If your cat has been acting strangely, but you don’t know what’s exactly wrong with it, you should try taking it to the vet’s – it might have diabetes. Yes, that is possible and more probable than you might think.
But what to do when your cat is diagnosed with this condition? How to care for it? What food can it eat? Well, we answer those questions and more in this article as we go through a list of the best food for diabetic cats.
How do Cats get Diabetes?
Lots of people, even long-time cat owners, do not even think about the possibility of a cat getting diabetes. It might even seem strange to them – how is that possible if cats are meat-eaters and that’s most of what they eat? Well, sadly, it is possible and quite probable when it comes to house cats.
The exact cause of diabetes in cats is not known or well-researched, but it has been linked to a few different risk factors. Overweight and especially obese cats are more prone to getting diabetes. Age is also a factor, partly because older cats tend to be more overweight since their movement is limited and they can’t exercise as much as they did when they were younger. Feeding the cat with human sweets also increases the risk, since cats bodies are bad at processing carbohydrates.
Most commonly, the symptoms of diabetes in cats include lethargy, loss of appetite, and increase in thirst and urination as well as sticky urine. When left untreated, this condition can be troublesome or even deadly for your cat. However, some things can be done to make sure your diabetic cat lives a long and happy life regardless of its condition.
What to do if Your Cat has Diabetes?
When your cat gets diagnosed with diabetes, it might initially be a frightening and confusing experience. As we mentioned, most people aren’t even aware that cats can get diabetes, let alone what to do when it happens and how to treat it.
Well, we’re here to say that it’s not as scary as it initially might seem. There are ways and means to deal with it and to make your cat’s life as good as it was before the condition.
For starters, you will have to give your cat regular doses of insulin, the same as a human with diabetes would take. This means that you need to give your cat regular shots, so you should become well-acquainted with the correct process of doing that.
At first, you might need to take them to the vet to get the shots or have a person on hand to help you restrain your cat as you give them the shot, but in time and with practice you will be able to do it on your own. This also might make your cat initially hostile or unfriendly towards you, but they will ease up with time.
The other important thing that you need to do is feed your cat the right food. Since the body of a cat with diabetes can’t regular blood sugar levels on its own, feeding the cat fewer carbs is beneficial. Just make sure to lower the dose of insulin in this case – keeping the same dose while putting your cat on a low carb diet can cause low blood sugar, which is also dangerous.
What you need to feed your diabetic cat is food that is rich in proteins and fat while being low in carbs. Various kitten foods can provide this type of balance for your cats as can a lot of cat foods made specifically with diabetic cats in mind.
High fiber diets are an alternative to a high-protein, low carb diet. Having lots of fibers in a cat diet stops it from digesting glucose, and thus it doesn’t get into its bloodstream. This is also an effective diet for obese cats and will help them lose a lot of weight.
However, high fiber diets can have some drawbacks and can produce flatulence and more frequent pooping in cats, as well as diarrhea. Some cats might also refuse to eat fiber-rich foods, and that’s why the high-protein diet is far more popular.
Of course, before starting your cat on any of these diets, or some other diet you might have in mind, you should consult with your vet. Your cat might have extremely specific needs and not every diabetic cat is the same. You should also closely monitor your cat when it starts on the new diet and call the vet if something bad happens as a result.
The Eating Schedule for Diabetic Cats
Another thing you will have to do when starting your cat on a diet is to make a regular eating schedule for it and stick to it. Feeding your cat two or three times a day, at set times is the way to go – if you have been doing that, just keep at it. In this case, you should also give your cat insulin twice per day – once every twelve hours before it eats. You shouldn’t give your cat insulin at any other time since that might cause dangerously low blood sugar levels.
In case your cat doesn't eat when you want it to or is a picky eater, you should give it the injection straight after it finishes eating or during the meal.
Of course, if you are used to free-feeding your cat, and your pet is used to that as well, it might be hard to enforce a strict eating schedule like this. However, that is not as large of a problem as you might think since there is an alternative.
You can continue to feed your cat this way if your vet complies with it and it won’t be a huge problem. But, to accommodate that, you will have to adjust the schedule at which you administer the insulin shots to your cat. You will probably need to give your cat multiple smaller shots throughout the day instead of two large ones. Consult with your vet and figure out the details together.
Once you choose one of these two eating schedules for your cat, you should make sure to stick to it and avoid deviating from it. If you have to leave your cat with a friend or a family member for an extended period, make sure you drill the schedule into them, so they stick to it as well. Deviating from this can cause quite a bit of harm to your cat.
Finding the Right Food for a Diabetic Cat
Of course, putting your cat on a diabetic diet can only be done with the right cat food. Finding the right food for your diabetic cat is not as simple as might first appear. Picking just any cat food labeled as “made for diabetic cats” or something similar, is not the right thing to do.
So, to help you choose the right food for your troubled pet, here are some useful tips that you should follow.
Make Sure It’s High in Protein or Fiber
This depends on the diet you and your vet decide is the best for your cat. Either way, the food should either be high in protein and fat or high in fiber.
Now, when it comes to carbohydrate content, that’s where the two diets differ greatly. High fiber foods should contain plenty of complex carbohydrates to help your cat feel full. The reason this is good is because complex carbohydrates don’t dissolve quickly and are slowly introduced into the bloodstream, thus not causing any sugar spikes.
High protein and fat foods should have as little carbohydrates as possible to avoid fattening your cat, which could worsen its diabetes. Because of this, cat foods with a lot of sauce and gravy are something you should skip out on.
You should also make sure that the protein contained in the food is the type that a cat can process well. The protein contained in rice, for example, is not appropriate and you skip rice-based cat foods. Also, skip foods that use meat by-products instead of actual meat, read the labels carefully.
Get Low-Calorie Products
The cat food you get for your diabetic pet should be relatively low in caloric content when compared to regular cat food. Now, if your cat is extremely active this might not be necessary, but most cats that get diabetes in the first place also don’t get enough exercise.
Because of that, buying low-calorie food is necessary to avoid obesity in your cat, which would only make diabetes that much worse.
Buy Wet Food if You Can
Wet or fresh food usually has lower carbohydrate content than dry food. Of course, there are dry foods out there that will fit just fine, but if you’re in a bind, you’re more likely to pick the right thing if you go for wet food instead of dry pellets.
Fresh meat might be the best option for a cat on a low carb diet but that is not always the right choice, and you still have to prepare it properly. If you don’t have time, that is not always an option, sadly. But for prepackaged food, wet types are usually better.
Ensure that it Suits the Tastes of Your Cat
Of course, nothing of the above matters that much if your cat simply refuses to eat the food you bought for it. You should consider the taste of the food when purchasing and make sure it’s something your cat will like.
By that, we don’t mean you should taste test it – far from it, no. Just remember what kind of food your cat liked, what kind of flavor that probably has and find something similar, possibly from the same manufacturer.
You might need to buy a few different cat foods and try them out before you find one that your cat will love and eat readily. It can be a difficult process but stick with it instead of trying to force your cat to eat something it detests. Be patient, and your patience will pay off when your cat gets better.
The 5 Best Foods for Diabetic Cats
There are tons of different cat foods out there, and plenty of those not explicitly labeled as foods for diabetic cats can still be perfectly suited for them. Sometimes, they can be even better than prescription foods!
Here are some of the cat foods we consider to be the best foods for cats with diabetes
1. ORIJEN Dry Cat and Kitten Food
We have heard a lot of people praising this brand of cat food for general use, even with non-diabetic cats. Apparently, the taste is incredibly amicable to cats, and even the pickiest of eaters will quickly take to liking it. Once we tried it out, we saw that it was more than true – at least for the Canadian formula.
One of the reasons this food is great for diabetic cats is because it’s made to mimic the diet that cats would have in the wild. Wild cats ingest only around 2% carbohydrates, and this food is close to that, being 90% meat, fish, and eggs. It is also grain free, so it’s not likely that your cat will get allergic from this food.
However, the recent US version is different in some regards and not as good as the original, Canadian formula. It mostly comes down to the types of meat used – the original used higher quality meat. If you can, purchase the original.
Regardless of that, this is quite an expensive product so if you have a lot of cats to feed, don’t pick this as it will easily drain your wallet.
- This food is made to match the type of diet the cat would have in the wild, which includes low carb content.
- It is made with meat and contains no meat by-products.
- Most cats like the taste of this food, even pickier ones.
- This is exceptionally expensive cat food, more so than most competitors.
- The US version of this formula is markedly inferior to the Canadian one.
- It’s not wet food; it’s dry which is not ideal.
2. ROYAL CANIN Feline Glycobalance
Some of the ingredients in this food are what make it great for diabetic cats. It contains ingredients that help with weight loss and proteins and carbs that get released slowly into your cat’s bloodstream. This means that your pet won’t experience lethargy or hyperactivity as a result of spikes or crashes in blood sugar levels.
It also contains a lot of protein and a low amount of carbs, making it even better for diabetic cats on a diet that requires that. This food also comes at quite a decent price.
However, there are issues with it. It’s dry which is far from ideal, but it can be overlooked if the contents are great. Worse than that is the fact that it contains cereal which might cause allergies in some cats and is not well-suited for a diabetic diet.
The worst part of all, though, is the smell and taste of this food. Yes, cats won’t take an instant liking to it, for the most part. It smells quite medicinal, and most cats don’t like the taste of it one bit so be careful.
- The food is made so that there are no spikes or crashes in your pet’s blood sugar levels.
- It contains a lot of protein and a low amount of carbs.
- L-carnitine is included, and it helps your cat with weight loss.
- Sadly, this is dry food and not wet food.
- The food smells bad, and the taste doesn’t seem palatable to most cats.
- It contains cereals which might cause allergies.
3. Hill's Prescription Diet w/d
This food is quite a mixed bag. It contains some great features, like the low caloric content and all the different ingredients that help with weight loss. Carnitine promotes easier fat burning while high levels of fiber help your cat feel full instead of gorging itself on copious amounts of food.
Sadly, there are also a lot of issues with the contents of this food. While it is decently high in protein, that’s not quality protein. Most of it comes from rice and corn, which also includes more carbs that you would want. That sort of protein can’t be processed properly by feline digestive systems.
The taste does seem to be good, and most cats love it, but it might not be the best choice for a high protein diet.
In addition to that, this cat food is quite expensive, especially if ordered online, so be careful about that.
- This food helps immensely with fat loss due to high levels of carnitine.
- The caloric content of this food is extremely low compared to others
- High fiber levels will provide your cat with a feeling of fullness.
- The price of this food is quite high, especially online.
- This food contains rice and corn, two sources of protein that aren’t good for cats.
- The carb content is quite high, and this food can’t be used in a high protein diet.
4. Merrick Backcountry Grain Free Wet Cat Food
This food has a lot of real meat as its main ingredient, and the best variant is probably the one that contains mostly rabbit meat. It is rich in lean protein and incredibly good for a high-protein diet.In addition to that, this is wet food which is also good for a diabetic cat’s diet, and the price is quite affordable despite the high quality of the food.
There are some problems though, like the addition of gravy that is full of unnecessary carbs. However, you can probably separate that from the food pellets and serve them to your cat separately if you want to avoid feeding it the gravy.
Another issue is that this food contains plenty of different meats. Not a problem in general, but since some cats have allergies to specific meats, that might be an issue for some – be mindful, read the label.
Lastly, the taste is not something most cats will like, sadly. Still, it’s good quality cat food and good for cats with diabetes.
- It’s wet food instead of dry, which is beneficial for a diabetic cat.
- The prime ingredient is rabbit meat, and the food is rich in protein.
- You won’t be too hurt by the price.
- The food contains a lot of gravy which equals unnecessary carbs.
- The taste doesn’t seem to sit well with most cats.
- Contains a lot of different meats so might cause allergies.
5. Taste of the Wild Canned Cat Food
One thing that’s good about this cat food is that it is grain-free and lacks preservatives so it won’t cause any allergies and it is full of protein and fat with little carbs. This brand is focused on the food being as natural as possible. It’s also wet food, and that’s great for cats that have diabetes.
The taste is hit or miss – there aren’t a lot of taste options, and it might not be palatable to all cats. You will need to check with your pet to see if he will like this, there’s not much more you can do.
Another possible issue is that this cat food contains a lot of gravy, which is full of needless carbs. You can separate it from the meat, but that might make the taste even worse.
Lastly, this is extremely expensive cat food, so make sure your cat likes it fine before you buy a ton of it.
- This food is completely grain-free and won’t cause allergies.
- It contains a lot of proteins and fat with little carbs which is great for diabetic cats.
- This is wet food which is good for cats with diabetes.
- It contains a lot of gravy which is not good for diabetic cats.
- The taste might not be palatable to some cats, especially if you remove the gravy.
- Quite pricey for the amount of food on offer.
Those are, in our opinion, the best cat foods you could feed your pet if it happens to have diabetes. It is an unfortunate condition for your cat to have, but we’re sure that with these foods and the proper care it will still be able to have a nice and happy life at your side.
If you have anything to say, offer some feedback or just tell us what you liked about the article – sound off in the comment section below. You could also share the article if it was helpful since there are others out there struggling with the same problem.
We hope your cat stays well and we’ll catch you next time.
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