cat veterinary check up

Diabetes in cats: identifying the signs of cat diabetes

Just as diabetes is on the rise in humans, it’s becoming more and more prevalent in our furry friends, too. We look at what cat diabetes is, and how to spot the signs of diabetes mellitus in your cat, so you can get help from your vet – fast.

What is cat diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is a disease caused when a cat’s pancreas stops producing insulin. Cat diabetes is one of the most common hormonal (endocrine) diseases in cats. While it’s most common in overweight, middle-aged, indoor cats, diabetes can affect cats at any age.

The technical bit…

The pancreas of a healthy cat produces insulin, which the body uses to prevent glucose (sugar) in the blood becoming too high. Insulin is transported within the body to enable the cells to grow and flourish. 
Without the ability to control sugar levels in the blood, diabetic cats suffer from hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose), which can cause increased thirst (polydipsia), hunger (polyphagia), and urination (polyuria). 

Cat diabetes symptoms

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Weakness/lethargy
  • Weight loss

If left untreated, diabetes mellitus can cause a number of health issues in cats. Much like humans, cats with diabetes are prone to other health problems, such as seizures, kidney failure, urinary tract infections, and cataracts. But cat diabetes is a common, treatable condition, and many cats with the disease go on to lead long and happy lives.

The types of diabetes in cats

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are regularly seen in cats.  A cat with type 1 diabetes can’t produce any insulin, so will depend on insulin treatments for life. Just as in humans, type 1 diabetes in cats requires daily injections.

While the thought of injecting your cat worries many owners, there’s no need for concern – your vet will explain the best way to do this, and you’ll soon get the hang of it.

A cat with diabetes mellitus will need regular check-ups with the vet to monitor their condition, but you should always let your vet know immediately if you notice any changes to your cat’s appetite or thirst, or if they appear dizzy or faint at any time.

“Your vet will explain the best way to inject your cat, so there’s no need for concern.”

Can diet help my cat with diabetes?

A balanced diet can massively improve the stability of your cat’s sugar levels. For example, feeding your cat a balanced, high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet can help limit increases in blood sugar levels. Your vet will advise you on what and how much to feed your cat, and the best timing for meals and injections.

As is the case with most conditions, diabetes mellitus in cats is best caught and treated early, so always contact your vet if you spot any of the signs and symptoms listed above.

Need advice on diabetes in cats?

For expert advice on diabetes in cats, get in touch with your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.