Can Cats Become Diabetic?

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Feline Diabetes strikes 1 in 400 cats, though recent veterinary studies note that it is becoming more common lately in cats. Symptoms in cats are similar to those in humans. Diabetes in cats occurs less frequently than in dogs. 80-95% of diabetic cats experience something similar to type-2 diabetes, but are generally severely insulin-dependent by the time symptoms are diagnosed. The condition is definitely treatable, and need not shorten the animal's life span or life quality. In type-2 cats, prompt effective treatment can even lead to diabetic remission, in which the cat no longer needs injected insulin. Untreated, the condition leads to increasingly weak legs in cats, and eventually malnutrition, ketoacidosis and/or dehydration, and death.

What are the sypmtoms?

Cats will generally show a gradual onset of the disease over a few weeks, and it may escape notice for a while. The condition is unusual in cats less than seven years old.  
  • The first obvious symptoms are a sudden weight loss (occasionally gain), accompanied by excessive drinking and urination; for example, cats can appear to develop an obsession with water and lurk around faucets or water bowls.
  • Appetite is suddenly either ravenous (up to three-times normal) or absent. In cats the back legs may become weak and the gait may become stilted or wobbly (peripheral neuropathy). A quick test at this point can be done using urine keto/glucose strips (the same as used on the Atkins diet) with the animal. If the keto/glucose strips show glucose in the urine, diabetes is indicated. If a strip shows ketones in the urine, the animal should be brought to an emergency clinic right away. Testing can also be performed with a home glucose meter by obtaining a blood sample with a lancet via an ear prick or paw prick.
  • Owners should watch for noticeable thinning of the skin and apparent fragility: these are also serious and indicate that the animal is metabolizing (breaking down) its own body fat and muscle to survive.
  • Lethargy or limpness, and acetone-smelling breath are acute symptoms indicating likely ketoacidosis and/or dehydration and demand emergency care within hours.


Diabetes can be treated but is life-threatening if left alone. Early diagnosis and treatment by a qualified veterinarian can help, not only in preventing nerve damage, but in some cases, in cats, can even lead to remission.Cats usually seem to do best with long-lasting insulins and low carbohydrate diets.
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