This post is sponsored by Vetary

Cats can develop diabetes just as humans can, and the treatment and management of the condition are very similar. Treatment may include dietary changes, adequate exercise and insulin.

Feline diabetes mellitus is more common that most people realize. It is thought that the condition is becoming more prevalent in cats due to factors such as diet and low activity levels. Male, neutered cats are at increased risk, as are cats who are overweight or obese. Age and underlying health issues may also be components in the development of diabetes. Because cats often mask illness quite well, being aware of the signs of this disease is important.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes can be classified into two categories. Type 1, which is the less common of the two, results when there is a lack of insulin being generated by the pancreas. Type 2 occurs when the feline body develops a resistance to insulin. Both types lead to abnormally high levels of glucose in the blood and the urine.

Symptoms of diabetes

Early symptoms such as lethargy may be inconclusive and possibly indicators of other diseases, which is why a veterinary exam is an important part of getting a correct diagnosis and treatment.

The following symptoms may be strong indicators of diabetes:

Weight changes

Weight gain in the early stages of diabetes will eventually change to weight loss as the disease progresses.

Insulin, normally released by the pancreas, aids in the transfer of glucose to the cells. A lack of insulin, or an abnormal response to the insulin, affects the regular production of energy. When this energy is missing, the body will start to use fat and protein stores, which culminates in weight loss no matter how much a cat eats. The majority of cats with undiagnosed diabetes will have voracious appetites, although some cats tend to experience a reduced desire for food.

Excessive thirst and urination

These two signs of diabetes go hand in hand. Excessive thirst is caused by high levels of glucose in the blood which is not being transferred to the cells. The kidneys then need to work overtime eliminating the sugar from the body via the urine. Because of the extra processing taking place, more urine is being produced. The generation of large volumes of urine then results in excessive thirst.

Change in gait

Many cats with undiagnosed diabetes will begin to exhibit a change in the way they walk. This is known as peripheral neuropathy, which is a weakness of the hind legs. Cats may walk on their hocks rather than their feet, and may have difficulty jumping on places they normally would. In some cats, this symptom can be evidence of a progression of the disease to dangerous levels.

Poor hair coat

The coat may become flaky, oily, thinner than normal, and generally unattractive in appearance. Additionally, the lethargy and malaise that can occur as a result of diabetes will further dull the coat because affected cats may not have the energy or the desire to groom.


There are several additional indications of diabetes, in particular as the disease progresses untreated. Ketoacidosis is a serious complication of unmanaged diabetes. Cats with this life-threatening complication will show signs such as sweet smelling breath, vomiting, collapse, and even coma.

What does a diagnosis of diabetes mean for my cat?

With the assistance of your veterinarian, diabetes can be controlled. Diabetes is most often manageable, regardless of a cat’s age. Learning to care for a diabetic cat will require some time and patience. Your veterinarian will determine whether and what type of insulin is needed after a series of tests, such as blood work and urinalysis. Cat guardians will need to learn to monitor blood glucose levels at home, and how to recognize the signs of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Your cat may require dietary changes (in some cases, diet alone may reverse diabetes.)

Caring for a diabetic cat will require commitment and regular communication with your veterinarian.

Vetary Credit provides financing for veterinary care for your family pets. Pet treatment payment plans can be used for everything from routine tests to emergency operations. With Vetary, you can qualify for financing for immediate care, select a flexible payment plan that suits your needs and make monthly payments over time. Learn more by visiting

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14 Comments on Recognizing Signs of Diabetes in Cats

  1. I am just wondering if you can help me I have male cat and he just doesn’t play and always tried and sleep a lot can you help me

  2. Our older cat Casper was diagnosed with diabetes last summer, just shortly after his 15th birthday.

    We had taken him to his bi-annual well visit and happened to mention some concerning symptoms such as throwing up a lot, which didn’t quite add up to us considering diabetes as the cause. He had lost quite a bit of weight (easily noticed) and we suddenly noticed he was drinking huge amounts of water. Thankfully, the vet put two and two together and had him immediately tested while we waited. Sure enough, he was diabetic.

    We were told that it can happen after receiving steroid injections which fit his profile. And, older cats are at risk in general. We started him on insulin and cut back his kibble (although he was mostly eating wet anyway) and he did pretty well on it overall. Even our initial fears of giving injections went away quickly since it was so easy to do. While most people do home testing on a daily basis, our personal schedules made this difficult so we’d bring him into the vet periodically for testing.

    We had one frightening thing happen which was he went into diabetic shock one night – we didn’t know at that point he had gone into remission and his body was again making it’s own insulin so coupled with what we gave him that day it sent him into overload. He was acting “drunk”, confused and having trouble standing. Plus, his pupils were completely dilated. When I noticed he was getting lost in corners of the room, I realized he was also temporarily blinded. That, was pretty frightening but we recognized what was happening within minutes – got him to eat something and then whisked him off to the ER. His blood sugar was 25 by that time, pretty darn low.

    They stabilized him, kept him overnight and since then, about 3 months have gone by and he’s stayed in remission. Cats are the only animal I believe, that can spontaneously go into remission which we had no idea about!

    There is a lot of great info out these to help “sugar kitties” as some call them. So glad to have so much good advice out there which includes this site. It’s much more common that many realize but also, easy to manage.

  3. Our “mama cat” Moon (we rescued her and her 2 babies, kept them all) was diagnosed with diabetes this past August, although she doesn’t match the typical risk factors (is neither overweight nor old). Our cats only eat wet food, but her food was changed to a diabetic management Rx. After months and months of constant testing and dosage increases for treatment-resistant diabetes, she was finally diagnosed with a pituitary tumor, causing excess growth hormone secretion (the condition is called “Acromegaly”).

    She doesn’t display the physical symptoms of acromegaly yet (facial growth/distortion) but the vet was already a little suspicious because she is pretty big (was 15 pounds, but now underweight at 12 pounds since her diabetes is not under control). Her children are even bigger though, at 19 and 22 pounds and are not fat, just huge cats, so we thought it was just genetics.

    Anyway Feline Acromegaly is not that common; the specialist says she sees about 1 case per year, but apparently it should be looked into if a cat is not responding to standard diabetes treatment. The only cure is surgery (removal of the pituitary gland), but it is hard to find a vet who can do this, so the specialist is checking area university vet schools. Moon is a shadow of her former self, but otherwise doesn’t seem to be in pain. Oh and she is peeing all over the house despite every remedy you can think of, but it isn’t really her fault. Just wanted to throw this out there in case it helps another cat owner one day.

    • Hi Ingrid, thank you so much for your insights on Acromegaly. We really hope Moon is able to get the treatment she needs. Please contact us if there is anything we can do to help!

      The Vetary Team

  4. Diabetes was UNKNOWN in cats before the advent of commercial food, food with carbs and sugars. It can be reversed in cats; I’vew done it twice at my rescue.Catsy need a meat diet, preferably raw.

    • Whether or not diabetes can be reversed with diet depends on the type of diabetes and how advanced the disease is, but you are absolutely correct that poor quality commercial food, especially dry food, has contributed to the epidemic of feline diabetes.

    • Hi Cynthia, we’re glad to hear that you’ve been able to manage and reverse diabetes at your rescue. Thank you so much for your comment.

      The Vetary Team

  5. My 19 year old Mog is diabetic, likely his entire life. A sterilized male who I began to give insulin to eight years ago, when an extraordinary vet recognized the signs. He had few of the signs you indicate above.

    As a kitten first thing in the morning he acted intense, climbing my legs to get to his canned food first. He ran around the kitchen licking the floor if he couldn’t have it immediately.

    He urinated more than is usual.

    The pupils of his eyes are almost fully dark while the cornea reacts quite slowly to light. We used to refer to him as Mr. Surprise.

    His coat is quite beautiful and healthy.

    • Hello Annie, thank you for sharing your experience with feline diabetes. The condition can affect cats differently so your insight makes great additions to our list above, and is very helpful for other cat owners.

      The Vetary Team

  6. Thanks for highlighting Feline Diabetes, Ingrid!

    If caregivers of diabetic cats are having financial trouble handling diabetic care or if they need some educational/informational support, Diabetic Cats in Need may be able to help. Our website is , and you can also find us on Facebook at or Twitter at (very new account there, just FYI).

    DCIN is committed to ensuring that all diabetic cats get the best chance at a wonderful life possible.

    • Hi Amy, what a great resource! Thank you so much for your comment. Vetary also helps provide a payment solution for cat owners seeking veterinary treatment because we believe that every pet should receive the treatment they deserve, regardless of cost.

      The Vetary Team

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