Feline Diabetes

fat cat

More than half of all cats owned in the United States are obese and one in every 50 cats is diabetic. Every November, Americans give thanks on Thanksgiving and they also observe National Diabetes Month. According to Dr. Katherine Scott, lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), feline obesity is one of the most common reasons cats become diabetic. During this season of entertaining, remember to have healthy options for your cat too.

“Diabetes may occur in any age, breed, or gender of a cat, but we see this disorder most commonly in middle-aged to older cats,” Scott says.

Feline diabetes is very similar to type 2 diabetes in humans. Feline diabetes is a deficiency in the body’s ability to change glucose (sugar) into energy. Insulin is needed for glucose to be transferred from the blood to the cells. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body does not properly respond to insulin or is resistant to the effects of insulin and cannot move glucose into cells.

Scott explains that like type 2 diabetes in humans, there is almost always a predisposing factor enabling feline diabetes to occur.

“Feline obesity is one of the most common reasons cats become diabetic,” Scott says. “They can also become diabetic after receiving some types of medications like steroids or progesterone. Other diseases like pancreatitis, cancer, or an overactive thyroid might also be to blame.”

Scott indicates that there are signs owners can watch out for that are indicative of diabetes. The most common signs are an increase in water intake, urinating more often and in larger quantities, excessive appetite, and weight loss.

“If owners note a change in the size or amount of clumps in their cats’ litter boxes, or the water bowl is always empty, it is definitely a good reason to have them checked out by a veterinarian,” Scott explains.

If owners are dedicated and well-informed, feline diabetes is manageable for affected cats and their owners. Sometimes diabetes can be temporarily or permanently cured dependent upon how long diabetes was present in the cat.

Your veterinarian will help you with the best treatment plan for your cat. For standard therapy, Scott recommends giving your cat injections of glargine (insulin also given to people with type 2 diabetes) twice a day.

“Along with the insulin injections we also almost always switch cats to a low-carbohydrate diet known as the ‘catkins’ diet,” Scott says. “This diet sometimes alleviates the need for insulin injections.”

For more information on low-carbohydrate diets for cats see a recent pet talk titled Low Carb for Cats at  /news/pet-talk/low-carb-for-cats.

Scott adds, “Diabetes is a very manageable disease in cats that responds very well to therapy. However, it is a real commitment for owners of these cats. Owners have to learn to give insulin injections, make time to give these injections twice daily, and bring their cats in at least every 3-6 months for veterinary visits. Some owners even learn how to monitor their cats’ blood glucose levels at home using a glucometer, just like people do.”

The most important preventative measure owners can take to avoid the pitfalls of feline diabetes is to keep their cats healthy and slim.

“We can’t control some of the diseases our cats will get that will result in the development of diabetes, but owners have complete control over how many calories their cats can eat,” Scott states.

So during this time of Thanksgiving, show some gratitude toward your beloved cats by providing them with a healthy diet to ensure a healthy, happy life. In the meantime, it is important to stay informed and be cautious of your cat’s habits. If you suspect or have any questions about your cat and/or diabetes contact Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the CVM at 979-845-2351 or at .


Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

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