Feline Diabetes

There are two forms of diabetes: diabetes insipidus and diabetes mellitus.  Diabetes insipidus is a very rare disorder that results in failure to regulate body water content.  Cats usually get the more common type of diabetes, diabetes mellitus. This disease is seen on a fairly regular basis, usually in cats 5 years of age or older.  Simply put, diabetes mellitus is a failure of the pancreas to regulate blood sugar.

The pancreas is a small but vital organ that is located near the stomach.  It has two significant populations of cells. One group of cells produces the enzymes necessary for proper digestion.  The other group, called beta cells, produces the hormone called insulin.  

Types of Diabetes Mellitus

In cats, as in humans, two types of diabetes mellitus have been discovered.  Both types are similar in that there is a failure to regulate blood sugar, but the basic mechanisms of disease differ somewhat between the two groups.  

  1. Type I, or Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus, results from total or near-complete destruction of the beta cells. This is the most common type of feline diabetes.  As the name implies, cats with this type of diabetes require insulin injections to stabilize blood sugar.  
  2. Type II, or Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus, is different because some insulin-producing cells remain.  However, the amount produced is insufficient, there is a delayed response in secreting it, and the tissues of the cat’s body are relatively resistant to it.  These cats may sometimes be treated with diet and an oral drug that stimulates the remaining functional cells to produce or release insulin in an adequate amount to normalize blood sugar.  Alternatively, they may be treated with insulin. Cats with NIDDM may ultimately progress to total beta cell destruction and then require insulin injections.


  • Weight loss
  • Ravenous appetite
  • Increased water consumption
  • Increased urination

If your cat shows any of these symptoms, please call us for an appointment for an exam and lab work today.  Untreated diabetes can be fatal.