Diabetes in Cats: Quick Insight

Author: Dr. John Abbass
DVM, M.Phil (Veterinary microbiology)

Cats are pretty and lovable creatures. Every cat keeper wishes to see her/his cat enjoying good health. There are many health conditions which affect the overall well-being of cats. Just like humans, cats are also prone to get diabetes that puts a lot of bad effects on their lives. There are many questions which are usually asked by cat owners about feline diabetes, its etiology, treatment and prevention.

Here in this article, we will discuss feline diabetes in detail along with its prevention and treatment to facilitate all cat keepers to perfectly understand the exact mechanism of this particular health condition.


Basically, there are two types of diabetes which can occur in cats viz Diabetes mellitus and Diabetes insipidus. But we will discuss diabetes mellitus in depth.

Feline diabetes mellitus is basically inability of the pancreas to produce enough insulin (a glucose regulating hormone that controls blood glucose level) which results in accumulation of high levels of sugar (glucose) in the cat’s body.

*Type 1 diabetes mellitus: In this condition, the body doesn’t produce sufficient amounts of insulin to regulate blood glucose level.

*Type 2 diabetes mellitus: In this condition, the body doesn’t respond to insulin or produces little amounts of insulin. This type of diabetes is common in cats as compared to dogs.

Key signs:

There are a number of signs & symptoms which a diabetic cat shows but here we have summarized some important key signs.

  1. Anorexia (loss of appetite) or cat may become hyper-anorexic (eating too much)
  2. Depression and muscular weakness (cat can be seen walking with bent hind legs)
  3. Troubles with normal motor functions
  4. Vomiting and diarrhea due to high levels of blood glucose and ketoacidosis
  5. Excessive urination and increased thirst.
  6. Cats can go into a coma due to excessive accumulation of glucose in the body.


Diabetes is a multifactorial health condition that arises due to a number of reasons in cats. Some important causes have been listed below:

  1. Eating too much especially sugary treats especially high carbohydrate/low protein diets.
  2. Obesity and other metabolic disorders such as hyperthyroidism or Cushing disease.
  3. Pancreatic problems (inflammatory changes in pancreas such as pancreatitis)
  4. Autoimmune disorders (destruction of pancreatic cells which produce insulin by the attack of cat's own body immune cells).
  5. Long-term use of glucocorticoids medications, for instance, dexamethasone and prednisone increases the susceptibility of cats developing diabetes.

Note: Diet and exercise are two very important things which have the highest contribution in causing diabetes in cats.

Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention:

Early diagnosis is better for early and effective management of diabetes. Your vet can help you diagnose diabetes on the basis of signs & symptoms, history, blood testing and urinalysis. Remember, a perfect diagnosis is essential to make an effective treatment strategy.

Treatment includes oral medications to cut down the glucose in the body. But there are a lot of risks associated with oral medications. Additionally, insulin therapy is considered a best option. Depending upon type of diabetes mellitus either 1 or 2, insulin therapy is suggested. Your vet can tell you the best line of treatment according to the condition and thorough analysis of your cat.

Remember, insulin dose must be adjusted by your vet. Don’t take any step without seeking consultancy from a registered cat practitioner.

There are many things which can help in preventing diabetes in your beloved feline friend. As described earlier, diet plays a pivotal role. You should get a diet plan from a registered pet nutritionist. Remember, carbohydrate level should be low as compared to protein in your cat’s diet. Check the nutritional profile of any diet which you offer to your cat.  Get regular blood testing and overall health checkups of your cat from a registered veterinary practitioner.


Kirk, CA, Feldman, EC, Nelson, RW (1993) Diagnosis of naturally acquired type-I and type-II diabetes mellitus in cats. American Journal of Veterinary Research 54, 463.

Jacquie S. Rand, Linda M. Fleeman, Heidi A. Farrow, Delisa J. Appleton, Rose Lederer, Canine and Feline Diabetes Mellitus: Nature or Nurture?, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 134, Issue 8, August 2004, Pages 2072S–2080S.

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