If you have a diabetic cat, their diet is very important.
Fortunately, you can help keep them healthy by choosing the best diabetic cat food.
In this article we take a look at what diabetes means for your kitty.
We can help you choose the right diabetic cat food for your precious pet.
All of these products were carefully and independently selected by the Happy Cat Site team. If you decide to make a purchase from one of the links marked by an asterisk, we may earn a small commission on that sale. This is at no extra cost to you.
Did you know that cats can get diabetes, just like humans?
Like for us, the most common type of feline diabetes is diabetes mellitus, also known as type 2 diabetes.
And just as is the case with us humans, many owners can manage cat diabetes successfully via a careful diet.
Of course, for any animal the ideal situation is to remain disease free.
But when a diabetic condition is properly managed, cats can enjoy a normal lifespan.
What causes feline diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of feline diabetes and occurs when the body does not use insulin properly.
This type was once called adult-onset diabetes, and diet and exercise play big factors in its onset.
Both genetic and environmental issues have a part to play in feline Type 2 diabetes.
The high prevalance of diabetes among Burmese cats suggests this breed has a genetic predisposition to the disease.
Environmental risk factors are:
- old age
- being male
- being neutered
- receiving some drug treatments
- physical inactivity
- and indoor confinement.
Sadly, as is the case with the incidence of Type 2 diabetes in humans, experts have also seen a worrying increase in Type 2 diabetes in felines.
In contrast, Type I diabetes (once called juvenile diabetes) is a result of the pancreas not producing enough insulin.
This type is the result of an autoimmune disease.
In both forms of diabetes, dangerously high blood glucose/sugar levels occur as a result of the body’s faulty response to insulin.
Managing cat diabetes
My own adorable black tabby cat was diagnosed with diabetes 5 years ago.
It was startling to hear that he had such a serious condition.
But with medication and a diet recommended by his vet, Fuzzy is now doing fine.
In fact he’s going strong at 12 ½ years old, and there’s no end in sight to his natural feline curiosity and enthusiasm for life.
If your cat is diagnosed with diabetes, you should know that there are things you can do to help manage her condition, including introducing diabetic cat food into her diet.
Choosing the best food for diabetic cats
Over 80% of diabetic cats are believed to have Type 2 diabetes, which requires both medication and nutritional management.
In many cases, changes in diet alone are an effective tool against diabetes.
Lots of cats do not require medication after switching to a low carbohydrate diet.
A diet high in carbohydrates increases blood glucose and insulin levels.
This increases the risk of both obesity and diabetes in cats.
This is why many experts view a low carbohydrate/low fiber/high-protein diet as potentially helpful in preventing or managing diabetes in cats.
So, do we have you wondering about the best cat food for diabetic cats? Good!
That’s because we’re going to review some of the best food for diabetic cat diets.
Before we look at some of the best best dry cat food for diabetic cats and wet food for diabetic cats, let’s take a closer look why they work.
Diabetic feline nutritional needs
Cats are obligate carnivores and their ancestors survived on a high protein diet with minimal carbohydrates.
In contrast, modern, manufactured cat foods commonly contain lower proportions of protein and increased amounts of carbohydrates. Why is this?
In a word, the simple answer is economics. Carbohydrates are a less expensive and easier-to-source ingredient than protein.
The result is a commercial cat food market filled with a variety of high carb/low protein foods.
We’re going to help you find a dry or canned food that is high in protein and low in carbs.
This type of diet minimizes blood sugar spikes after eating.
Portion control for diabetic cats
Another important part of feeding a diabetic cat is portion control.
Obesity is closely linked to diabetes, so maintaining a healthy weight is an excellent line of defence.
At your cat’s next check up, ask your vet what a healthy weight range is for their breed, sex and age.
You can also talk about an appropriate daily calorie intake based on these factors, your pet’s level of physical activity, and whether they go outdoors or not.
What should pet owners feed diabetic cats?
Several studies have shown that a low-carbohydrate, low fiber, high-protein diet improved insulin sensitivity in cats.
Other studies have shown that supplements such as taurine might belong on a diabetic cat food list.
Taurine is an amino acid which appears to improve the symptoms of diabetes, possibly by the way it supports cellular functions.
Always consult your vet when considering a change in diet for diabetic cats.
Our reviews include Royal Canin diabetic cat food, Purina diabetic cat food, and Hill’s diabetic cat food, as well as other specialized brands .
Ask your vets advice about which might be most suitable for your cat, and how to transition them over to it.
Dry food for diabetic cats
Dry diabetic cat food is more convenient, and in some cases more economical, than wet or canned food.
There are many reasons to provide a dry food to your cat, including the fact that some cats simply prefer it!
In addition, the dry bits have the ability to gently scrape away troublesome tartar and plaque from kitty teeth.
However, animal fats and proteins by themselves simply aren’t dry substances.
So to “dry them out” dry diabetic cat foods inevitably contain some carbohydrates.
In this respect, diabetic dry cat foods offer a diet lower in carbohydrate and fiber than mainstream products, but not exactly low by any objective standard.
They might be suitable for a cat with only the early signs of diabetes, or a cat losing weight to avoid diabetes.
Discuss this further with your vet.
Meanwhile, here are some great dry diabetic cat food choices.
Purina Veterinary Diets DM Dietetic Management Feline Formula Dry Cat Food
Protein is the majority ingredient in this well-known Purina Brand of high protein/low carb cat food*.
The special formulation lists taurine as a featured ingredient and it contains high levels of antioxidants.
As well as vitamins A, E and D-3.
It comes in a convenience-sized 6 pound bag or a heftier 10 pound bag.
Hills M/D Weight Loss Diabetic Cat Food
This Hills Diabetic cat food* with a low carbohydrate/high protein formula is designed to regulate the glucose levels of diabetic felines.
In addition, taurine is present to help control insulin levels while high arginine levels support insulin secretion.
This highly rated food also provides carnitine to address issues of lean body mass and body fat.
Hill’s Prescription Diet Feline Metabolic Advanced Weight Solution Dry Cat
This premium Hill’s Prescription Diet brand weight control cat food* is designed to get your cat back on track, or stay on track, with the ideal weight for his or her stage of life.
Blue Buffalo BLUE for Cats Mature Dry Cat Food
Mature cats don’t run and jump like they used to.
And inactivity, alongside old age, is a risk factor for diabetes.
This highly rated Blue Buffalo protein-rich recipe* for senior cats includes deboned chicken as well as whole grains.
It comes in 3 and 7 pound bags and has zero poultry by-product meal.
Best wet food for diabetic cat
For some cats with diabetes, only a wet diet provides low enough quantities of carbohydrate.
Another benefit of wet diabetic cat food is that it provides added moisture to your cat’s diet.
In fact the percentage of protein and fat in these meals looks very low – that’s because water accounts for so much of their contents!
Here are some good wet diabetic cat food brands you might like to try out.
Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Wet Cat Food, 2.8 oz tubs
From one of today’s top chefs, this Rachael Ray Nutrish natural cat food* boasts chicken or fish as the first ingredient, and is grain free.
Added vitamins and minerals promote a healthy body.
And you can be certain that there are no fillers included.
Reveal specialize in limited ingredient cat foods* – nothing more than meat (or fish) and a little broth.
Their recipes include tuna with anchovy and chicken breast.
Before you restrict your cat’s entire nutrient intake to just a very small number of ingredients, chat to your vet to make sure none of the vitamins or minerals they need will be missing.
Whilst this diet has the advantage of being completely transparent, it is also significantly more expensive than most mainstream pet foods.
Canned food for diabetic cats
Some wet diabetic cat food comes in packets or pouches. Others come in cans.
Limited ingredient diets and pates are usually high in protein and low in carbohydrates, so they make a good place to start.
Here are some top choices of canned diabetic cat food.
Instinct Limited Ingredient Pate
Instinct limited ingredient grain free pates* come in three flavors.
They are high in protein and fat, and supplemented with taurine, and other vitamins and minerals.
AvoDerm Natural Canned Wet Cat Food
This AvoDerm grain free tuna and chicken formulation* comes in packs of 24 cans, with your choice of 3, 5, or 5.5 ounce cans.
Protein is the number one ingredient, and added minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants are present to support optimal health and immune system function.
BLUE Freedom Grain Free Wet Cat Food
Is your kitty an indoor cat?
Some experts consider indoor confinement to be a possible risk factor for diabetes.
This top of the line Blue Freedom protein-packed formula* includes real chicken as well as natural fibers for optimal health and body weight.
It’s also grain free!
Halo Spot’s Pate Food for Cats
Made with real chicken, this Halo Spot’s canned natural food* is 100% grain free.
The high protein food is guaranteed to provide complete and balanced nutrition with no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors.
Cat treats for diabetic cats
Even diabetic cats deserve treats for good behavior.
These treats are bound to have your pet licking their lips, without undoing all of your careful carb-management at mealtimes.
BLUE Kitty Yums Healthy Soft-Moist Cat Treats
Blue Kitty Yums* are made from deboned turkey, with no poultry by-product meal, wheat or corn.
PureBites Beef Liver Freeze-Dried Treats for Cats
This one-ingredient PureBites cat food* is pure beef liver is freeze dried raw.
Including those that are diabetic, overweight, or are on a restricted diet.
Best diabetic cat food
So, what is the best diabetic cat food for your cat?
We need to remember to concentrate on what causes diabetes in cats.
Diabetes mellitus occurs when high blood sugar/glucose levels remain elevated due to the body’s insufficient response to insulin or a lack of insulin.
In other words, carbohydrate metabolism is a key factor behind diabetes.
A diet low in carbs reduces the amount of insulin needed while maintaining more even levels of blood sugar intensities.
In many cases, diet alone can be an effective tool against diabetes, with many cats not requiring medication after switching to a low carbohydrate diet.
You can also protect your kitty by mitigating against other risk factors such as obesity and inactivity.
Do you have a special food that your diabetic kitty loves?
If so, we’d to hear about it in the comments section below!
Affiliate link disclosure: Links in this article marked with an * are affiliate links, and we may receive a small commission if you purchase these products. However, we selected them for inclusion independently, and all of the views expressed in this article are our own.
Resources and further reading
Bennett, N., et al, Comparison of a low carbohydrate–low fiber diet and a moderate carbohydrate–high fiber diet in the management of feline diabetes mellitus, Journal of Feline Medicine & Surgery, 2006
Hansen, S. H., The role of taurine in diabetes and the development of diabetic complications, diabetes Metabolism Research and Reviews, 2001
Hoenig, M., Comparative aspects of diabetes mellitus in dogs and cats, Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, 2002
Leray, V., et al, Protein Intake Does Not Affect Insulin Sensitivity in Normal Weight Cats, The Journal of Nutrition, 2006
Martin, G., Current Understanding of Feline Diabetes: Part 2, Treatment, Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 2000
Rand, J.S., et al, Canine and Feline Diabetes Mellitus: Nature or Nurture?, The Journal of Nutrition, 2004
Slingerland, L.I., et al, Indoor confinement and physical inactivity rather than the proportion of dry food are risk factors in the development of feline type 2 diabetes mellitus, The Veterinary Journal, 2009
Zoran, D.L., The Role of Diet in the Prevention and Management of Feline Diabetes, Veterinary Clinics of North American Small Animal Practice, 2013
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