Diabetic Cat 101: Effectively Caring for Your Cat’s Diabetes

Diabetic Cat 101: Effectively Caring for Your Cat's Diabetes

While you can’t catch a cold from your cats, and vice versa, you should know that your furry friends can suffer many of the same diseases that affect humans, including diabetes.  It is estimated that as much as 2% of cats are affected by diabetes, although it’s hard to know for sure, with the potential for cases to go undiagnosed if pet owners don’t realize there is a problem and seek diagnosis and treatment.

As a concerned pet owner, it’s a good idea to learn all you can about this potentially deadly disease so that you can prevent the onset of diabetes if at all possible, learn to spot early warning signs, and seek early diagnosis and treatment so your feline friends can enjoy long, healthy, and happy lives.  Effective care can help to extend the life of a cat suffering from diabetes.  Here’s what you need to know to keep your favorite felines healthy and well.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is a disease that affects insulin in cats, much as it does in humans.  Insulin, along with other hormones, helps to control blood sugar levels.  When a cat’s body produces insufficient insulin, or the body doesn’t react to insulin like it’s supposed to, a variety of undesirable side effects can occur.

When diabetes goes untreated, your cat could eventually end up with heart disease, kidney damage, nerve damage, eye damage, and more, or even suffer heart attack or stroke related to the disease.  In other words, you don’t want to let feline diabetes go untreated.

Common Cat Diabetes Symptoms

How can you tell if your cat is at risk for diabetes or already has the disease?  You may notice several common symptoms that could act as early warning signs.

The main thing you’re likely to notice is increased thirst and urination, both of which are common side effects of feline diabetes.  This is because your cat’s body is trying to correct an imbalance by getting rid of excess blood sugar through urination, subsequently increasing thirst and kicking off a vicious cycle.

Your cat may also become lethargic or weak and suffer from weight loss.  Skin and coat issues are also common as diabetes advances.  Loss of appetite and vomiting are not uncommon, and in extreme or advanced cases, coma and death are possible.

If you start to notice such symptoms in a cat that has previously been healthy, it’s a good idea to take your pet to the veterinarian for checkup and diagnosis.  If you suspect diabetes, your vet will perform a physical examination, analyze urine and blood samples, and possibly conduct an ultrasound to check for related diseases and complications.

Causes of Feline Diabetes

Feline diabetes is typically found in cats that reach middle age or older, with the peak being 11 years of age.  Both male and female cats seem to be affected equally, and the breed does not seem to make a significant difference, although Burmese cats may be slightly more susceptible.

One of the main factors in the onset of feline diabetes is weight.  Obese cats are at higher risk of developing diabetes.  Although cats that are younger and enjoy an appropriate body weight are less likely to develop feline diabetes, it’s not unheard of, so if you notice warning signs, see your vet as soon as possible for diagnosis.

Cat Diabetes Treatment Options

Finding out your beloved cat has diabetes can be understandably shocking, but it isn’t a death sentence.  With proper management of the disease, your cat can live comfortably for many years.  How can you treat a diabetic cat?

In the short term, your veterinarian may recommend oral hypoglycemic medications designed to help regulate blood sugar levels.  This will work for a while, provided your cat’s pancreas is still producing insulin.  In time, you will likely have to switch over to insulin injections following meals, and your vet will teach you how to properly administer shots.

Weight management is an important factor when treating feline diabetes, as obesity will continue to exacerbate the condition.  High-protein, low-carb diets are recommended for cats with diabetes.  If your cat has not been spayed, your vet will likely recommend it to reduce estrogen levels that could increase symptoms.

Over time, you will likely have to adjust treatment (such as increasing insulin dosage), so be prepared to keep a close eye on your pet and contact the vet as needed.  With proper care, your beloved companion can lead a long and happy life.


Central Texas Animal Hospital provides a variety of veterinary services for cats in the Pflugerville/Austin-Round Rock area including vaccinationsparasite preventiondental careweight managementspaying and neutering, and more. Call us at 512-251-BARK today to learn more!