Nearly 10% of the American population has diabetes, and an estimated 24% are undiagnosed. Diabetes is one of the most common chronic illnesses in the United States, and it goes hand-in-hand with another serious condition – obesity.


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Even if you don’t know the details, you’re undoubtedly familiar with diabetes in humans, but did you know that it can affect cats as well? Feline diabetes is an endocrine disorder in which the pancreas fails to produce enough of the hormone insulin. The result is chronically high blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and a whole host of related symptoms.

Diabetes in cats is a very serious condition, but it is also very manageable.

You’ll need to follow your veterinarian’s advice in terms of treatment, but there are also things you can do at home to better manage your cat’s condition. Choosing a cat food uniquely formulated for diabetic cats is one of those things. Keep reading to learn more about diabetes in cats and to see our top picks for the best cat food for diabetic cats.

What Do You Need to Know About Diabetes in Cats?

When it comes to diabetes in cats, there are two primary types: Type I and Type II. The treatment for both types is similar, but it is still a good idea to understand the condition from all angles so you can better care for your diabetic cat.

Type I diabetes is more commonly seen in dogs than in cats, and it is a condition in which the pancreas fails to produce insulin entirely. This condition requires lifelong treatment with supplemental insulin. Type II diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces insulin but in insufficient amounts. This condition is typically related to obesity in cats and can often be resolved with weight loss, dietary changes, and short-term insulin therapy.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of diabetes in cats:

  • Signs of excessive urination (such as larger clumps of urine in the litter box)
  • Increased water consumption
  • Diluted urine (evidenced by less urine smell in the litter box)
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Muscle wasting along the back
  • Acting hungrier than usual
  • Lethargy or low energy
  • Walking lower to the ground (evidence of diabetic neuropathy)
  • Weight loss despite increased appetite

Diabetes is sometimes difficult to diagnose in cats because the symptoms may be subtle. The two biggest signs to look for are increased thirst/water consumption and weight loss despite increased appetite. When the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin, the cells in your cat’s body are unable to absorb glucose (energy) from the bloodstream. Instead, they turn to an alternative source of energy – your cat’s muscles and stored fat.

If you notice symptoms of diabetes in your cat, consult your veterinarian. It’s a good idea to track your cat’s symptoms for a week or so before your appointment so you can provide your vet with as much information as possible. He’ll still perform lab tests to check the glucose concentration in your cat’s blood and urine, but clinical signs are useful in making an accurate diagnosis as well.

Tips for Managing Your Cat’s Diabetes

Once your cat’s condition has been diagnosed, you and your vet will work together to come up with a cat diabetes treatment plan. The goal of treatment for feline diabetes is to restore normal blood glucose levels, to restore the cat to a healthy body weight (some cats will need to gain, others to lose weight), and to normalize the cat’s appetite and water consumption.

When it comes to diabetes in cats, treatment options can be broken down into two categories:

  1. Insulin therapy
  2. Dietary management

Insulin therapy involves injecting insulin into your cat’s body to help prevent sudden spikes or drops in blood sugar. At first, your veterinarian may recommend a 12-to-24-hour glucose curve – a period of time during which insulin is administered intermittently while measuring the cat’s blood glucose levels. This test is designed to determine the type of insulin the cat needs and the dosing frequency to best control his blood sugar.

Supplemental insulin will help your cat’s body utilize the glucose he gets from his diet, but there are certain dietary changes you should make to help keep your cat’s blood sugar stable. Restricting your cat’s intake of dietary carbohydrates is a good idea, and you may need to increase his protein and fat intake if he needs to gain weight.

In addition to changing what you feed your diabetic cat, you may need to alter how much and how often you feed him as well. Most veterinarians recommend several small meals throughout the day to maintain stable blood sugar. When it comes to the timing of meals, vets have differing opinions. Some suggest that feeding at the time of insulin injection may prevent a drop in blood glucose, though there is no solid evidence that the timing of meals can actually protect against hypoglycemia.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for feline diabetes, but it can be managed with insulin therapy and dietary changes. Some cats lose the need for insulin therapy over time, but it is still a good idea to keep the cat on a low carb cat food diet to ensure stable blood sugar levels.

What to Look for in a Cat Food for Diabetic Cats

The fact that your cat has diabetes doesn’t change his basic nutritional requirements. Cats are obligate carnivores, so they have an evolutionary need for protein in their diets. Generally speaking, cats are designed to consume a diet low in carbohydrates as well, though most commercial cat foods contain more than enough to meet your cat’s needs for fiber and nutrients.

So, what should you look for in a cat food for diabetic cats? Here are some ideas:

  • High-quality animal protein (ideally 50% or more)
  • Moderate protein from healthy, animal-based sources
  • Minimal carbohydrates (no more than 10%) from digestible sources
  • Rich in moisture (at least 70% by weight)
  • Complete and balanced in terms of nutrition

For the most part, the best cat food for diabetic cats is canned food – at least when you’re talking about commercial cat food. Commercial canned cat food tends to be higher in protein, lower in carbohydrates, and higher in moisture than dry cat food which makes it ideal for cats with diabetes. If you can afford to feed your cat fresh, raw, or homemade cat food, those are excellent options as well.

Before getting into our picks for the best cat food for diabetic cats, we want to address one more common question – do diabetic cats require a prescription diet?

When your cat is first diagnosed with diabetes, your vet might recommend a prescription diet. Though many cats do well on these foods, the majority of prescription diets currently on the market do not fit the requirements listed above. They are often made with plant proteins, by-products, and low-quality grains, not to mention more than the recommended 10% carbohydrate content.

Your best bet is to choose a healthy, high-quality cat food made from wholesome natural ingredients that gets at least 50% of its calories from protein and a maximum of 10% from carbohydrates. You should also look for beneficial supplements like fiber, chelated minerals, and probiotics as well as fresh fruits and vegetables as natural sources for key nutrients.

Now that you have a better understanding of what to look for when shopping for diabetic cat food, you’re ready to see our top picks! Keep reading to see our favorites for the best cat food for diabetic cats in different categories.

The Top 10 Best Cat Foods for Diabetic Cats

When it comes to diabetic cat food, high protein content is the first thing to look for (as is true for all kinds of cat food). You’ll also want to make sure that the fat content is sufficient to meet your cat’s energy requirements but not so high that he gains weight. Low carbohydrate content is also important, as is high moisture content and nutritional balance.

Here are our top picks for the best cat food for diabetic cats:

NomNomNow Fresh Food Delivery

Our Top Pick for the Best Cat Food Overall for Diabetic Cats:  When it comes to quality nutrition, it’s hard to beat fresh food. Not only is fresh food rich in nutritional value, but it is also very high in moisture because it hasn’t been exposed to high-heat cooking processes like commercial dry food. NomNomNow is a fresh food delivery service for pets that sends fresh-made, perfectly-portioned meals right to your door. They offer two recipes for cats, both of which are high in protein, high in moisture, and made with premium-quality ingredients. If you’re worried about the price, know that it costs an average of $14/week to feed a 7-pound cat NomNomNow. The leading canned food costs about $16 per week, so the price is better or at least comparable. If your cat has diabetes, quality nutrition that is rich in protein and moisture is essential – that’s what NomNomNow provides.

  • Pros: Made with wholesome natural ingredients, food prepared fresh, delivered right to your door, high in protein and moisture, over 50% calories from protein, only 10% calories from carbs
  • Cons: Somewhat expensive to feed as a staple diet, only two recipes to choose from

Tiki Cat Puka Luau Succulent Chicken in Chicken Consomme Grain-Free Canned Food

Our Top Pick for the Best Affordable Cat Food for Diabetic Cats: You don’t necessarily need to spend a small fortune to buy your cat a high-quality, low-carb cat food. The Tiki Cat brand is very affordable and offers a wide variety of flavor options. This particular recipe features succulent shredded chicken breast cooked in a flavorful broth, ensuring that it is rich in both protein and moisture. In addition to being protein-rich, this formula is grain-free and very low in carbs – less than 2% of calories come from carbohydrate sources. Though it is low in carbs, this recipe is rich in omega fatty acids to support your cat’s skin and coat condition and to provide plenty of healthy energy. It is also supplemented to ensure complete and balanced nutrition so your cat can start recovering from the damage done by his diabetes. Plus, he’ll love the natural meat flavor.

  • Pros: Affordable price, rich in protein and moisture, less than 2% from carbs, plenty of omega fatty acids, full of meat flavor, grain-free formula, beneficial supplements
  • Cons: Some cats are sensitive to chicken ingredients, no notable dietary fiber content

Taste of the Wild Canyon River Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

Our Top Pick for the Most Popular Cat Food for Diabetic Cats: When you’re not sure what to feed your cat, you can always go with a popular brand like Taste of the Wild. Their Canyon River Grain-Free Canned Cat Food is an excellent option for diabetic cats because it is rich in protein and moisture, grain-free, and very low in carbohydrates. This particular recipe features real trout as the first ingredient with ocean fish, salmon, and eggs for supplemental protein. It is a grain-free recipe and very low in carbohydrates, taking less than 6% of its total calorie content from carbs. In addition to being protein-rich and nutritionally balanced, this recipe is highly digestible and contains natural sources for key nutrients as well as prebiotic and probiotic supplements to ensure healthy digestion. Your cat will love the natural meat flavor, and you’ll love the quality nutrition.

  • Pros: Real trout as main ingredient, several premium animal proteins, rich in protein and moisture, very low in carbohydrates, grain-free and highly digestible, beneficial supplements
  • Cons: Contains some starch (high-starch diets are linked to yeast infections)

Nulo Freestyle Minced Turkey & Duck in Gravy Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

Our Top Pick for the Best Grain-Free Cat Food for Diabetic Cats: Grains are high in carbohydrates, not to mention being difficult for many cats to digest. If you’re looking for a grain-free cat food for your diabetic cat, we recommend this Nulo Freestyle Minced Turkey & Duck in Gravy Grain-Free Canned Cat Food. This recipe features two premium sources of animal protein in a grain-free, very low-carb recipe – less than 5% of calories come from carbohydrate ingredients. In addition to being low-carb, this recipe is also very low-glycemic. The only sources of carbohydrate come from digestible sources like fresh carrots, flaxseed, pumpkin, and blueberries. These ingredients are also excellent sources of key vitamins and minerals. You’ll also be glad to know that this recipe contains chelated minerals for nutritional balance and plenty of fiber for healthy digestion.

  • Pros: Two sources of premium animal protein, less than 5% calories from carbs, grain-free recipe, fresh fruits and vegetables, chelated minerals, rich in omega fatty acids
  • Cons: Expensive to feed as a staple diet

I and Love and You Super Food Surf n’ Chick Grain-Free Dry Food

Our Top Pick for the Best Dry Cat Food for Diabetic Cats: If you simply prefer to feed your cat dry food, one of the best options is this I and Love and You Super Food Surf n’ Chick Grain-Free Dry Food. This formula is designed to be high in protein and low-glycemic, making it a great option for your diabetic cat. It features premium animal proteins like white fish, chicken, and turkey with minimal carbohydrate from digestible superfoods like chickpeas, sweet potatoes, and flaxseeds. This formula contains 45% protein by weight and 18% fat with 4% fiber and 10% moisture. The ash content is not listed on the guaranteed analysis, so we couldn’t calculate the exact carbohydrate content, but assuming it’s at least 3%, that puts this dry food at a maximum carb content around 20% which isn’t bad. This recipe also contains beneficial supplements like dietary fiber, digestive enzymes, vitamins, chelated minerals, and probiotics.

  • Pros: High-protein formula, low-glycemic, several sources of animal protein, contains digestible superfood carbohydrates, supplemented with digestive enzymes and probiotics, made in the USA
  • Cons: Higher in carb content than wet food, expensive to feed as a staple diet

Nature’s Variety Instinct LID Grain-Free Rabbit Recipe Canned Food

Our Top Pick for the Best Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach and Diabetes: When you add food allergies and sensitivities to your cat’s diabetes, you start running out of good options for cat food. This Nature’s Variety Instinct LID Grain-Free Rabbit Recipe Canned Food is, however, an excellent choice. It features a single source of premium animal protein and is completely free from common allergens like chicken, beef, corn, wheat, and soy. This recipe contains less than 10% carbohydrate and is very rich in both fiber and moisture. Aside from fresh rabbit and rabbit liver, the only other ingredients that are not supplements are water, pea protein, and fresh peas. This recipe contains chelated minerals which are designed for optimal nutrient absorption as well as vitamins to ensure complete and balanced nutrition. You couldn’t ask for more.

  • Pros: Very high in protein, single source animal protein, novel protein (rabbit), very limited number of ingredients, less than 10% carbohydrate, beneficial supplements
  • Cons: Somewhat expensive to feed as a staple diet, contains some plant protein (pea protein)

4 More Top-Rated Cat Foods for Diabetic Cats

If the low carb cat food options reviewed above aren’t quite the right fit for your cat, don’t worry about it. There are many other options you can consider. Here are four more top-rated cat foods for diabetic cats that we recommend:

Wild Frontier Real Chicken & Real Turkey Recipe Pate Grain-Free Cat Food

If you like to provide your cat with a variety of choices, consider this Wild Frontier Real Chicken & Real Turkey Recipe Pate Grain-Free Cat Food. This multi-pack comes with two different formulas featuring real chicken and turkey for a high-protein, low-carb cat food diet. Wild Frontier is a brand manufactured by Nutro, another excellent cat food brand. These recipes are packed with premium animal proteins, free from grains, and loaded with quality nutrition. They are very rich in moisture (at least 78%) and contain plenty of dietary fiber for healthy digestion. They also contain a blend of omega fatty acids to support your cat’s skin and coat health.

  • Pros: Two recipes to choose from, premium animal proteins, extremely low in carbs, rich in moisture, plenty of fiber and omega fatty acids, grain-free formulas, full of natural flavor
  • Cons: Contains carrageenan as a thickener, some cats are sensitive to chicken or pork ingredients

Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free Turkey & Duck Pate Canned Food

Another great option in low-carb cat food for diabetic cats is this Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free Turkey & Duck Pate Canned Food. This recipe is entirely grain-free, made only with cranberries and flaxseed as the primary carbohydrates. It features fresh turkey and duck as the main ingredients, both rich sources of premium animal protein. This recipe is high in moisture and dietary fiber and contains no artificial additives. Simply put, it contains only wholesome, natural ingredients in a recipe designed to deliver complete and balanced nutrition that is highly digestible. Plus, with superfoods like cranberries and flaxseeds on the ingredients list, you can rest easy knowing that it contains natural sources for key nutrients as well to ensure optimal absorption and digestibility.

  • Pros: Real turkey and duck, 100% grain-free, only two carbohydrate ingredients, rich in moisture and protein, antioxidant-rich superfoods, fiber for healthy digestion, complete and balanced
  • Cons: Some cats are sensitive to pork ingredients

Merrick Backcountry Grain-Free Real Salmon Recipe Pate Canned Food

If you’re looking for a diabetic cat food, high protein content is important. This Merrick Backcountry Grain-Free Real Salmon Recipe Pate Canned Food is a great option because it features real salmon as the first ingredient. Not only is this recipe packed with protein, but it delivers plenty of omega fatty acids as well to maintain the condition of your cat’s skin and coat. This formula is made in small batches to ensure nutritional integrity, and it is completely grain-free. It is supplemented with vitamins and chelated minerals to ensure complete and balanced nutrition and contains plenty of fiber for healthy digestion as well. Simply put, this recipe will more than provide for your diabetic cat’s needs for protein and moisture while being very low in carbohydrates.

  • Pros: Real salmon as first ingredient, very high in protein, rich in fiber, grain-free and low in carbs, chelated minerals for optimal nutrient absorption, cooked in small batches
  • Cons: Expensive to feed as a staple diet, contains some plant protein (pea protein)

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Chicken Recipe Canned Food

The Blue Buffalo Wilderness product line is all grain-free and rich in protein, making it a great choice for diabetic cats. This Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Chicken Recipe Canned Food is a particularly good choice if you’re looking for a more affordable option and your cat tolerates chicken well. This formula is designed for digestibility and to provide premium-quality animal protein with no by-products. It is rich in moisture and fiber for healthy digestion and packs a punch when it comes to omega-3 fatty acids as well. You’ll also find that this recipe contains chelated minerals. Chelated minerals are simply mineral supplements that have been chemically bound to protein molecules, making them easier for your cat’s body to absorb. Overall, this is a rich source of protein that is low in carbohydrates for diabetic cats.

  • Pros: Real chicken as first ingredient, rich in moisture and protein, very low in carbohydrates, highly digestible grain-free recipe, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, chelated minerals
  • Cons: Some cats are sensitive to chicken ingredients, may be too high in fat for some cats

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you free feed a diabetic cat?  – Every cat is different, so there is no solid Yes or No answer to this question. Some veterinarians recommend free feeding for diabetic cats because frequent small meals may help to better manage the cat’s blood sugar. If your cat is overweight or has trouble moderating his own intake, however, free feeding is not recommended, and you should feed several small meals throughout the day instead.
  • Can a cat survive with diabetes? – Unfortunately, there is no cure for diabetes, but it is a completely manageable condition. Some cats will require short-term or life-long insulin therapy, but there is no reason they cannot be completely healthy otherwise. Once your cat achieves a healthy body weight and you manage to get his blood sugar stabilized, he may lose the need for insulin therapy, but you’ll still need to manage his blood sugar levels with controlled feeding and a low-carb diet.
  • How can I treat my cat’s diabetes naturally?  – If your cat has Type I diabetes, he has a medical need for insulin therapy – his body doesn’t produce any of it on its own. For Type II diabetes, insulin therapy is often recommended, but some cats do just fine with dietary management. You’ll need to talk to your veterinarian about the options and which one is best for your cat’s condition.
  • How many times a day do you feed a diabetic cat? – Many veterinarians recommend feeding diabetic cats several small meals throughout the day to keep their blood sugar stable. Other veterinarians recommend free feeding. If your cat needs to gain weight, free feeding may be a good option – especially if you’re not home during the day to feed him several small meals. If your cat needs to lose weight, feeding several small meals while controlling his intake of fat and calories will help him feel less deprived while still helping him lose weight.
  • How much do you feed a diabetic cat? – The amount you feed your diabetic cat has nothing to do with his condition – it all depends on his age, weight, and activity level. The best thing to do is choose a low carb cat food and follow the feeding recommendations on the package according to your cat’s age and weight. If your cat needs to lose weight, you may need to reduce his portion and, if he needs to gain weight, add an extra small meal.

If your cat has been diagnosed with diabetes, you’ll need to work closely with your veterinarian to come up with a customized treatment plan. Managing your cat’s diabetes will involve insulin therapy as well as dietary management – you’ll need to switch to low carb cat food.

Before you start to panic, remember that we have your back! If you’re not sure where to turn for dietary advice, simply try one of the best cat foods for diabetic cats that we’ve reviewed above.

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