Diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes) is a hormonal disorder in which the pancreas is not producing insulin properly. Insulin is necessary to metabolize glucose which is needed for cells of the body to function properly. A simple blood or urine test which measures the levels of glucose is sufficient to determine if the cat has diabetes.

There are two types of diabetes. Type I or insulin dependent diabetes is the most serious form and affects 50 – 70% of cats diagnosed with diabetes. This type of diabetes is caused by a failure of the pancreas to produce insulin. There is no cure for this disease. Thus insulin must be supplied through injection. Type II diabetes or noninsulin dependent diabetes is less serious than type I. The most common cause for this disease is through continually eating too many sugars (carbohydrates) over a long period of time. Thus this type is generally associated with older, overweight cats and can be controlled through weight loss, proper diet, and possible medication.

The two types are different but the results are the same. In Type 1 you have no insulin and in Type 2 you have too much insulin. In both cases you end up with blood sugar levels that are far too high. Both are very serious diseases which require medical attention and if left unchecked both can lead to kidney damage, blindness, coma, and death.

Symptoms to look for:

  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Neurological problems (trouble walking, balancing problems)
  • Excessive urination or thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea
  • Blindness
  • Kidney Damage


Depending on the type and severity of diabetes your cat may require a variety of different treatments including at-home monitoring of glucose levels, insulin injections, Glipizide, and/or dietary and lifestyle change. Your vet can teach you how to give insulin injections and give you a schedule of when your cat needs to be medicated, if she needs multiple injections per day. There are a variety of different insulins you can use including Humulin R, Humulin NPH, Humulin L, and PZI Insulin. Your vet will decide which one will work best for your cat.

Your cat may need to lose weight and may be put on a special diet. In the past cats have been put on a high-fiber, low-complex calorie diet. Latest finding show that although that works well in dogs, that diabetic cats do best on a high-protein, high-fat diet. Purina DM formula is one such brand (although you should not feed this food if your cat has associated kidney or liver problems). Your vet should be able to discuss any dietary changes that need to be made with you.

Your cat may need to be fed on a cycle only at certain times of the day, especially if she is getting multiple injections per day. Eating many smaller meals will assist your cat in keeping her glucose levels steady throughout the day and night.

For more information visit Feline Diabetes.

Precautionary measures:

Keep your cat healthy and at a normal weight. Feed your cat a vet approved diet which is high-fiber and low-calorie. And keep an eye on your cat for any changes in weight, especially weight increase.