Cat Diabetes and Symptoms - It is NOT the End for Your Cat

The word diabetes can bring to mind worry, even in humans, what more in our feline friends. Diabetes in cats is also known as “diabetes mellitus” which is a chronic and potentially debilitating sickness in cats. This disease is on the rise in our cats and it is important to recognize symptoms and signs early in order to prevent it. 

Although worrying, it is totally manageable and can be treated accordingly. In this article, we attempt to give you a thorough understanding of what diabetes, symptoms to look out for and how to best treat diabetes in your dear felines. 

What is Cat Diabetes? 

Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which your cat’s body is unable to properly produce or respond to the hormone called insulin. 

This will result in elevated levels of glucose, which is the main source of energy for your cat. Just like a human, your cat needs sugar in the form of glucose for energy. 

Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas. It attaches to cells and gives out signals when the time is suitable to absorb glucose. 

Glucose requires insulin to “unlock” the door to cells. When the body absorbs glucose, the cells in fat deposits, liver and muscles get the vital fuel in needs, thus lowering the glucose levels in the blood. 

Between 0.2 and 1 percent of cats in the general population suffer from diabetes so it is not very uncommon for your cat to have this disease.

There are two types of diabetes in cats - Type I and Type II 

Type I Diabetes

The glucose concentrations in the blood of your cat is high because of a decrease in the production of insulin. 

Type II Diabetes

The glucose concentrations are high as your cat’s body does not respond appropriately to insulin. Cats typically suffer from this form of the sickness. 

Symptoms of Diabetes in Cats

There are a few signs to look out for when you suspect your cats have diabetes. Of course, the best way to get a proper diagnosis is by visiting your veterinarian. 

In order to give you further peace of mind or for early diagnosis, keep a lookout for these signs:

1. Excessive Thirst and Urination

If your cat is urinating frequently, it may be a sign that your cat is currently suffering from Type I or Type II diabetes. 

When your cat’s kidneys attempt to remove the excess glucose from the body through urination, your cat may become dehydrated due to a higher body water lost. Therefore, it increases your cat’s thirst and you may observe it drinking more water than usual

2. Increased Weight Loss and Appetite

Cells can no longer properly absorb glucose from the blood when your cat has diabetes. This will result in starved cells. 

This, in turn, triggers the breakdown of fats and proteins that is in the body to use it as an alternative source of energy. 

symptom of diabetes in Cats
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

You may observe that your cat has lost weight. When the body has used its fats and protein, your cat has an increase in appetite as an attempt to fill the void of burned fats and protein. 

Although it attempts to eat more to fill that void, it will fail, which will lead to… 

3. Lack of appetite, vomiting, lethargy 

Although contradictory to the above where your cat puts on weight, if your cat also displays a lack of appetite, it may already be a late sign of diabetes. Yes, we realize that weight loss and weight increase are both symptoms so be very aware of it.

Hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia and gastroparesis can cause nausea in cats which leads to vomiting, loss of appetite (which means weight loss too) and lethargy. 

4. Change in gait of cat

As the elevated blood sugar level in your cat will affect the neuropathy and nerves in its hind legs, you may observe that your cat has a change in the way it walks. You will see a “plantigrade” stance of the hind limbs which means that the walking and standing is affected. 

If left untreated for a long period of time, this may result in permanent paralysis of your cat.

How long does a cat live with diabetes? 

Diabetes in cats can certainly shorten its lifespan. This is not caused directly from diabetes itself but from all the other problems that come with the disease. 

Some owners do not even realize that their cats have diabetes and therefore, can get into severe emergency situations. It may be too late to save their cats in this kind of situation.

However, if diabetes is diagnosed early and managed properly, it is entirely possible for cats to live on for many years. 

How to treat a cat with diabetes? 

If your cat has been diagnosed with diabetes, it is not the end of the world. Your cat will be fine but only if the disease is caught early. 

Treatment is available for your feline friend although it is usually not cured entirely. The aim is to get your cat’s blood sugar level under control so that it has a healthier body. 

Some cats' diabetes may go into remission but that does not mean your cat is entirely cured. Once in a while, it may experience flare ups and will need to be treated again to control their diabetes. 

As a cat owner, it is best to accept that diabetes treatment is for life. 

You can manage your cat’s treatment in these two ways:-

1. Diet

Diet is certainly a component when it comes to the treatment of feline diabetes. 

Try giving your cat a low-carbohydrate diet, which has been shown to improve control of blood glucose levels. 

diet for cats
Photo by NastyaSensei from Pexels

It is equally as important to combat the weight loss of your cat as a result of diabetes. This means feeding it multiple meals and providing easy access to food. 

If however, your cat is overweight, a weight loss program may be helpful. A steady and managed weight in cats will help your cat to maintain steadier glucose levels.  

2. Insulin therapy

This is the most common form of treatment. Owners have to learn how to inject insulin and with some practise and experience, owners and cats usually get used to these injections really well. 

There are many varieties of insulin preparation available. Each of the varieties works differently and has different effects on your cat’s glucose level. 

To establish the type of insulin and dosage to best control blood glucose level whilst avoiding hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels), your vet will likely perform a 12 to 24 hour glucose curve. 

The insulin will be administered intermittently and measured accordingly to establish your cat’s treatment. 

Cause of Diabetes in Cats

Although the exact cause of feline diabetes is unknown, there are a few factors that may affect your cat, making it more prone to diabetes. These are:-

  • Age - diabetes is more common in older cats
  • Weight - obesity makes your cat’s body less sensitive to the effects of insulin
  • Other diseases such as chronic pancreatitis and hyperthyroidism 
  • Other medications such as corticosteroids

Food for Cats with Diabetes

It may be rather difficult to feed your cat a balanced meal if you are cooking and preparing the food by yourself. You have to ensure that all the nutrients they need is available. 

Cats are obligate carnivores and undomesticated cats eat a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. By nature, they are meat eaters so it is on the onus of the owner to ensure that the pet cat’s diet includes a lot of protein. To find out how to choose the right food for your cat, always do your research beforehand. 

The cat’s body is also not great at breaking down carbohydrates, which is why a low-carbohydrate diet is recommended. Low carb cat food, in particular, is especially important for diabetic cats. 

Diabetic cat food should  not contain much starch either. Read the label before purchasing! 

Also, it is best to remember that each cat is unique and each diabetic cat has different needs. It will entirely depend on the individual cat’s weight, health, the severity of diabetes and personal taste. 

To be entirely sure, consult with your veterinarian before choosing the food. 

If you are feeling rather overwhelmed with the many choices of cat food available in the market, you are not alone. As your cat has special dietary concerns, we can recommend PetCubes Gently Cooked Cat Food.

Petcubes cat food

Depending on your cat’s dietary preferences, Petcubes understands that cats are obligate carnivores and have meticulously crafted raw diets with the right amount of proteins. The food imitates what felines would normally eat to thrive in the wild. 

For pet cat owners, it is a lifesaver as it saves you so much time and you do not have to worry about whether you are feeding your cat the right amount of nutrients or not. 


If you suspect that your cat is sick with diabetes, visit your veterinarian as soon as possible. The symptoms of diabetes mellitus are as we have mentioned above, and it is best to find the best treatment for your cat in order for it to have a full and wonderful life. It is not the end of your cat having diabetes and treatment is entirely possible if caught early.