Person checking a cat’s blood sugar

Key takeaway

Feline diabetes is a somewhat common medical condition in cats, especially overweight cats. Symptoms of feline diabetes include frequent urination, excessive thirst, weight loss, and weakness. If your cat is experiencing these symptoms, you should take them to the vet to start treatment as soon as possible.

Feline diabetes is a medical condition characterized by a poor insulin response or insulin resistance, which leads to high blood glucose levels. This can cause a wide range of symptoms in cats that may or may not be easily noticeable. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial when dealing with feline diabetes, so consider visiting a vet if your cat is showing symptoms.

As a pet parent, it’s important to recognize feline diabetes symptoms so you know when your cat needs a vet. Diabetes in cats can easily go unnoticed if you don’t know what to look for, especially if your cat spends a lot of time outside. If you want to keep your cat healthy, here are some of the symptoms of feline diabetes you should know about.

1. Polyuria (Frequent Urination)

Polyuria, which is a fancy name for frequent urination, is one of the most common feline diabetes symptoms. Polyuria in cats is actually characterized by an abnormally large volume of urine in a day. If your cat is urinating more than the normal expected amount for their weight, that’s a sign that something isn’t working right.1

The problem here is that it can be difficult for pet parents to determine if a cat is urinating more than usual. The key is to keep an eye on your cat’s litter box to check for an increase in urine clumps; an abnormal number of clumps can be a sign of polyuria in cats. 

2. Polydipsia (Excessive Thirst)

Polydipsia is another symptom that sounds a lot more complex than it actually is. Polydipsia is a medical term for excessive thirst, which is another common feline diabetes symptom. This excessive thirst occurs as a result of the increase in urination that often comes with diabetes. When your cat is expelling more urine, they need to take in more water to keep up.1

If you notice your cat’s water bowl is empty more than usual, that could be an early sign of diabetes. Keep in mind that excessive thirst can also be a symptom of other feline medical conditions, including hyperthyroidism and chronic kidney disease.

3. Weight Loss

Just like humans, cats have limits when it comes to weight loss. Healthy weight loss for a cat is 0.5% to 2% of their total weight per week. Anything over that is considered excessive weight loss, which is one of the symptoms of feline diabetes. If your cat is losing weight at a rate that isn’t healthy, you should talk to your vet.2

Your vet may recommend healthy weight loss as a part of your cat’s diabetes treatment, which means making changes to their diet. Healthy weight loss as a result of a modified diet is nothing to worry about.

Graphic listing feline diabetes symptoms

4. Weakness

In many cases, weakness is one of the feline diabetes symptoms your cat may experience. Over time, this weakness may affect the way your cat walks, causing them to walk flat on their back legs. If you notice changes in the way your cat walks, it might be a smart idea to take them to the vet.

In addition to weakness, you may also notice a bit of lethargy in cats with diabetes. Considering the long list of feline diabetes symptoms, it’s no surprise that cats with diabetes may feel a little drained.

5. Decreased Appetite

Feline diabetes mellitus symptoms can affect just about every part of your cat’s body, including the digestive system. Diabetes can lead to a medical condition known as gastroparesis, which is a medical term for food moving too slowly through the digestive system. This happens as a result of damaged nerves, and it can cause your cat to lose their appetite.3

The problem with a loss of appetite when your cat has diabetes is that they need to maintain a healthy blood sugar level. If your cat is skipping meals, their blood sugar may be abnormally low or high, which can lead to a wide range of complications.

6. Dehydration

While cats with diabetes may have excessive thirst, dehydration is one of the more common symptoms of feline diabetes. This is primarily a problem when cats go into a state of ketoacidosis, which can cause them to stop eating and drinking. If your cat isn’t eating and drinking, you should take them to the vet as soon as possible. Lethargy is especially apparent when your cat is dehydrated and experiencing ketoacidosis.

7. Vomiting

We talked about how varying blood glucose levels as a result of diabetes can affect many parts of your cat’s body. In many cases, cats who have diabetes may experience more frequent vomiting as a result of nausea. This is another common symptom of ketoacidosis, which is caused by a lack of insulin.

If your cat is vomiting, you should call your vet to get their advice. The feline diabetes symptoms your cat is experiencing can help your vet determine the right treatment plan.

Feline Diabetes Symptoms: Frequently Asked Questions

How can you tell if your cat has diabetes?

As a pet parent, it’s your job to know what feline diabetes symptoms to look out for and when to take your cat to the vet. If your cat has several of the symptoms we mentioned above, you should at least call your vet. Diabetes in cats will get worse over time if left untreated, so it’s important to get a diagnosis and start treatment as early as possible. Only your vet can determine whether your cat has diabetes and what the best treatment option is.

What happens to a cat with untreated diabetes?

The unfortunate truth is that diabetes in cats gets worse over time if you don’t do anything to treat it. If you leave feline diabetes untreated for long enough, it can become a life-threatening medical condition. Cats with untreated diabetes may experience weakness, malnutrition, and ketoacidosis, which can lead to death. If you think your cat has diabetes, you should take them to the vet for a diagnosis. Make sure you follow your vet’s recommendations when it comes to treating diabetes in cats.

What triggers diabetes in cats?

The biggest contributing factor for type 2 diabetes in cats is weight. Cats who are overweight are significantly more likely to develop type 2 diabetes as a result of increased hormone secretion. This can also happen if you feed your cat a diet that’s too high in carbohydrates.

Keep in mind that cats can also develop type 1 diabetes, which is a genetic form of diabetes that’s not caused by health and lifestyle factors. Type 2 diabetes is typically considered more manageable than type 1 diabetes, but you should talk to your vet about treatment options for diabetes either way.

What are the final stages of diabetes in cats?

In the early stages of diabetes in cats, you may notice symptoms such as frequent urination, increased thirst, and weight loss. As diabetes progresses, your cat may begin to lose more weight as a result of a loss of appetite, and you may notice your cat walking strangely due to weakness in their hind legs.

The final stage of diabetes is ketoacidosis that leads to decreased appetite, dehydration, and vomiting. These symptoms take a serious toll on your cat’s body, eventually causing it to break down if diabetes is left untreated. Your vet may recommend dietary changes, medication, and other treatments for diabetes in cats.

How long do diabetic cats live?

As long as you take your cat to the vet for a diagnosis and get started on treatment early, diabetic cats can live for a long time. It’s not unusual for cats with diabetes to live for years with the right treatment, so scheduling an appointment with your vet is an important first step. Your vet may recommend insulin, diet, exercise, and other treatment options for your cat.

Even without proper treatment, many cats live for several months before diabetes complications become too serious. As long as you get your cat to the vet and get started on feline diabetes treatment, your cat can live a long, healthy life with diabetes.

Human feeding a cat a pill

Final Notes

Recognizing feline diabetes symptoms can help you get your cat the treatment they need before it’s too late. If you notice your cat urinating and drinking more, losing weight, or walking flatly on their hind legs, consider calling your vet to schedule an appointment.

Diabetes is a serious medical condition, so getting your cat to the vet is important. With Dutch, you can connect with a vet in your area online, that way you don’t have to take time out of your busy day to visit the vet. Dutch can even work with pharmacies to deliver pet medication to your door. Try Dutch today and find out how simple pet care can be.

References

  1. Www.sciencedirect.com. https://www.sciencedirect.com/sdfe/pdf/download/eid/3-s2.0-B9780443066160500286/first-page-pdf

  2. Deborah E. Linder, DVM. “How Fast Is Too Fast for My Pet to Lose Weight?” Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School, 9 Oct. 2018, https://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2018/10/how-fast-is-too-fast-for-my-pet-to-lose-weight/.

  3. “Anorexia.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 22 May 2018, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/anorexia