You finally found the perfect cat! Sweet, tolerant, friendly, loving, impeccable litterbox habits, doesn’t scratch the furniture or jump on counters. Then you read the note on the front of the kennel: This cat is diabetic. Medical conference required.

What does that mean, diabetic cat? Is he in pain? Does he require medication? Will there be expensive vet bills? Will he die?

What is feline diabetes mellitus?

Like human diabetes, feline diabetes is the inability to produce enough insulin to balance blood sugar or glucose levels . Symptoms begin with increased thirst, increased urination, and sometimes a ravenous appetite. It is often found in obese cats, another reason to keep your cat at a healthy weight. Left untreated, diabetes can lead to weight loss, loss of appetite, vomiting , dehydration, severe depression, problems with motor function, coma, and even death.

How do I treat feline diabetes?

Though it’s unlikely to ever go away, feline diabetes can be managed through diet and medication. It can go into remission where only the special diet is necessary. Feline diabetes requires monitoring, so a close relationship with a vet who is current with the disease is essential. The most common drug used to treat it is insulin. To ensure kitty is getting his perfect dose, he will need tests and examinations every three to four months. Luckily you don’t need to test every day as with humans.

Insulin is given in injection form at regular intervals, usually twice a day, twelve hours apart. This means that you need to be ready for your life to revolve around this schedule. A diabetic cat is a lifelong, daily commitment. For some people, it’s not a problem; for others, it may be impossible. If you can’t commit absolutely to the regimen but want to adopt a special needs cat, there are plenty of others who require a less rigid agenda.

As to the shots, themselves, most cats are extremely easy to inject. The needle is small and they often don’t seem to feel it at all. Giving an injection to a cat is much easier than giving a pill or even eye medication.

How much does it cost to treat feline diabetes?

Both veterinarian and medication costs vary widely, for no good reason, so a little research will go a long way toward getting the most effective deal on diabetes treatment. I always suggest building a relationship with a single doctor or a small clinic as opposed to large chain clinics where you get a different doctor every time. You wouldn’t want a stranger treating you at each new appointment and neither does your cat. As to medication, search around. Some meds can be purchased much more inexpensively from another country, one without all the taxes we have in the USA. But if you go that direction, check a review site such a or to make sure you are dealing with a reputable company that will give you high quality medication. Most vets will be familiar with this process.

Will my cat die?

The prognosis for a diabetic cat hinges on how well their disease is controlled. The better the care, the less likelihood of an emergency situation. Infections,  peripheral nerve disorders, and other problems are possible, but again, better care produces a stronger cat. Many older diabetic cats live into their late teens.

For more information:

I am not a doctor, nor do I have training in cat medical health. This blogpost is intended merely as a jumping-off point when considering adopting a diabetic cat. There are many diabetic cats in the shelter system, and I’m hoping if more people learn what these cats need, it will be easier for the cats to find their forever homes.

* It’s always a good plan to consult your vet before adopting a special needs cat.

Following are a few diabetic cats we have here in Portland at the Oregon Humane Society right now. I know these cats personally, and they are all absolutely wonderful!



10 years 7 months

Meet Buttons! He is a sweet and loving boy who can’t wait to find his new best friend in life. Buttons is diabetic so he will need regular vet visits, a special diet and daily insulin. This little man is looking for a place to call his own and a companion to spend lots of time with. His handsome face and endearing personality will capture your heart and make you ask yourself how you ever lived without him. Is Button’s the feline friend you have been searching for?


9 years 1 month


Looking for a playful and affectionate feline? Joey is the friend for you! He loves receiving attention and gives head butts galore! He is diabetic so he will need to be indoors only with regular vet visits, on a special diet and insulin twice a day. You can’t go wrong with this sweet boy. He’s looking forward to some playtime, snuggles, and being showered with love in his new home. Get to know this handsome guy and you’ll soon be falling in love!


9 years 1 month

Did you stop in your tracks as you saw Charlie? Makes sense, as he is a handsome, distinguished, intelligent lad. Charlie is an independent boy looking for a good home and family to start his new life. He is diabetic so he will need regular vet visits, insulin and a special diet. He’s not a fan of being fussed with. He will do best in an adult only home. If you are willing to give him the time to become familiar with you and your routines, we think you will be more than happy with the outcome! He came to OHS through the Second Chance program from Benton Franklin Humane Society.



About Mollie Hunt

Loves cats. Writes books.
This entry was posted in Animal Shelters, Cat Health, Cats and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Johnny says:

    This is really great information. Thank you so much for sharing it Mollie 🙂

    • Mollie Hunt says:

      Thank you. I love it when people want to adopt a special needs cat, but it’s important for them to know what they’re getting into. Returning the cat because they didn’t realize the difficulties is so hard on the cat. A good relationship with a vet is vital.

  2. Allison says:

    Thank you for the clear explanation of what a diabetic cat means. We have a rescue cat that has been on a strict diet since we adopted her, partly because if she gains more weight she could become diabetic. I’ve also visited diabetic cats at our local no-kill shelter.

    PS We have friends who live near Portland!

    • Mollie Hunt says:

      Keeping a cat at a healthy weight is esential. Fat cats are cute but they run the risk of diseases and other problems related to weight, just like people.

      That’s nice that you visit cats.

  3. I have had two diabetic cats. You become an expert at giving injections!

  4. I suspected my last cat had diabetes but she died before we found out for sure. Like to see a blog about the symptoms for feline diabetes

  5. Valentine says:

    Thanks for that informative post, Miss Mollie. I don’t have diabetes, but Mom does. She doesn’t yet take insulin, but may have to soon. Mom and I make a good pair, ’cause we both have health issues.

    • Mollie Hunt says:

      Best of luck with your health issues. It sounds like you and Mom take good care of each other. At the shelter, I have seen diabetic cats adopted by diabetic people.

  6. mischiefmom says:

    Poor fur baby! It is wonderful you share this with the world. More people need to see animals have real issues just like we do and they deserved to be loved just the same ❤

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