Signs That Your Cat May Have Diabetes


You can tell there's something not quite right with your beloved cat. Maybe your pet has started drinking from the water bowl faster than you can keep it refilled. Maybe your formerly active kitty is lounging lazily around the house looking slightly dazed.

The truth is that there are several causes for behavioral changes in cats, and symptoms like this signal that it's time for a thorough vet exam. But one of the most likely causes for behavior changes that include drinking excess water and losing energy is diabetes mellitus, a condition that affects the body's ability to produce insulin and process glucose. In fact, diabetes impacts as many as 1 percent of all cats in the U.S.—which means that more than 700,000 kitties suffer from the symptoms.

Cats most likely to develop diabetes are older and overweight. Males tend to get diabetes more than females do, and the Burmese breed seems to be more susceptible. However, any breed or type of cat can get the disease, so don't rule out diabetes just because you have a young, female, mixed-breed pet.

What signs indicate that your cat has diabetes?

As with people who have diabetes, the symptoms can be varied. In addition to excessive thirst and decreased activity, signs may include:

  • Weight loss.
    Because cats with diabetes cannot process glucose properly, their cells aren't getting the nutrition they need. To make up for the loss, the body breaks down fat and muscle tissue, leading to a noticeably skinnier pet.
  • Change in litterbox habits.
    If you were drinking that much water, you might have trouble making it to the bathroom, and your cat is no different. If you've noticed your kitty urinating in inappropriate places, diabetes could be the cause. And, if your cat is defecating outside the box or not covering bowel movements like usual, that can also indicate poor health.
  • Appetite swings.
    Some cats stop eating much because they don't feel right, while others will suddenly be willing to eat everything in sight. It's not unheard of for the same animal to experience both at different times. This happens as the body tries to adjust to the inability to process glucose and extract proper nutrients from the diet.
  • Vomiting.
    If your cat begins vomiting, it can be a sign of waste building up in the body. This happens when the body begins breaking down fat for energy; the by-products can't be eliminated fast enough.
  • Unsteadiness or odd walking.
    Diabetes can affect the nervous system and cause changes in how your cat moves. Called diabetic neuropathy, this can sometimes manifest in your cat walking flat footed—almost like he or she was about to sit down.
  • Overall ill health.
    Your cat's formerly glossy coat and bright eyes may get dull, and you may observe your cat have trouble fighting off a minor illness or infection.

Your cat may have a couple or most of these symptoms. Some of the effects, like diabetic neuropathy, only occur after your cat has had the disease for some time. That's why it's important to see your vet at the first indication of a problem—you'll reduce the permanent damage that diabetes can do to the body by diagnosing it as soon as possible.

"Excessive thirst and decreased activity aren't the only signs of feline diabetes." TWEET THIS

The Good News

Your cat can be treated with insulin, just like humans with diabetes take to lead productive lives. If your cat has Type II diabetes and is diagnosed early, you may be able to use an oral medication to control the symptoms. If not, your vet will teach you how to administer injectable insulin so your cat can properly process glucose and live comfortably.

If you have questions about the signs of diabetes and whether your cat may be afflicted, please contact us as soon as possible.