The signs your cat has diabetes – What you need to know

The rise of feline diabetes is an issue all pet parents need to be paying attention to.  

Diabetes is when a cat’s blood sugar levels are too high because their pancreas isn’t producing enough of the hormone insulin, or their body isn’t able to use it properly.  

Insulin helps absorb glucose (sugar) from food into the bloodstream, transporting it to a cat’s cells for them to use as energy.    

An inadequate amount of insulin and these cells are starved of this energy, leading to diabetic symptoms that will gradually develop over time.   

If treatment for diabetes is not carried out at an early stage, your cat could become extremely poorly.  

The main signs your cat has diabetes - What to look for

  • Fluctuations in appetite. Cats that are craving food, even after they have been fed, may actually be craving medical attention. Felines with diabetes tend to show signs of hunger because their bodies are not converting the food they eat into energy. This lack of energy can cause an increase in appetite. However, it can also cause some cats to lose their appetite, especially if the diabetes goes undiagnosed for a significant length of time.
  • Weight loss. Diabetes affects the way a body utilizes sugar. In response, it will begin looking for alternative sources of fuel, choosing to break down protein and fat reserves instead. Cats aren’t exactly the biggest of animals, so as these reserves become exhausted, their weight may begin to plummet. Weight loss is linked to a number of health conditions, which is why we recommend regularly weighing your feline to ensure they’re maintaining a healthy size.
  • Frequent urination. This is one of the first signs of diabetes pet parents tend to notice. High blood sugar levels can overwhelm the ability of the kidney to filter glucose, meaning the excess sugar ends up in the urine, pulling extra water along in the process. Healthy cats tend to urinate between two and four times a day, so pay regular attention to their litter box, and check for ‘accidents’ around the house.
  • Excessive drinking (or evidence of an increased thirst). Abnormal thirst will often go hand in hand with frequent urination, and is definitely another diabetes red flag. If you’ve noticed you’re filling up their water bowl a lot more than usual recently, it may be time to contact your vet.
  • Low energy. Frequent urination combined with abnormal thirst is a recipe for dehydration, and with it extreme tiredness. Your cat may not be the most active of pets – a common feline characteristic – but if they’re sleeping longer than usual, and no longer showing an interest in playing or jumping on furniture, you should seriously consider taking them for a check-up.
  • Condition of their fur. Diabetes can cause a cat’s usually pristine coat to turn dull and oily. They may even develop flakes or dandruff. Obviously there’s a number of reasons why a feline’s fur may suddenly lose its luster, so check for other symptoms before jumping to any conclusions.

When to get veterinary help

Our cats mean the world to us, and so it can be tempting to pick up the phone to the vet every single time we think something is even slightly amiss.  

Not every diabetes symptom means the worst possible diagnosis though.  

A dull or matted coat, for instance, could be the result of fleas. Or their recent lethargy may be down to a lack of sleep, or stress brought on by a change in routine.  

We’re not for one second saying these symptoms may not require medical intervention, but it’s sometimes worth spending a day or two trying to get to the root cause of the issue before taking a trip to the vets. 

With an illness such as diabetes, we do recommend erring on the side of caution if you believe your cat is symptomatic. Symptoms such as weight loss or a decreased appetite, especially when combined with frequent urination, are big red flags and even if diabetes isn’t the cause, there may be another underlying condition that is seriously affecting the quality of your cat’s life.  

Can diabetes be cured?

Starting diabetes treatment early can prevent months of pain and suffering.  

While diabetes is an illness that can be controlled – through insulin injections, changes to diet, medication – it is not generally a condition that can be cured. 

So, even if your cat goes into remission, regular check-ups will still need to be performed, and you will need to be extra vigilant in watching out for symptoms.  

All that being said, there is no reason why your feline shouldn’t go on to live a happy and healthy life for many years to come.  

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