Symptoms Of Diabetes In Cats

Have you noticed any of these symptoms in your cat?

  • Excessive hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination

If so, it’s possible that your cat has diabetes. Here’s why you’re seeing the symptoms mentioned above.

All cells in the body require energy to survive. Primarily this energy comes from glucose, which comes from the food we eat. Food is broken down and the resulting glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream the glucose is taken around the body to the cells for energy. (Some glucose might be stored for emergencies in fat or muscle – more on that later.)

diabetic cats Paris and Tatty, doing their favourite thing!

A hormone called “insulin” allows the glucose to move from the bloodstream and into the cells. Think of insulin as the doorman that opens the cells and lets the glucose in.

In diabetes there is either no insulin, or not enough of it. Without insulin, glucose can’t get from the bloodstream into the body cells – the friendly doorman isn’t there to open the cells for the glucose. Because the cells are deprived of glucose, the body thinks it’s being starved. Large quantities of food are eaten, to try and feed these starving cells. Remember that glucose being stored in fat or muscle for emergencies? It’s released now and floods the bloodstream to try and feed the cells.

So more glucose enters the bloodstream but still it cannot get into the cells without insulin to “open” the cells. And on it goes. Glucose levels in the bloodstream get higher and higher, but without insulin allowing the glucose to pass from the bloodstream into the cells it’s got nowhere to go. As the cells are still starved of sugar, even more muscle and fat are burned to try and “feed” them, hence the ravenous appetite and weight loss.

As glucose is the stuff of life it is considered valuable and normally the body goes to great lengths to keep it. The kidneys possess a natural barrier to prevent the loss of glucose in urine. But all that extra sugar in the bloodstream has got to go somewhere. Because of the excessive levels sugar in the bloodstream, this kidney barrier is overwhelmed and sugar spills into the urine. For this spilled sugar to be excreted out in the right consistency, it needs to be in liquid form, so large quantities of water are pulled into the bladder, creating large volumes urine. To meet this demand your cat will be drinking almost constantly.

All this creates the classic diabetes symptoms:

  • Excessive hunger (Polyphagia)
  • Weight loss (from burning fat and muscle to try and feed the cells)
  • Excessive thirst (Polydipsia)
  • Excessive urination (Polyuria)

Why did my cat Become Diabetic?

Nobody knows for sure what causes the diabetes, although there may be many contributory factors. Genetics is said to be one, obesity is another.

Sometimes pregnancy leads to gestational diabetes. Certain steroids can cause diabetes, and other diseases can lead to it too - for example haemochromatosis, pancreatitis or Cushing’s disease.

On the whole, male cats are supposed to be more prone to diabetes than females, and it’s normally older cats who develop it.

However, as I’ve come into contact with other owners of diabetic cats it’s become extremely clear that cats have never read the “Diabetes Rule Book”!

In my cats, Paris, whilst male, has never been overweight. Tatty, although a little rounder than she should be, is female. I know of cats who developed diabetes at a very early age, and cats who’ve shown no symptoms at all - or hidden the symptoms from their owners very well!

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