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What is Diabetes Mellitus?

diabetes-vialbloodDiabetes mellitus is a condition in which a cat’s pancreatic cells do not secrete enough insulin or the cat’s cells lose their ability to respond to insulin being present. Insulin helps move glucose (sugar) from a cat’s bloodstream into the cells. There are two types of diabetes mellitus:

  • Type 1 – This type is very uncommon and is due to a lack of insulin.
  • Type 2 – This is the most common type and generally occurs because a cat’s cells become resistant to the insulin being produced.

The number of cats diagnosed with diabetes appears to be increasing. The following factors could put your cat at risk for diabetes mellitus:

  • Obesity
  • Over 8 years old
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • High carbohydrate diet
  • Neutered male cats
  • Medications such as corticosteroids
  • Other conditions happening at the same time such as infection, hyperthyroidism, and/or renal issues

Signs & Symptoms

In cats many symptoms of diabetes can also be symptoms of other diseases, so it’s important to speak about all changes in behavior with your veterinarian. Symptoms of diabetes include:

  • High blood glucose levels
  • Increased drinking
  • Increased urination
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Weight loss
  • “Plantigrade” stance, which looks like your cat is walking on his/her rear hocks instead of toes.


  • If your veterinarian suspects your cat has diabetes mellitus, they will evaluate your cat’s history, run a physical exam, and analyze results of a blood test.
  • When they review the blood test, your veterinarian is looking for repeated abnormally high levels of blood glucose, referred to as hyperglycemia, and the presence of glucose in the urine, referred to as glycosuria.


If your cat is diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, you can increase your ability to successfully manage your cat’s needs by having regular communication with your veterinary team.

  • For most cats, insulin is at the center of the treatment plan your veterinarian will create.
  • There are several insulin formulations available for cats.
  • Most cats require twice daily injections. Many caregivers of cats with diabetes find that with practice they are able to administer the insulin to their cats quite easily.
  • Managing your cat’s diet is also very important. You and your veterinarian will need to discuss options and determine the diet that’s right for your cat.
  • Oral medicine is also an option, if you are unable to give your cat injections. One disadvantage of this treatment is that you have to give your cat a pill every day.


You will need to monitor your cat’s blood glucose level, especially with a newly diagnosed cat, to make sure changes are not needed in your cat’s treatment plan. You can monitor your cat’s glucose level right at home with:

  1. Blood glucometer
    Blood Test
    1. There are glucometers available for cats.
    2. It is very important to have the glucometer calibrated with the veterinary hospital’s blood chemistry analyzer or in-house glucometer to make sure readings are accurate.
    3. Your veterinarian can provide you with a blood glucose monitoring schedule. These results will then be reviewed with you and any needed treatment changes will be implemented at this time.
  2. Urine testing
    1. You can monitor your cat’s glucose or ketones in their urine by replacing the litter in their
      litter box with a non-absorbent litter.

    2. Then you can place the test strip or granules in the urine.
    3. If there is glucose and/or ketones present, there will be a distinct color change.
  3. Keep a body weight weekly log. If you choose this option, you should use a pediatric scale for the most accurate weight.
  4. Monitor appetite/drinking – You should assess such things as:
    1. Is your cat eating a normal amount?
    2. How is your cat drinking (more or less than usual)?
    3. Is your cat’s behavior normal?