Diabetes is defined as the inability of the body to produce or properly use the hormone insulin. Insulin is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy or "fuel" in order for the body to function optimally. Improper levels of insulin can result in either hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels).

There are two forms of cat diabetes. The first form, known as Diabetes Mellitus or "sugar" diabetes, is the most common and is characterized by hyperglycemia.

Diabetes Mellitus has two forms as well, known as Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 cat diabetes mellitus is a result of a lack of insulin being produced by the pancreas. Type 2 cat diabetes mellitus occurs when the body's cells don't respond well to insulin. This form of cat diabetes is most prevalent among older, obese cats and strikes males more frequently than females. However, all breeds, sexes and ages of cats are susceptible to this disease.

The second form of cat diabetes is known as Diabetes Insipidus. Oddly enough, blood glucose levels are normal with this form of feline diabetes. This condition is believed to be caused by a defect in the pituitary gland or kidney as it is characterized by frequent urination and excessive thirst. It is usually accompanied by overall weakness, as well. The possible causes of cat diabetes are: genetics, diet, obesity, hormonal imbalances and medication.

Signs of Cat Diabetes:

Early Stages
  1. Excessive Urination (polyuria or PU - no pun intended)
  2. Excessive Thirst (polydipsia or PD)
  3. Increased Appetite
  4. Weight Loss
  5. Lethargy
  6. Weakness in Rear Legs (neuropathy)

Later Stages
  1. Poor Haircoat
  2. Liver Disease
  3. Secondary Bacterial Infections
  4. Ketoacidosis - (A dangerous condition in which body fat is broken down for energy resulting in an accumulation of ketones in the blood and urine, due to extremely high blood glucose levels along with an excessive lack of insulin. Symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, a fruity breath odor and rapid breathing.

While diabetes in cats, as in humans, is very serious and can lead to loss of sight, coma and/or death if left untreated; take heart. Daily monitoring, proper diet, appropriate veterinarian care, and insulin injections or oral medication will help you to regulate your cat's insulin level. Education and loving care will allow you and your pet to enjoy each other for many years to come.