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Caring For Cats With Diabetes

Updated on August 21, 2015
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Cats are very unique type of pet with a very different type of dietary requirement than other pet. Cats are what are known as obligate carnivores, which means that it isn’t just better for them to get their proteins from meat - it is absolutely essential for their health.

In the wild, or in their natural state, cats feed exclusively on meat. They kill and consume everything from insects to small rodents, but they don’t eat things like grains, fruit on the ground or other plants as part of their diet. Cats may eat grass for other reasons, but it is not for nutritional content.

Today’s cat food is vastly different than the diet that cats eat in the wild. Pet food manufacturers include high levels of grains and plant proteins in all types of cat foods, especially the lower quality foods, that result in increased problems with weight gain, nutritional deficits and even cases of extreme obesity that are some of the leading causes for cats developing diabetes.

There are also genetic components to diabetes in cats, which is something that can be a greater risk factor when combined with a poor quality, plant protein based diet. While there may be many causes for your cats diabetes once diagnosed there are some lifestyle and treatment options that you can use at home to help your cat live a long and healthy life free from complications.


For some cats simply changing the diet may provide control with oral medication as a possibility as well. Generally overweight or obese cats will need to be on a specially designed diet to allow them to lose weight slowly and in a healthy way.

In most situations either a low-carbohydrate diet or a high fibre diet is recommended. More complex carbohydrates are used to help to stabilize blood sugar levels and avoid spikes and slumps. Generally wet or canned foods are recommended over dried foods both for weight loss as well as blood sugar regulation.

It is important to choose foods that use high quality animal proteins but are low in fat. Often canned foods are high in both proteins and fats that will prevent weight loss and may contribute to stress on the kidneys, a common issue with diabetes.


Weight loss for cats and keeping blood sugar level balanced is very similar to that for dogs or even for people. By encouraging your cat to exercise you will help his or her body to be more efficient and effective.

Laser light toys, time outside in a safe, fenced and secured area, playing with the family or even playing with a companion cat or dog are all great ways to get your cat more active.

Medications and Testing

As mentioned above cats with diabetes can often do very well with oral medications to help to manage blood glucose levels. Owners may have to complete routine blood tests using a monitor just like those for humans, which your vet can show you how to complete at home.

For more severe cases, which unfortunately is the most common case by the time diagnosis is obtained, insulin injections may be required. Again, these are not difficult to do as they are subcutaneous and can be done by the owner at home.

It is important to test as indicated by your vet and to provide the oral medication or the insulin injection on the schedule and with the dosage your vet prescribes.

A Final Note

Caring for a cat with diabetes also requires owners to watch for changes in behaviours that may indicate a build-up of ketones, a metabolic by-product, that can be harmful to your cat. Watch for issues such as excessive urination, changes in water consumption, vomiting, fatigue, weakness and going off food for more than one day.

If any of these issues are noted you should immediately contact your vet and bring your cat in for a full evaluation and blood work.

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