a root of “fuel” or energy for the body’s cells. With diabetes mellitus, glucose converts elevated in the blood rather than being used in by cells that need it.

Cells then experience a lack of energy, so the body breaks down muscle and stores fat for energy, resulting in weight loss. But, at the same time, excess glucose in the blood can cause organ damage or lead to life-threatening complications.

There are two types of diabetes mellitus: Type 1 and Type 2. 

Type 1 means the body lacks insulin, a blood sugar-regulating hormone produced by the pancreas. 

Type 2 diabetes in cats means insulin resistance. The body’s cells become less and less active with the hormone. As a result, the body can’t use insulin effectively, even if enough insulin is produced. This type of diabetes in cats usually develops in overweight or obese cats as they get older.

In felines, Type 2 diabetes mellitus is more common than Type 1.


Diabetes in cats symptoms include:

  • Increased urination (amount or frequency).
  • Increased thirst.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • With advanced or severe disease, a kitty may be lethargic and otherwise act ill. They may vomit, lose their appetite, develop weakness in the hindlimbs, or show other symptoms of being unwell.


Some of the numerous common causes of diabetes in cats include:

  • Obesity. Type 2 (insulin resistance) diabetes, common in cats, and it is often linked to an increase in body weight.
  • A sedentary lifestyle, which may also contribute to obesity.
  • Age. Diabetes is more prevalent in cats who are seven years of age or older.
  • Steroid medications. Certain steroid medications (glucocorticoids), used to manage allergies, asthma, and IBD conditions, may put a cat in more danger of developing diabetes. 
  • Gender. Diabetes is more popular in male cats.
  • Pancreatitis. Severe or frequent infection of the pancreas may cause permanent damage and harm the organ’s ability to produce insulin.

If symptoms such as thirst and increased urination are noted, you should schedule a vet visit as soon as possible. Early diagnosis is always best. If a cat is ill, it should see a veterinarian right away.


A cat’s physical exam findings (especially if weight loss is noted since the last visit), symptoms, and lab work can all be used to help confirm diabetes. Lab work involves a blood glucose (BG)check, which directly measures blood sugar. 

However, one single BG measurement doesn’t reveal the whole picture. For example, when cats get nervous (common during a vet visit), their blood sugar can be temporarily but significantly elevated due to stress — even if the cat is otherwise perfectly healthy and not diabetic. It is called “stress hyperglycemia.” So, other tests are applied in addition to BG to help diagnose feline diabetes.

Another blood test, called fructosamine, can aid provide clarity. This test provides information on blood sugar over the past couple of weeks. This helps prove whether BG has been elevated over time, rather than just while the veterinary visit.

The presence of glucose in the urine or Glucosuria is a different useful test. This abnormality only occurs when blood glucose levels are so high that glucose “spills over” into the urine. 

Additional diagnostics may be suggested, too. This involves a more comprehensive bloodwork panel and perhaps additional tests such as radiographs. This would be advised to check a kitty’s overall health, rule out other medical diseases that could be causing their symptoms, and look for complications of diabetes in cats.


Treatment usually involves the goals and components below:

Daily insulin injections 

Unlike human diabetes, oral medications have not been shown to manage diabetes in cats effectively. So, most cats need 1-2 times daily insulin injections. While this might sound frightening, many pet parents discover it’s much easier to give a cat an injection than to give them a pill. A kitty and its human family can quickly adapt to this new routine with a little training and practice.

In the beginning, some trial and error may be needed to set the best insulin type and dose for each cat. A kitty’s insulin dose must be raised gradually since a dose that’s too high can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which can be fatal. Your vet will have you pay attention to symptoms of hypoglycemia, such as wobbly walking, weakness, or loss of consciousness.

A diabetes-friendly diet

For cats, this often means a high-quality, low-carbohydrate diet. Since canned cat food usually contains fewer carbohydrates than dry food, your vet may suggest switching from kibble to cans. For overweight kitties, your vet may advise weight-loss food initially.

Close monitoring 

Especially in the beginning, This requires frequent vet visits for blood glucose (BG) curve, which measures BG levels at periodic intervals throughout the day to conclude how well BG is controlled and decide if the insulin dose necessitates being adjusted.

Preventing complications 

Prevent complications like urinary tract infections, organ damage, and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA is a serious, potentially life-threatening complication of uncontrolled diabetes in cats that occurs because of acid-base, fluid, and electrolyte regulation changes in the body. Every pet is unique. So it’s essential to check with your vet for the best specific practices and guidelines for your pet.


Managing a diabetes in cats might sounds like a lot to keep up with at the start. But with a little practice, the routine becomes familiar and easier to follow. Here are a few things veterinarians often suggest for daily management at home:

  • Establish a routine: stick to it as best you can. Blood sugar can shift with just about anything in life — including changes or stress to eating habits. A predictable routine makes it simpler for the body to stabilize blood sugar levels. 
  • Give insulin injections and any other medicines as directed. 
  • Watch for any symptoms. Over time, you’ll get to recognize what’s normal for your diabetic kitty and what’s not. If there’s a change (like increased urination or weight loss), call your veterinarian as soon as possible.
  • Blood glucose monitoring at home. Many pet owners can check their furry friend’s blood sugar levels at home with practice and training. Your veterinarian will let you know how frequently this is recommended and which times of day are best.
  • Urine strips. These small testing strips identify when there is too much glucose in the urine. While not as precise as blood testing, they may alert a pet parent if a developing problem needs a vet visit and bloodwork.
  • Establish an exercise routine. Moderate exercise can contribute to overall health and improve blood sugar levels. Setting aside time for daily play with your kitty’s favorite toys can help. 


Without management and treatment, diabetes and the resulting complications can be life-threatening. But, assuming a diabetes in cats is under control and doesn’t have other serious health issues, they may live just as long as a non-diabetic feline. And they can enjoy an exceptional quality of life. Also, with prompt treatment, some diabetic cats can go into remission, signifying they no longer need insulin injections. Sometimes these kitties need insulin repeatedly later in life, though.


If it seems like you need to go in for a lot of vet visits when your kitty is first diagnosed, don’t worry — the beginning is usually the most time-consuming and financially demanding stage of treatment. However, once the best insulin dose and overall treatment plan for your pet are established, maintenance becomes simpler and requires fewer check-ins.

The exact cost of treatment may differ depending on where do you live. Asking your vet about the costs of all the various components of treatment and management can aid you get an accurate idea of what to expect.


Since Type 2 diabetes is the most common in cats, maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle is the most important prevention element. Observing your cat for any symptoms, and seeking vet care early as needed, is also important. Early treatments are always best, and earlier treatment increases the possibility of remission in diabetic cats.

And finally, regular veterinary bloodwork and checkups are necessary. In addition, routine health monitoring can aid catch health problems early, which may help improve treatment outcomes and prevent complications.
A diagnosis of diabetes may be frightening. However, with proper condition management and the right knowledge, diabetic kitties can be very comfortable and enjoy years of quality time with their beloved human companion!

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