The best cat food for diabetes is a low-carb diet that keeps blood sugar under control while providing all the protein, fat, and other essential nutrients your cat needs to thrive.
With obesity and diabetes so closely linked, great foods for feline diabetes also help your cat slim down to reach a healthy weight. That’s why we recommend Tiki Cat wet cat food as the overall best cat food for diabetic cats. With less than 2% dry matter carbohydrate content, this low-starch food controls blood sugar and reduces your cat’s reliance on insulin.
We love Tiki Cat, but it isn’t our only top pick for diabetic cats. Read on to see our favorite diabetes-friendly cat food recipes.
At a Glance: Best Cat Food for Diabetic Cats To Buy
- Blend of muscle meat, organs, and bone
- Contains a single protein source
- Sustainably and ethically sourced ingredients
- Made with 96% turkey and turkey liver
- High moisture content to support hydration
- Negligible carbohydrate content
What is Feline Diabetes?
Feline diabetes is a hormonal condition that affects the body’s ability to metabolize glucose. There are two main types of diabetes mellitus — type 1 and type 2. Extremely rare among cats, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that destroys the patient’s ability to produce insulin.
Instead, nearly all diabetic cats exhibit the metabolic patterns of type 2 diabetes. Also known as idiopathic hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), type 2 diabetes is an endocrine condition that typically involves some combination of insulin resistance and diminished insulin production in the pancreas. Many cats with diabetes require daily insulin injections, but dietary modification is key to managing the condition.
Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM, Esq., cat nutrition expert and author of Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life, describes feline diabetes as “a human-caused disease that kills cats.” Dr. Hodgkins has a point. Diabetes is common in cats fed high-carbohydrate diets that are out of sync with their biological needs.
Most diabetic cats who leave behind a biologically inappropriate diet see significant reductions in their insulin requirements. Many actually go into remission and no longer need insulin injections.
The best time to clean up your cat’s diet is before he shows symptoms of diabetes. As diabetes progresses, the pancreas may become exhausted and stop secreting insulin. In this case, there’s no hope of remission and insulin therapy becomes a life-long commitment. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Why Trust Cats.com
Before making our recommendations, we personally purchase and tested the foods on this list. All products are purchased at full retail price and subjected to in-home testing with our own cats.
Throughout the process, we analyze the product information, research the brand, read customer reviews, and examine the food. We also gauge our cats’ reactions to the food’s smell, taste, texture, and general appeal.
In addition to performing our own research and analysis, we sent several recipes to an ISO 17025-certified food testing and analysis lab. This testing yields a report that shows the exact nutrient content of the recipe, as well as potential contaminants like mold, yeast, microbes, and heavy metals.
This guide should not be taken as a substitute for veterinary advice. That said, we consulted with seven veterinarians to make sure our recommendations are appropriate for cats with diabetes.
Our Veterinary Advisors:
- Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ
- Chris Vanderhoof, DVM, MPH
- Sarah Reidenbach, DVM
- Chyrle Bonk, DVM
- Jamie Whittenburg, DVM
- Albert Ahn, DVM
- Elizabeth Youens, DVM
The Best Diabetic Cat Foods: Our Top 8 Recommendations
Our top pick, Tiki Cat Hookena Luau Cat Food is ultra low-carb and packed with both species-appropriate animal protein and hydrating moisture. It may not be the ideal choice for your unique cat, however.
Every cat has their own needs and preferences which is why we’ve included a range of options categorized by price, food type, and other key considerations.
What to Look for in Cat Food for Diabetic Cats
The best food for diabetic cats honors your carnivorous cat’s dietary requirements. As obligate carnivores, cats thrive on nutrients derived from animals. They can’t survive without the amino acids, fatty acids, and micronutrients naturally found in their prey.
What your cat’s natural diet doesn’t have is large concentrations of carbohydrates. A wild feline diet may have as little as zero carbohydrate matter. What little carbohydrate or fiber their diet might contain would come from nibbles of grass and digested plant matter found in the digestive tracts of their prey.
Low carbohydrate content is key when feeding diabetic cats, but it’s not the only factor to consider. Here’s what to look for in cat food for diabetic cats.
Dry Matter Carbohydrate Content Under 10%
Compared to dogs and other omnivores, a cat’s physiology isn’t designed to digest heavy carbohydrate loads. For example, cats lack salivary amylase (carbohydrate-digesting enzymes in their saliva). Further down the digestive tract, cats have levels of the digestive enzymes necessary to break down carbohydrates in the small intestine.
To put those details together, cats have a limited ability to metabolize large glucose loads. Even healthy, non-diabetic cats exhibit mild insulin resistance. Look for a cat food that contains no more than 10% carbohydrate measured as dry matter.
High Moisture Content
To help flush excess blood sugar from the body, many diabetic cats develop increased thirst so they drink more water. Cats don’t tend to drink a lot of water on their own, however, so a high-moisture diet is generally the best way to support your cat’s hydration.
Cats with diabetes also have an increased risk of urinary tract infections and bladder stones. A high-moisture diet may help dilute urinary crystals to prevent painful inflammation and obstructions. Consider canned cat food, fresh or homemade cat food, or rehydrated freeze-dried cat food as an alternative to dry kibble.
Balanced Calorie and Fat Content
Diabetes is closely linked to obesity and overweight diabetic cats should be fed portioned, scheduled meals to prevent overeating. Losing weight may help you manage your cat’s diabetes, but don’t just start feeding them less of their usual food — this could result in micronutrient deficiencies. Instead, choose a high-moisture diet rich in lean protein with low to moderate fat content.
Not all diabetic cats are overweight. If your cat struggles to maintain lean muscle mass, a calorie-dense diet with higher levels of fat may be appropriate. The amount your cat can eat depends on the size of their stomach, so simply offering more food may not be enough.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best food for cats with diabetes?
The best cat food for diabetic cats is a species-appropriate diet focused on animal ingredients with minimal carbohydrate content to help control blood sugar.
Is grain-free dry cat food good for diabetic cats?
Grain-free diets aren’t necessarily low-carb — many contain significant amounts of starchy vegetables and legumes. A grain-free cat food may be appropriate for a diabetic cat if it contains less than 10% carbohydrate measured as dry matter.
Is wet or dry food better for diabetic cats?
Wet cat food is generally a more species-appropriate choice for cats and many diabetic cats can benefit from the higher moisture content. That said, every recipe is different and it’s important to evaluate the product on its nutritional merits before feeding it to your cat.