What Food is Best for a Cat With Diabetes?

What is Diabetic Cat Food?

Diabetic cat food is special pet food formulated for the needs of cats with diabetes mellitus.

There are two feline diabetes types – type 1 and type 2. In type 1 diabetes, the cat’s pancreas does not produce enough insulin, while in type 2 diabetes, the pancreas makes insulin, but the cells are unresponsive (insulin resistance).

Insulin is the hormone that allows sugar (glucose) to be taken by the cells and used. When insulin is malfunctioning, the result is hyperglycemia or high blood sugar levels. In cats, type 2 diabetes is much more common than type 1.

Diabetic cat food is an important part of diabetes management. Proper diet is combined with the mainstream treatment – insulin therapy, given once or twice a day, based on the cat’s needs.

What Makes Diabetic Cat Food Different?

Diabetic cat food is different on two levels.

First, diabetic cat food is low in carbohydrates, thus preventing unnecessary blood sugar spikes. Second, it has moderate calories, which helps with weight management – cats with diabetes are prone to weight gain and obesity. Interestingly, overweight cats are also more likely to develop diabetes in the first place.

Diabetic cat food is still rich in high-quality proteins, which cats, as obligate carnivores, need. If it contains grains or other carbohydrate sources, they are easily digestible and with low glycemic indexes (unlikely to increase the blood sugar levels).

Diabetic cat food contains all the necessary nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids, and other micronutrients) that the cat needs for optimal growth, maintenance, and performance.

Is Wet or Dry Food Better for Diabetic Cats?

Wet cat food is a much better option for diabetic cats.

Canned food does not affect blood glucose levels much as it has a lower carbohydrate content. Plus, compared to dry cat food, wet formulas are higher in moisture, thus supporting hydration.

Healthy hydration is vital for diabetic cats. Water helps prevent urinary tract infections – an issue that is very common in cats with diabetes.

However, not all wet cat foods are equally good for diabetic cats. For example, canned foods in pate style are better than pouches with a lot of gravy. This is because gravies tend to be high in sugars.

The Best Diabetic Cat Food Reviewed

There are many brands offering high-quality, low-carbohydrate diets for diabetic cats. Purina Pro Plan, Tiki Cat Food, Purina Fancy Feast, and Royal Canin are popular examples. To help cat owners find the best diabetic cat food, we have reviewed several formulas.

Forza10 Wet Diabetic Cat Food

Forza10 Wet Diabetic Cat Food

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Summary: This cat food is formulated with Icelandic wild-caught salmon that is sure to be a hit with your feline friend. Delicious natural extracts of dried kelp, orange peel, and chitosan are added to help support a healthy lifestyle. It is also our top pick as it shows results within seven days, as claimed by the brand. It does not require a prescription and can be purchased over-the-counter as it is vet recommended.

Type: Wet cat food

Best for: Adult cats & kittens

Price: $1.4/can

Pros

  • Supports insulin therapy
  • Contains omega-3 fatty acids for added benefits
  • Enriched with dried kelp, bitter orange, and chitosan
  • Offers anti-inflammatory and immune-supporting benefits
  • Vet recommended product

Cons

  • The taste might not suit some cats

Ingredient Analysis

  • Salmon: This is a great source of protein and also contains fatty acids, which offer anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Chicken: This is another great protein source and offers a tasty poultry flavor that cats love.
  • Chicken Liver: Liver contains several beneficial nutrients, including iron, that help build your cat’s body. It is also rich in protein.

Review: This diabetic cat food contains premium ingredients and offers exceptional benefits for diabetic cats.

Hill’s Prescription Diet Multi-Benefit Glucose Management Cat Food

Hill's Prescription Diet Multi-Benefit Glucose Management Cat Food

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Summary: This cat food offers clinical nutrition specially formulated to help manage glucose and weight and improve digestion in cats. It is manufactured in the USA using global ingredients that are developed by the brand’s nutritionists and veterinarians. This food also includes clinically proven antioxidants to help to boost your cat’s immune system. This can help your cat lead a more healthy and productive life.

Type: Dry cat food

Best for: Adult cats

Price: $7.5/pound

Pros

  • Helps manage multiple conditions
  • Supports urinary health and healthy digestion
  • Helps metabolize fat and maintain lean muscle
  • Optimal blend of soluble and insoluble fiber
  • Contains low calories for body weight control

Cons

  • Requires a veterinary prescription

Ingredient Analysis

  • Brewers Rice: This is a great source of healthy carbs and dietary fiber. Therefore, it improves digestion and the ability to absorb nutrients.
  • Corn Gluten Meal: This is a great fiber source and aids in digestion. It also adds volume to the food. It is, however not recommended by many vets.
  • Chicken Meal: This adds a great poultry flavor to the food and is sure to be a great hit with your cat.
  • Wheat Gluten: This can be a bit difficult to digest for many cats and could also lead to an allergic reaction.

Review: This is a great product that offers several health benefits. However, it does contain some ingredients that might not be beneficial for diabetic cats.

Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic Weight Management Dry Cat Food

Hill's Prescription Diet Metabolic Weight Management Dry Cat Food

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Summary: This product helps cats lose weight easily thanks to its specially formulated blend. It’s made in the USA with global ingredients you can trust. The product also helps promote a urinary environment that reduces the risk of developing struvite and calcium oxalate crystals. You need a prescription to obtain this product, and therefore it is best to consult your vet before giving this to your cat.

Type: Dry cat food

Best for: Adult cats

Price: $15/pound

Pros

  • Supports healthy weight loss
  • Activates your cat’s metabolism
  • Provides energy for active play
  • Contains a great flavor
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • The scent might not suit some cats

Ingredient Analysis

  • Chicken By-Product Meal: This adds a great poultry flavor to the food and is sure to be a great hit with your cat.
  • Brewers Rice: This is a great source of carbohydrates and fiber. Therefore, it improves digestion and the ability to absorb nutrients.
  • Corn Gluten Meal: This is a great fiber source and aids in digestion but is not recommended by many vets.

Review: This cat food offers several health benefits. However, you need a prescription to obtain this product.

Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein, Natural Mature Dry Cat Food

Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein, Natural Mature Dry Cat Food

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Summary: This cat food is inspired by the diet of a lynx, a wild cat. It offers a protein-rich, grain-free formula that contains more of the delicious meat that cats absolutely love. It is packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for immune system support and weight management. Additionally, balanced protein and carbohydrate levels provide your mature cat with the energy to stay active throughout the day.

Type: Dry cat food

Best for: Adult cats & seniors

Price: $6/pound

Pros

  • Helps build and maintain lean muscle mass
  • Made to meet the unique needs of a senior cat
  • Supports healthy weight and energy levels
  • Omega fatty acids to support skin and coat health
  • Supports immune system health

Cons

  • High in plant protein

Ingredient Analysis

  • Chicken Meal: This adds a great poultry flavor to the food and is sure to be a great hit with your cat.
  • Turkey Meal: This is another great source of flavor and protein. However, it is not recommended by many vets.
  • Tapioca Starch: This adds carbohydrates to the meal but might be a problem with diabetic cats.
  • Peas: This is a great source of plant protein and fiber that aids in digestion. However, it might not suit some cats.

Review: The product contains natural fiber and high-quality protein that supports ideal nutrient absorption in older cats.

Dr. Elsey’s Grain-Free Cat Food

Dr. Elsey's Grain-Free Cat Food

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Summary: Over 90% of protein used in this cat food is animal-based which promotes a healthy body mass and a satisfied appetite. It has a lower glycemic formula that delivers just 4% of energy from carbohydrates. Additionally, it helps prevent calcium oxalate crystals and bladder stones from being formed by improving urinary health. Finally, it offers a 100% grain, gluten, and filler-free formula full of vitamins and minerals like taurine and omega-3 fatty acids.

Type: Dry cat food

Best for: Adult cats

Price: $6.3/pound

Pros

  • Simple, high-quality ingredients
  • Grain-free cat food for a healthy and active lifestyle
  • Added vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients
  • Supports a healthy immune system
  • The first ingredient is real chicken

Cons

  • The packaging could have been better

Ingredient Analysis

  • Chicken: This is another great protein source and offers a tasty poultry flavor that cats love.
  • Dried Egg Product: This not only adds great flavor but is also a significant source of protein which is beneficial for cats.
  • Pork Protein Isolate: This adds a boost to the protein value of the overall product, in addition to adding a flavor profile to the meal.

Review: This cat food contains primary ingredients which offer the highest biological value of proteins to the meal. It is manufactured in the USA.

What Should I Look for in a Diabetic Cat Food?

The low carbohydrate content is the main consideration when looking for diabetic cat food. Here is a close look at the important factors to consider:

  • Low Carb to High Protein Ratio. If your cat eats food that is rich in carbs, it can lead to a sudden spike in blood sugar levels. This increases the demand for insulin which is exactly the opposite of what a diabetic cat needs. Foods with low carbohydrates negate this response and cats should be getting most of their calories from protein. Therefore look for foods that offer 50% of the calories from protein, 40% from fats, and 10% from carbohydrates. Carbohydrate levels are not often listed on pet food labels, but they are relatively easy to calculate.
  • Wet vs. Dry Options. Kibble usually contains more carbohydrates than wet food. Canned food contains low concentrations of carbs or no carbs at all. However, there are also some low-carb diets in dry form. If you are not sure whether to use dry or wet, talk to a nutritionist, or ask the vet to prescribe a veterinary diet.
  • Over-the-Counter vs. Prescription. Many low carbohydrate/high-protein foods are available over-the-counter. However, others are prescription diets and need to be approved by a vet.
  • Flavor and Texture. Since diabetic cats have several limitations to their foods, it is crucial that their food tastes good and that they look forward to what they have to eat. Canned foods are overall tasty and perfect for diabetic cats.

After choosing the best diabetic cat food, it is vital to pay attention to portion sizes. This is because managing the cat’s weight help with diabetes treatment.

Forza10 Wet Diabetic Cat Food
  • DIABETIC CAT FOOD - specially designed formula to help support therapy of insulin dependent diabetes in cats. Great choice for cat diabetic wet food
  • CAT FOOD FOR DIABETIC CATS - recipe based on salmon fish which contains omega-3 fatty acid for great overall health and helps control the glucose intake
  • NATURAL HEALTHY INGREDIENTS - wet cat food diabetic enriched with dried kelp, bitter orange, and chitosan for their anti-inflammatory and immune supporting benefits

What Ingredients Should Not be in a Diabetic Cat Food?

If you are to maintain your cat’s overall health and wellness, there are some ingredients that should be avoided:

  • Corn Meal and Carbohydrate Fillers. These are not just rich in carbs; they are also used to just add bulk to the cat food – totally not recommended.
  • Sugars. It is not difficult to explain why sugar is to be avoided for diabetic cats. Sugar is not a natural food for cats and will cause blood sugar spikes, thus harming diabetic cats.
  • Grains. Grains are difficult to digest for cats and can lead to several health problems. They also contain a significant amount of carbohydrates.
  • BHT, BHA, and Ethoxyquin. These are basically preservatives that are used in pet foods. They are not only difficult to digest, but they also have cancer-causing properties.
  • Meat Byproducts. These are secondary products made in addition to the principal product. Often, the source of the meat is not disclosed and can be harmful to your cat.
  • Alkaline Products. These are potentially harmful products that lead to urinary tract infections and kidney stones that can deteriorate your cat’s health.

How Often Should I Feed My Diabetic Cat?

Diabetic cats should be fed twice a day. Pet owners should give two meals daily and administer the insulin injection about 30 minutes after the meal.

Insulin injections are critical as the cat’s blood glucose levels will naturally spike following meals. The amount of insulin your cat needs depends on its weight and diabetes severity. The insulin dosage will be determined by your vet.

When managing diabetic cats, consistency is the key – they need to be given meals at the same time of the day, every day. If adding storebought or homemade treats to the diabetic cat’s diet, their calories need to be extracted from the daily food intake.