Critter Culture
How to Deal With Feline Diabetes

How to Deal With Feline Diabetes

Critter Culture Staff



Feline diabetes is something that strikes fear in many cat owners. It's an intimidating thought, but not a death sentence. Understanding the condition is critical to your pet's care. Proper maintenance and monitoring allow your kitty to live a long and happy life.

If your cat has been diagnosed with diabetes, things could be a bit challenging at first. It's a new experience, so just relax. Be patient, and learn as you go along.


What is feline diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus, or feline diabetes, is diagnosed in about one out of every 50 cats. It's the failure to balance glucose, or blood sugar, levels caused by inadequate insulin performance in the body.

Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas. It allows sugar in the bloodstream to be used as energy. Without it, glucose levels won't be balanced. Diabetes occurs when insulin isn't produced enough or it's not used properly. If the condition isn't managed, it can be fatal.

cat lying on the floor Jérémy Stenuit / Getty Images


Risk factors for feline diabetes

old cat

Unfortunately, any cat can develop feline diabetes. Yet there are a few contributing factors that increase the likelihood. Males, especially those neutered, have a slightly higher chance of becoming diabetic. Obese animals, seniors, those with preexisting medical conditions, and cats on corticosteroids or other medications also carry an elevated risk.


The symptoms of feline diabetes

Feline diabetes demonstrates a number of signs and symptoms. The most frequent are increased thirst and drinking from odd places. Sticky urine, increased urination, and urinating outside the litter box or in other areas atypical for your cat are some other signs. They may also lose weight yet have an intense, insatiable appetite. Lethargy, weakness, inability to jump and decreased motivation are common, too. Plantigrade, a bizarre heel-walking gait, is another symptom you may observe.

cat drinking water from glass Angela Kotsell / Getty Images


What to expect at your vet visit

At your kitty's appointment, your vet will first examine your cat's medical history to find any contributing factors for feline diabetes. They'll then conduct a physical exam.

Testing blood and urine is also important since these are the defining indicators of a diabetic condition. Positive tests will indicate hyperglycemia or high levels of glucose in the blood. Results will also show glucose in the urine. Additionally, testing is done to rule out any other illnesses or diseases.

veterinarian looking at cat FatCamera / Getty Images


Treatment plan goals

If your little buddy is diagnosed with diabetes, your vet will devise a treatment plan. This is a personalized care regimen on a case-by-case basis, depending on your cat's particular situation. Factors such as current medication and other diseases all influence this course of action. And don't be surprised if your pet has to stay a few nights at the hospital for initial observation.

The goal of treatment is to stabilize and regulate blood glucose. This plan should relieve any associated pain, reduce weight, decrease diabetic symptoms, and improve your kitty's quality of life for many years to come.

Veterinarian giving advice to cat owner vm / Getty Images


Beginning treatment

Once your vet decides on a treatment plan, you'll first be taught procedural care and instructions. They'll also demonstrate medication administration and proper testing techniques.

Keeping a detailed log is something they'll fully recommend. Write down food and water intake versus urination frequency—record daily medication doses, administration times, and glucose level test results. Note any additional observations, no matter how trivial they may seem. Share this information with your vet during every wellness checkup.

woman taking notes while holding cat borchee / Getty Images


Proper diet and exercise

A diabetic kitty should achieve and maintain proper weight. Exercise is key to staying healthy, so spend quality playtime with your pal and their favorite toys. A low-carb diet high in protein is also important. Your vet will help you decide the best nutritional action plan, including food types and how often your cat should eat.

woman playing with her cat Moyo Studio / Getty Images


Insulin injections

There are a number of insulin types on the market: your vet will recommend your cat's best options for insulin therapy. You may also have to try a few different products to see which is the better choice for your furry friend.

For owners who are new to diabetes, the most frightening part is often administering insulin. You'll usually have to give shots twice a day. Keep your cool and take your time. Once you get the hang of it, it'll take just a few seconds, and your buddy won't feel a thing. Soon, administering injections will become routine.

A veterinarian giving a tabby cat an insulin injection pyotr021 / Getty Images


Monitoring and adjusting

Getting into the groove of proper insulin administration may take a while. Doses should be closely observed to see if there needs to be an increase or decrease. At first, you'll be contacting your vet more than usual to get things under control: communication is vital. They will figure out the necessary adjustments, and once you're headed down the right path, expect to have wellness checkups three or four times per year.

Continue to monitor your cat once everything is managed, but don't be surprised when something changes. If any behavioral or physical differences occur, notify your vet immediately. They'll likely have to make additional adjustments to the insulin therapy or reevaluate your kitty's diet.

woman texting with her cat on a sofa filadendron / Getty Images


The potential for remission

Don't hold out hope for remission, but there's a chance it can happen. When a cat is taken off certain medications, loses weight, and sticks to a diabetic diet, it's not uncommon for feline diabetes to go away. If it does, it's important to continue monitoring your kitty in the event the condition returns.

cat on a person's lap Evrymmnt / Getty Images


What Is Cushing's Disease in Dogs?

What Is Cushing's Disease in Dogs?

Get your paws on the latest animal news and information