Diabetes in cats

Julia Dicconson
Content Manager
September 21, 2021

A diabetic cat is unable to move glucose into their cells to metabolise it for energy. 

In Type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent), the pancreas produces insufficient insulin, whereas in Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin-dependent), the body’s cells do not respond appropriately to insulin. Up to 90% of diabetic cats are Type 2, primarily because their tissues have developed a reduced insulin sensitivity. 

In a diabetic cat, glucose accumulates in the blood and urine, instead of fueling the body.

What are common diabetes signs in cats?

Early signs include:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Increased appetite with weight loss
  • Unkempt appearance

Intermediate or advanced signs include:

  • Decreased activity
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Change in hind limb stance
  • Cataracts
  • Decreased appetite
  • Seizures

How is diabetes managed in cats? 

Diabetes management depends on the severity of signs and stage of the disease. 

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a more advanced form of diabetes that often requires hospitalisation. Concurrent infections should be addressed, because they can affect treatment success. 

Cats with diabetes need a low-carbohydrate diet and many require twice-daily insulin injections to normalise the glucose metabolism, which is reflected in blood glucose levels. Blood glucose in diabetic cats on insulin can drop dangerously, so regular diagnostic testing and close observation are essential.

What is the prognosis for cats?

Most cats with well-controlled diabetes can live a good quality of life. Some cats may lose their need for insulin altogether, whereas others may require increasing amounts of insulin to maintain control. 

Each cat is different and treatment response can vary.

Management tips for a cat with diabetes

At-home needs include:

  • Easy access to food, water, and a clean litter box
  • A prescription diabetic diet
  • Consistency with feeding times and insulin injections
  • Possible at-home blood or urine glucose testing
  • Keeping track of appetite, drinking, urination, and weight
  • Watching for signs of low blood glucose

For end-of-life care:

In a crisis:

Immediately seek help from your veterinarian if your cat stops eating, or shows signs of low blood glucose, such as lethargy, weakness, stumbling, seizures, tremors, or unconsciousness.

It is vital to begin end-of-life care discussions before your cat’s condition becomes unmanageable, or they begin losing their quality of life. 

The team at Goodbye Good Boy offers individualised support to help you and your family navigate this difficult time by providing quality-of-life checks, in-home euthanasia, cremation and aftercare services, and personalised memorialisation options. 

To learn more about our pet end-of-life services, give our team of passionate pet lovers a call on 1800 953 619.

This article was reproduced with permission from Goodbye Good Boy advisor Dr Dani McVety, of Lap Of Love.