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Diabetes or ‘sugar diabetes’ as it is sometimes called is a complicated but relatively common condition in cats. It is caused when an insufficient amount of insulin is produced or in some cases, where there is insulin resistance.


There are two types of DM that most often occur in cats:

1) IDDM – insulin dependent diabetes mellitus

2) NIDDM – non insulin dependent diabetes mellitus

However, the majority of diabetic cats require insulin injections as soon as they are diagnosed in order to properly control the disease.


Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas. Its job is to regulate the amount of glucose that flows from the cat’s bloodstream to the cells of its body where it is used to create energy to fuel the cells. When there is too little insulin or the insulin is not effective (as in insulin resistance) the body starts to break down fat and muscle tissue instead. The high levels of glucose left unused in the bloodstream are eventually lost in the cat’s urine.

The results of this imbalance are usually the first symptoms you will see as an owner: The cat will become constantly thirsty and will drink lots of water, will have an insatiable appetite but begin to lose weight.


Although the exact cause of the disease in cats is not known, below are some of the factors that can contribute to its development.

  1. i) DON’T LET YOUR CAT GET FAT! OBESITY above all is a major predisposing factor! Many of the cases of feline diabetes we see are in older, obese cats.
  2. ii) it is mostly seen in older cats

iii) more common in male cats than females

  1. iv) chronic pancreatitis, other hormonal diseases can contribute to its development.


Diabetes is usually diagnosed through clinical examination together with a series of blood tests.  Treatment should start immediately.


Each cat is different and will respond differently to treatment. In some cats the diabetes will be easily controlled whereas in others it may take time in order to stabilize the cat’s glucose levels. Most will respond best to consistent medication and feeding and a stress free environment also helps.

Most cats will require insulin injections that need to be given twice a day by the owner at home. This can be quite daunting, as most people have never given an injection before but it is relatively easy and painless for the cat.

Your vet will teach you how to do it and you will soon be an expert!

To determine the amount of insulin your cat will need the veterinarian will need to do blood tests over a period of time usually 18- 24 hours. This will enable the vet to build up a profile of the blood sugar levels in your cat during the day and allow him to work out the correct insulin dosage.

Like everything else things can change and blood glucose profiles will need to be taken intermittently to ensure the correct doses of insulin are being given. This can be done by your vet or by the owner testing at home. Your vet will be able to advise you as to what will work best.

As mentioned above obesity is often the cause of Feline diabetes so diet is extremely important. If your cat is overweight your veterinarian will discuss a weight loss program that will gradually help your cat to lose weight.

If your cat is not overweight there are foods available that are specifically designed to help regulate your diabetic cat’s diet.

Your cat’s feeding routine may also have to change. It is preferable not to allow your diabetic cat to eat when it wants to. Food should be given at the same time as the insulin injection with any leftovers available throughout the day.


Unfortunately there is no cure for diabetes. However, these cats can be successfully treated and controlled by medication and dedication from both you and your vet. Once controlled a diabetic cat can live a long and healthy life.

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