When Randy Frostig took his cat, Bill, to the veterinarian
six years ago, he was seriously worried. “He was lethargic and he wasn’t
eating, and his urine was sticking to his paws,” Frostig recalls.
The diagnosis -- diabetes -- surprised Frostig.
“I didn’t even know that a cat could have diabetes. I didn’t know what it
meant,” he says. He was concerned about having to give his cat regular shots of insulin, and how the
disease might affect his pet’s life.
In reality, a diagnosis of feline diabetes is not a death sentence, and
caring for a cat with the disease is far easier than Frostig had
“Giving him insulin is like brushing your teeth. It’s no big deal,” he says.
Thanks to regular doses of insulin and a special diet, the gray tabby started
acting more like his old self. “He was running around, and he gained his
Why Do Cats Get Diabetes?
Cats aren’t so different from people when it comes to diabetes.
The disease affects insulin -- a hormone that helps the body move sugar
(glucose) from the bloodstream into the cells. Feline diabetes tends to more
closely resemble type 2 diabetes in humans, in which the body makes insulin but
becomes less sensitive to the hormone. Sugar builds up in the bloodstream,
leading to symptoms like increased urination and thirst. If it’s left
untreated, eventually diabetes can lead to life-threatening complications.
Although the exact cause of feline diabetes isn’t known, it’s more likely to
affect overweight cats, because obesity makes the cat’s body
less sensitive to the effects of insulin. Diabetes is also more common in older
Diseases like chronic pancreatitis and hyperthyroidism, as well as
medications such as corticosteroids, may also make cats more prone to develop
Will I Need to Start a Special Diet for a Diabetic Cat?
Cats are, by nature, meat eaters. Because they’ve evolved from the hunt to
the food bowl, it’s now their owners’ job to ensure that their diet includes a
lot of protein.
Also, cats’ bodies aren’t as good as people’s at breaking down
carbohydrates, says Richard W. Nelson, DVM, DACVIM, professor of internal
medicine at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary
This is especially true for diabetic cats. “The ideal diet for a diabetic
cat is one that has increased protein and decreased carbohydrate content,”
Most canned cat foods are already high in protein and low in carbs.
But many dry cat foods are made with starch, which makes them higher in
carbohydrates. Your vet may suggest that you switch to a specially formulated
cat food or an all canned-food
As you watch the type of food you give your cat, you’ll also need to keep an
eye on her weight.