Is Your Cat Diabetic? Here Are Some of the Best Foods You Should Give It


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When your pets develop conditions like obesity, cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses, it can be quite worrying. Unfortunately, much like humans, pets are always at high risk for becoming ill, and therefore it is important to pay close attention to what your pets eat and lead their lifestyle. Cats are at a high risk of getting diabetes, and if you happen to have a cat that is diabetic, then you need to take good care of your cat's diet. There are foods that can aggravate your cat's health, and there are foods that can help your cat deal with the condition. Cat owners often find it confusing when it comes to the question of what to feed a diabetic cat. Not to worry, we've got it covered. Here is a list of foods that are best for your cat if he or she has diabetes.

Stick to a low carbohydrates and high-protein diet

A high level of carbohydrates in your cat's food can lead to sudden spikes in blood sugar levels. These sudden spikes in blood sugar levels lead to an increase in the need for insulin which is harmful to cats with diabetes. In order to avoid this, feed your cat food that is low in carbohydrates and high in protein. It is important to note that protein comes from meat products such as chicken, beef, and fish. If your cat happens to be overweight, put your cat on a diet in which 50 percent of the calories are contributed by protein sources, and carbohydrates contribute 40 percent of the calories.

No dry foods

Generally, cat owners do not prefer feeding dry food to their cats, although at times, it is quite convenient. Dry foods are a definite no-no for diabetic cats. Instead, stick to a canned or raw meat diet that fulfills the dietary requirements of your cat.

Whole-grain foods

If your cat is diabetic, it is best to avoid foods based on white flour. Generally, white flour is not a preferred food for humans and animals, and it should be strictly avoided if your cat is diabetic. Instead, feed your cat food that is based on whole grains or even no grains. This will keep your cat full and satisfied for a longer period and give it the energy that it needs. While choosing food that is grain-free, remember to check the label to find out if grain substitutes like peas or potatoes are being used. If it contains any of these, avoid giving them to your cat.

Will My Diabetic Cat Need Prescription Cat Food?

Was your cat recently diagnosed with diabetes? Even if you’re just delving into the best strategies for managing this disease, you’ve probably gotten a sense of the importance of your cat’s diet to managing feline diabetes. Find out what you’ll need to know about prescription cat food and tips for feeding your cat after this diagnosis.

Will My Cat Need a Prescription Diet?

In general, a prescription diet is not always necessary after a cat’s diabetes diagnosis. It can, however, make feeding simpler. For some cats, even ones on a non-prescription diet that follows all the recommendations, it can be tough to regulate their glucose levels. And for you, it can be a challenge to figure out how ingredients are balanced. Prescription diets remove this guesswork and the need for research. Prescription cat food is more costly, though -- you can expect to pay around $40 to $50 for two dozen cans of wet food.

When Not Using an Rx Diet: Go With Wet Cat Food

If your cat is currently on a dry food diet, a diabetes diagnosis is a cue to switch them over to wet food. As well as helping to keep them hydrated, wet food generally has fewer carbohydrates and more protein. For diabetic cats, the right diet is low in carbohydrates and high in protein, so wet food more often fits the bill. Remember: cats are carnivorous creatures and thrive on meat-based foods, so a protein-focused diet is the best option.

If you do have to switch your cat from one food to another, do it slowly since cats deal poorly with dietary changes. Try serving smaller and smaller amounts of the original food while mixing in larger and larger amounts of the new food to ease the transition.

And if you or your cat is set on dry food, take heart -- although it is often recommended to switch to wet food, in today's market, there are dry cat foods that are appropriate for diabetic cats. It can take a little searching to find one high enough in protein, but your veterinarian can help.

Consistency Is Key in a Diabetic Cat’s Diet

When it comes to diabetes, a consistent diet can sometimes be almost as important as what’s being served. Unless your cat has a weight problem, it’s generally acceptable for them to graze on food rather than being served distinct meals with portion sizes. However, feeding them the same type of food, and avoiding any high-carbohydrate treats, is important for their health.

Also, aim to put out food for your cat at the same time each day. Let your cat eat shortly before their insulin shot is administered.

What About Remission?

As you may be aware, unlike dogs or humans, cats with diabetes are capable of entering a remission-like state if the disease is caught early on and the glucose levels are stabilized through insulin treatment and dietary changes. Oftentimes this will happen in an overweight cat who loses weight as part of diabetes treatment -- weight loss can help in the remission process.

If your cat is lucky enough to enter remission or partial remission, that’s wonderful! You’ll need to continue to feed them a diet that’s high in protein and low in carbohydrates, but will no longer need to provide daily insulin shots. If your cat enters partial remission, it'll require far less insulin to maintain appropriate blood sugar levels.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best food to feed a cat?

Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, says that when it comes to feeding a diabetic cat, choose a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that helps regulate blood sugar levels. Foods with high carbohydrate content can cause sudden spikes in blood sugar level that demands more insulin production in the body. Cats can derive their energy requirements from animal-based protein, and fat content will depend on the pet’s health. The best cat foods for diabetic cats should have proteins contributing 50% of the total calories and fats contributing 40%. Wet food is generally better than dry food for diabetic cats, as it tends to have a lower carbohydrate content and a higher moisture content. Carbohydrates are necessary to form a kibble shape, whereas some wet cat foods don’t contain any carbohydrates at all. Look for high-quality canned foods that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Diabetic cats need a diet that's high in protein, so consider feeding your cat foods that are rich in animal protein, such as chicken, turkey, beef, and fish. Carbohydrates can raise blood sugar levels in cats, so it's important to choose foods that are low in carbohydrates. Avoid foods that contain high amounts of grains, corn, or other carbohydrate sources. Your veterinarian may recommend a prescription diet for your diabetic cat. These diets are specially formulated to help regulate blood sugar levels and may be a good option for cats with more severe diabetes. However, Dr. Coates says that many over-the-counter cat foods have high protein content, so prescription diets are not always necessary.

What should diabetic cats avoid?

Diabetic cats should avoid foods that can cause spikes in their blood sugar levels, as well as certain types of treats and table scraps. Carbohydrates can cause a spike in blood sugar levels, so it's important to avoid foods that are high in carbohydrates. This includes foods that contain a lot of grains, corn, or other carbohydrate sources. However, Lisa A. Pierson, DVM, warns that if your cat takes insulin, you should be careful while switching to low-carb food, as that can cause a hypoglycemic crisis. She also advises against wet foods with gravy for diabetic cats, as they can be high in carbohydrates. Many human foods and treats are high in carbohydrates and sugars, so it's best to avoid feeding these to diabetic cats. This includes things like bread, pasta, and sugary treats. While some types of dry food can be suitable for diabetic cats, many brands are high in carbohydrates and can cause blood sugar spikes. If you do feed your cat dry food, choose a brand that's high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Some cat foods and treats contain added sugars, which can cause blood sugar spikes. Always check the ingredient label before feeding your cat any new food or treat. Overfeeding can cause weight gain, which can make diabetes harder to manage. Be sure to feed your cat the appropriate amount of food based on their weight, and avoid giving too many treats or snacks.

How many times a day can a diabetic cat eat?

The frequency and timing of meals for a diabetic cat will depend on various factors such as the cat's weight, age, activity level, and medication regimen. In general, it's recommended to feed diabetic cats smaller meals more frequently throughout the day to help regulate their blood sugar levels. Typically, diabetic cats should be fed 2 meals a day at regular intervals, spaced out evenly throughout the day. This can help prevent spikes in blood sugar levels and maintain a stable level throughout the day. It's also important to feed your cat at the same time of the day and avoid free feeding, which can make it more difficult to regulate their blood sugar levels. Dr. Debra Primovic, DVM, says that if your cat is taking insulin twice daily, you should feed your cat two meals a day, each before you administer the insulin dose. If the insulin dose is once a day, feed the first meal before that. The meal should be ideally fed 30 minutes before the insulin administration. Your veterinarian can help you determine the appropriate feeding schedule and portion sizes for your diabetic cat based on its individual needs and health status. Additionally, they can provide guidance on the timing and administration of insulin injections, if needed, in relation to meal times.

How can I reverse my cat's diabetes naturally?

Diabetes in cats is a chronic condition that cannot be reversed naturally. Once a cat has been diagnosed with diabetes, it is a lifelong condition that will require ongoing management. While there is no cure for diabetes in cats, there are things you can do to help manage the condition and improve your cat's quality of life. Dr. Tara Koble, DVM of The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital in Boise, Ida, says that feeding your cat a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet can help regulate blood sugar levels and manage diabetes. But that’s the only natural way to manage diabetes for some cats. Most cats would need to take insulin along with low-carbohydrate foods. She adds that natural remedies that pretend to be natural cures are ineffective in treating diabetes. Also, insulin is a natural substance that’s lacking in diabetic cats, so insulin doses are natural ways to replenish what’s lacking. Talk to your veterinarian about the best diet for your cat's individual needs. Regular exercise can help improve your cat's overall health and help them maintain a healthy weight, which is important for managing diabetes. Regular monitoring of your cat's blood sugar levels and overall health is important for managing diabetes. This may involve frequent veterinary checkups, blood tests, and at-home monitoring of blood sugar levels. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for managing diabetes in cats. If your cat is overweight, your veterinarian can provide guidance on how to safely and gradually help them lose weight.

What is the life expectancy of a cat with diabetes?

The life expectancy of a cat with diabetes can vary depending on various factors, such as the cat's overall health, age, the severity of diabetes, and how well the diabetes is managed. In general, with proper treatment and management, cats with diabetes can live long, healthy lives. Dr. Jennifer Coates says that diabetes treatment is usually quite successful in increasing the patient cat’s lifespan. According to one study, the average lifespan of diabetic cats undergoing treatment can be increased by up to 1.5 years on average. However, Dr. Coates adds that many individuals can live for much longer. In the same study, one of the subjects lived for 9.5 years after being diagnosed. However, if diabetes is left untreated or poorly managed, it can lead to serious complications such as ketoacidosis, which can be life-threatening. Additionally, cats with diabetes are at higher risk for other health problems such as urinary tract infections, kidney disease, and nerve damage. It's necessary to work closely with your veterinarian to develop a comprehensive treatment plan for your cat's diabetes and to monitor their health regularly. With proper management, many cats with diabetes can live for many years, and some may even go into remission with aggressive treatment and management. However, it's important to understand that diabetes in cats is a chronic condition that will require lifelong management.

More on Cat Nutrition

Cat Nutrition for Male Cats
What To Feed a Cat: Female Cats
Is Your Cat a Picky Eater?
Maintaining a Healthy Cat Weight

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis, or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.

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