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Can Cats Smell Diabetes? Vet-Verified Facts & FAQ

Written by: Lorre Luther

Last Updated on May 10, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

young man and brown tabby cat smell or looking each other

Can Cats Smell Diabetes? Vet-Verified Facts & FAQ

VET APPROVED

Dr. Alice Athow-Frost Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Alice Athow-Frost

Veterinarian, BVM BVS MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Diabetes is a disease in which an individual’s blood sugar levels become too high. There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the pancreas doesn’t produce sufficient insulin, while in type 2 diabetes the body doesn’t respond to the insulin appropriately.

People with both types of diabetes can end up with dangerously low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) and dangerously high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). But can cats sense extremely low or extremely high blood sugar? While scientists haven’t studied the question much, there’s a fair bit of anecdotal evidence suggesting that some cats sense low sugar levels in their owners and even let their humans know when something is off.

There are stories of cats that have woken sleeping people to warn them their blood sugar levels were too low and have even gone for help when their efforts weren’t successful.1 Several cats have been seen to do all they can to ensure their humans stay happy and healthy by letting them know when something is going wrong.

 

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How Do Cats Sense Low Blood Sugar?

Cats may pick up on physical signs of hypoglycemia, such as crankiness and fatigue, and some suggest that cats’ fantastic noses may also play a role in helping them identify low blood sugar in people.

The feline sense of smell is utterly astonishing and puts human olfactory abilities to shame. Cats may have as many as 200 million scent receptors!

Cats’ anatomy also contributes to their super abilities when it comes to scent detection, as they have two organs dedicated to the task — noses and Jacobson’s organs.

Cats’ noses mostly pick up regular smells, and their Jacobson’s organs are largely dedicated to detecting odorless pheromones that provide information about their health and reproductive availability. They’re also called vomeronasal organs, and they’re located in cats’ mouths behind their upper front teeth.

nose and mouth and whisker of a cat close-up
Image Credit: Photographerivanov, Shutterstock

Are There Other Conditions Cats Sometimes Pick Up On?

Some suggest that cats may also be able to recognize high blood sugar levels in people and warn them of oncoming seizures. There are also stories of cats detecting cancer and undiagnosed diabetes.

Can Cats Work as Service Animals?

No. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the federal law that governs service animals in the United States, and according to its provisions, only dogs and miniature horses can be considered service animals. Cats, however, frequently work as emotional support and therapy animals.

Emotional support animals help individuals on a one-on-one basis and aren’t required to undergo training. Therapy cats receive training and provide emotional support in settings like schools and nursing homes.

One cat who started life in a feral colony helps calm down visitors as part of San Francisco International Airport’s “Wag Brigade.” Therapy cats are also regularly found visiting patients in hospitals and participating in school programs.

young-woman-holding-cute-siberian-cat-with-green-eyes
Image Credit: evrymmnt, Shutterstock

 

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Conclusion

While there’s not much scientific evidence addressing the question of whether cats can smell low blood sugar in diabetics, there are plenty of pet parents who swear their pets make fantastic diabetic-alert cats.

Several reports of cats detecting low blood sugar levels in people and letting them know show that cats possess skills that haven’t been fully utilized. Cats have woken sleeping diabetics who were on the verge of becoming hypoglycemic, and they’ve gone as far as to enlist help when they haven’t been able to wake loved ones with low blood sugar levels.


Featured Image Credit: Magui RF, Shutterstock

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