7 Common Signs of Diabetes in Cats

7 Common Signs of Diabetes in Cats

Sensing there’s something wrong with your cat can be a scary feeling. Your lovable animal has suddenly started acting strange, but you have no idea why. Feline diabetes may be the cause.

While not a common disease in cats, feline diabetes can be found in even healthy-weight pets. Consult your veterinarian if you see any of the 7 common signs of diabetes in cats:

Increased Thirst and Urination

Due to glucose not being able to enter the cells, blood glucose levels (high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia) are raised. Kidneys filter out this extra glucose, which carries water with it, causing cats to lose more water during urination than normal. Because of this, your cat will drink more.

If you notice you need to refill your cat’s water bowl more frequently, or your cat seeks out alternate sources of water that he normally wouldn’t (trying to drink out of leaky faucets or toilets, for example), your cat could be diabetic.

Inappropriate Elimination

Because your kitty is going to the bathroom more, he may not make it to his litter box every time. Cats with diabetes also frequently develop urinary tract infections which can cause this symptom, as well.

It may be a sign of trouble if you notice stools outside the litter box where your cat normally was very clean.

Change in Appetite

Much like people who are sick, some cats lose their appetite when they are diabetic. Others become extremely hungry due to a nervous system reaction (their hypothalamus telling them they are hungry).

Because changes in appetite can result from a wide range of issues or illnesses, consult with your veterinarian if your cat is eating more or less than usual.

Weight Loss

Since a cat with diabetes cannot use the calories they ingest as energy, the cat’s body will break down body fat for that purpose.

Some weight fluctuation in cats is normal, especially if your cat is overweight and you have been actively working to bring that down, but dramatic weight loss is cause for concern.

Decreased Activity or Weakness

Because your cat can’t actually use the calories he’s consuming, he will have less energy. Cats may lose muscles mass and become lethargic and disinterested.

If your kitty seems to sleep more than usual, stops playing, or is more difficult to find because he’s hiding, call your veterinarian.

Change in Gait

Occasionally, cats with diabetes develop issues with their nervous systems. This can cause a disorder called “diabetic neuropathy” which is shown by your cat walking with his hocks (see below) touching the ground.

Because a change in gait could be a sign of many problems, including a minor injury, it is best to consult your veterinarian if you notice this issue.


If the disease is very severe and are at the point where their fat is being broken down to use for energy, they develop waste products called ketones. If there is a build up of this waste in the blood, you may find your cat nauseated and vomiting. This specific condition is called ketoacidosis, and is very serious. A cat in this condition needs intensive care, including intravenous fluids, insulin, medications to regulate potassium levels, and possibly antibiotics.

Though occasional vomiting in cats is not usually cause for concern, frequent vomiting or vomiting even though it has been hours since your cat last ate can mean your cat suffers from a dangerous condition.

Types of Feline Diabetes

Much like humans, cats can suffer from different types of diabetes.

Type 1 is an absolute insulin deficiency; the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin, leading to high blood sugar. This is the rarer form of feline diabetes.

Type 2 is more common, and is the result of the cat’s cells not responding to provided insulin. Again, the result is high blood sugar.

There is no test to distinguish the two types.

If My Cat Is Diagnosed, What Do I Do?

First, make sure your vet has provided you with the diagnosis. The symptoms listed above can also have other causes, so you don’t want to self-diagnose your cat with diabetes without checking with your vet.

If it is diabetes, just know that the disease is manageable and your cat can easily live a happy and full life with proper care!

Monitoring your cat’s blood sugar levels is critical, either through at-home or lab testing. You may be instructed by your vet to feed your cat on a more regular schedule to avoid blood sugar spikes, or you may have to learn how to give your cat insulin. Additionally, your vet may change your cat’s diet to a higher-protein, lower-carbohydrate food, which can help manage blood sugar levels.

Experienced Cat Health Management in Potomac, MD

In the end, the best thing you can do is talk to your vet and make a plan of action for yourself and your furry friend. You can trust the professionals at Falls Road Vet Clinic to work with you to help your kitty live his best life!

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