Feeding Your Diabetic Cat
Obligate carnivore: an animal that by its genetic makeup must eat the tissue of other animals in order to thrive. The domestic cat is a prime example of an obligate carnivore, as are all of the other feline species.
Cats are obligate carnivores and require meat, meat and more meat for a well-balanced diet. The food we feed our cats is directly responsible for their overall health. Most of us haven't given a second thought about the specific ingredients in the canned or dry kibble we feed our cats. We assume because of life stage claims on the packaging and veterinary advice we are given; the foods we're feeding are species appropriate. More often than not it isn't the case! Pet food manufacturers play on our emotional attachment to our cats, suggesting that inappropriate ingredients are in fact healthy, as well as making certain to emphasize how convenient some of their dry food products are.
By looking at the ingredients listed on pet food labels, we can easily determine if the food is species appropriate. The first two or three items on the ingredient list form the major part of the food. Canned foods are primarily based on meat and meat by-products, while dry kibble contains ingredients made of plant matter (corn, wheat, soy, vegetables, fruits, etc.) which is then sprayed with substances to make the kibble more appealing to our cats. Without sprayed flavorings, most cats would not even eat dry kibble!
Protein derived from meat has the complete amino acid profile that our felines require for good health, while protein derived from plant matter does not. The proteins from meat are far superior to those from plant matter, and meet the physiological requirements of our obligate carnivores.
The carbohydrate content of dry kibble is far too high; even those new formulas which claim to have meat are still too high in carbs for felines. Cats require approximately 5% carbs for their daily dietary needs. Highly processed dry kibble contains a minimum of 30% to 50% carbs. A diet high in carbohydrates is a recipe for poor health for our cats. A high carbohydrate diet contributes heavily to diabetes in cats. Many cats with FD will even stop needing insulin once dry food is removed from their diet. Feeding your cat dry food is the equivalent of raising your children on donuts and candy. That said, if your cat is already on insulin, please do not simply remove the dry food – this is a recipe for disaster which can and does result in clinical hypo. Before making any changes to your diabetic cat’s diet, please join us on Forum for important information to help you make the transition from dry food to low carb wet food safely.
Because the household cat originates in arid, desert climates, cats are not naturally big water drinkers. They are designed to get the moisture their bodies require from the food they eat. Even if your cat drinks a lot of water, if it is on a dry food diet, it is not getting the moisture it needs, keeping the cat in a constant state of low level dehydration resulting in poor coat condition, dandruff, skin allergies – the lack of moisture in their diet can eventually impact the kidneys. Cats need more moisture in their diets than dry food offers – dry food is DRY!
A species appropriate low carb wet food diet can help avoid a number of feline health problems: Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Cystitis, Bladder/Kidney stones and other urinary tract problems, Obesity, Dental Disease, Feline Asthma, Pancreatitis and Hepatic Lipidosis are just a few common conditions which affect our cats. How much healthier our cats would be if fed the correct diet?
When selecting appropriate low carbohydrate wet food for your cat, look for foods with no corn, wheat, soy, or glutens in the ingredient list. Usually, foods with gravy contain corn starch, and are not a good choice. It is important to note that two of the leading allergens for cats are beef and fish - neither is a natural food for cats. If your cat can eat these flavors with no visible allergic response they may not be allergic, but a lot of cats are. Fish should be kept to a maximum of once or twice a week, best as a treat only as fish is very hard on the kidneys, not to mention it contains mercury which can build up in the system.
If your cat has Feline Diabetes, we can help you understand the huge role food plays in the disease, as well as help you work toward getting your cat into remission. As a part of the knowledge base we offer our members, there is a wealth of information on the Diabetic Cat Care Forum, including how to safely transition diabetic cats already receiving insulin to a low carb wet diet. There are appropriate canned cat foods listed by country; tips and tricks to use for transitioning off of dry food, a list of appropriate, low carb treats, and a carbohydrate calculator. We have vet approved recipes for making raw food if that is of interest, as well as instructions on what and how to feed a sick cat.
Even if your cat is not a diabetic, we urge you to join the Forum so you can benefit from the wealth of dietary information posted there.