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Diabetes in cats: spotting the signs of cat diabetes reading-time-icon 2 min read

Diabetes is becoming more and more common in UK cats.

Let's take a look at what diabetes is, the signs to watch out for and what to do if you think your cat is suffering from diabetes.

A brief summary:

  • Diabetes is a condition that stops the body from controlling blood sugar levels
  • Symptoms include increased hunger, thirst, urination and weight loss
  • If untreated, diabetes can lead to further health problems
  • With insulin treatments and a healthy diet, diabetic cats can live long & healthy lives
  • Contact your vet if you think your cat may have diabetes

What is diabetes?

Diabetes comes about when a cat’s pancreas stops producing insulin. It's one of the most common hormonal diseases in cats - especially overweight, middle-aged, indoor cats (although it can affect them at any age).

The technical bit...

A healthy cat's pancreas produces insulin, which the body uses to prevent glucose (sugar) levels 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 blood sugar levels, diabetic cats suffer from hyperglycaemia, which can cause increased thirst, hunger and urination. 

Signs of diabetes in cats

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

If left untreated, diabetes can cause a number of health problems. Just like humans, diabetic cats can be at a greater risk of seizures, kidney failure, urinary tract infections and cataracts.

That said, diabetes is common - and treatable. Many afflicted cats go on to lead long and happy lives.

cat with chin buried in carpet

Type 1 and Type 2

Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are common in cats. A cat with Type 1 diabetes can’t produce any insulin, so will depend on insulin treatments for life, usually in the form of an injection. This may be a scary concept but don't worry - your vet will explain how to do it and you’ll soon get the hang of it.

Diabetic cats will need regular check-ups to monitor their condition, and 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 at any time.

Can diet help?

A balanced diet, high in protein and low in carbohydrates, can massively improve your cat’s blood sugar levels. Your vet will advise you on feeding your cat, and the best timing for meals and injections.

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

Need more info?

For expert advice on diabetes in cats, have a chat with your local vet. 

Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page, or speak to a vet online using Online Vets.