Non-prescription food for diabetic cats—the natural ally in the fight against feline diabetes
Feline diabetes is a common affliction among many cat breeds. The clinical signs are similar to that of humans, and the same goes for the accompanying health risks. Does that mean the overall therapy is also the same? Yes, for the most part! Medication, such as injectable insulin and supplements, is the typical treatments along with specialised meal plans for diabetic cats.
Sticking to natural feline feeding habits is an excellent way to regulate your pet’s blood glucose levels. While different factors can contribute to the onset and progression of the disease (e.g., age, genetic predisposition, etc.), well-balanced nourishment can pre-empt serious consequences. The best part is—you don’t have to splurge on overpriced products to keep your feline’s blood sugar levels in check! In this article, we’ll take a look at the best non-prescription food for diabetic cats and explain how dietary changes can improve your pet’s quality of life.
Can diet help with feline diabetes?
Even if your cat has excellent genes, what they eat can significantly affect their overall health. When it comes to chronic conditions, such as diabetes, veterinary experts will often recommend dietary therapy, along with prescribed medication.
Most pet shops and pet pharmacies sell prescription food for diabetic cats. The specialised formulas are low in carbohydrates, the main contributor to the development of the disease.
While vet-prescribed low-glycemic cat food can be helpful (especially if your cat is old and suffers from several chronic illnesses), it’s significantly more expensive than meals.
The more reasonable alternative is to switch to a high-protein, low-carb diet of top-notch canned goods. If you have the resources, you can also try making homemade meals that cater to your cat’s specific health needs.
What’s the best non-prescription food for diabetic cats?
Most vets agree that canned food is the best food for diabetic cats in terms of nutritional value. High-quality wet cat food is usually rich in:
- Moisture content—Canned goods typically contain 78% moisture, keeping your cat properly hydrated
- Animal protein and amino acids—Taurine and other beneficial nutrients in wet cat food will sustain your cat’s kidney and metabolic functions
- Healthy fats—A tiny amount of healthy fats in premium canned products is an excellent energy source. Diabetic cats tend to be lethargic, so they require a gentle boost
- Natural vitamins and minerals—Wet cat food usually contains vitamin B complex, zinc, magnesium, and other micronutrients that support kidney, heart, and eye function
Does that mean all canned food is safe for diabetic cats? Certainly not! You need to look for products that fit the specific nutritional requirements listed in the diabetic cat food chart below:
More than 50%
Up to 20%
Less than 3%
While most manufacturers don’t include the percentage of carbs on the label, you can calculate it yourself! Add the listed values of other ingredients (e.g., crude protein, moisture, etc.) and subtract the total sum from one hundred. The result is approximate but still relevant when designing your cat’s meal plan.
Untamed food will maintain your diabetic cat’s health and prevent further complications
If you’re looking for cat food low in carbs and high in quality, Untamed products are a top pick! Our meals are both delicious and nutritious, made with ethically-sourced, premium meat cuts. You can expect the best from our feline cuisine, including:
- Hypoallergenic ingredients—Our meals are made with high-quality meat cuts and ingredients, eliminating the risk of allergic reactions and gastrointestinal issues. Your delicate cat will be able to lick the bowl without ending up with an upset tummy
- High levels of animal protein—Untamed products are twice as rich in animal proteins as most commercial cat foods. That means twice the amount of taurine and other bioavailable nutrients to keep your cat’s metabolism up and running
- Vet-designed formulas—Cats with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, require top-tier meals with optimal nutritional value. We abide by all recommended health regulations when preparing food, using only vet-formulated, delicious recipes
- Human-grade ingredients—Since Untamed food is not mass-produced, we know exactly what goes into each dish! If an ingredient is considered unfit for human consumption, it has no place in cat food either. You also won’t find additives or artificial colours in our products
- Tuck-in Tuna with Shrimp in Gravy—58% tuna whole meat, 33% fish broth, 5% shrimp
- Chocka Chicken in Jelly—58% chicken breast, 33% chicken broth, 5% chicken liver
- Chocka Chicken with Ham in Gravy—55% chicken breast, 33% chicken broth, 5% ham
- Full-on Fishy in Gravy—45% tuna whole meat, 33% fish broth, 13% sardine, 5% mackerel
You can fill out our online questionnaire and get a custom meal plan for your diabetic cat!
With 60% whole meat, Untamed’s Chocka Chicken in Jelly is the purrfect dish for your diabetic cat!
Image (c) Untamed
What are the health benefits of the Untamed diet?
Our paw-licking dishes are gently steamed to maintain the original nutritional value of the ingredients. The high levels of animal protein, amino acids, natural minerals, and vitamins will result in a slew of short-term and long-term health benefits. You can take a look at the table below for the expected trajectory of the Untamed effect:
The Untamed effect
Within a week
● Regulated bowel movement
● Increased energy
After two months
● Decreased shedding
● Shinier and thicker fur
● Regulated blood sugar levels
Within four months
● Fewer hairballs
● Optimal weight and muscle tone
● Solid digestive health
● Improved kidney function
● Fewer gastrointestinal issues
● Stronger immune response
● Stable health
While feline diabetes is incurable, you can keep it under control with the proper diet. Switching to Untamed food will benefit your diabetic cat’s health by:
- Sustaining their metabolic functions
- Keeping their heart, kidney, and liver healthy
- Preventing further complications such as muscular atrophy, lethargy, and diabetic neuropathy
- Regulating their weight
- Increasing their muscle mass
How to get your paws on Untamed products
If our recipes tick all the boxes, why not order a tester pack and treat your cat to some healthy and tasty food? You can sign up for 12 delicious starter meals if you:
- Take the Try Now online quiz and help us get to know your cat
- Check out the proposed meal plan
- Confirm your order if you like the menu
Untamed will design a customised meal plan based on your cat’s:
- Life stage
- Food preferences
- Health condition
You can expect the first cat food delivery in no time, with no additional shipping fees! Once your feline companion meows in approval, you’ll receive monthly deliveries of delicious Untamed meals around the same date every month. If there’s an issue with the cat food subscription box or you change your mind about one of the dishes, you can always make adjustments from your account.
Something smells pawsitively delicious!
Image (c) Untamed
Does that mean dry food is bad for cats with diabetes?
Products like cat kibble and dry treats are typically made with starch and grain—a no-no ingredient for diabetic cats. A diet based on dry cat food can expedite the progression of the disease and cause severe complications.
While cat kibble in excessive amounts can be harmful, there’s a reason why it’s so popular among cat parents. Dry cat food is generally:
- More affordable—When compared to canned goods and low glycemic cat food, cat biscuits are budget-friendly
- Good for feline dental health—Because of the way it’s processed, dry cat food has a pretty rough texture. As your cat chews on the biscuits, the plaque build-up gets removed from their teeth, keeping their oral hygiene at an optimal level and preventing dental disease
- Easily measured—Unlike canned goods, kibble is much easier to measure, allowing you to control the portion size and manage your cat’s weight
- Great for malnutrition recovery—The high carb levels in dry biscuits allow malnourished cats to gain weight quickly and safely. Even small servings provide enough calories for weight gain without burdening the feline’s frail digestive system, destroyed by malnutrition
The benefits mentioned above don't apply to diabetic cats. Low-carb dry food is the only variant if cat parents want to stick to cat biscuits, but it may not be cheaper than wet food. Also, you would need to boost the water intake to keep your cat properly hydrated.
Harmful foods to avoid
Cat kibble is not the only food item your diabetic cat should avoid. Here’s a list of potentially harmful food groups and ingredients you should take off the menu:
- Chocolate—This delicious treat should never be on your cat's plate. The sugar content will affect your cat’s blood glucose levels. Most chocolates also contain caffeine, which causes accelerated heartbeat, tremors, and breathing difficulties
- Dairy—Contrary to popular belief, most cats are lactose intolerant. Milk, cream, cheese, and other dairy products are hard to digest and can cause various gastrointestinal issues. The sugar in dairy is particularly harmful to diabetic cats
- Raw food—As odd as it sounds, raw meat and eggs are pretty dangerous for cats. The unprocessed food often contains harmful bacteria and parasites that can damage your pet’s vital organs
- Grapes and raisins—Grapes and raisins are rich in fructose, so feeding them to your diabetic cat will mess with their insulin levels. This fruit may also affect kidney function even in healthy felines
- Citrus fruit—The citric acid in lemons, oranges, clementines, and grapefruits can hinder your cat’s kidney functions. Since diabetes can sometimes lead to renal failure, you might want to steer clear of citrus
- Vegetables—Some vegetables such as onions, garlic, and chives are extremely harmful to your cat because of allium. Vegetable protein is generally a lacklustre substitute for animal protein, so a vegan diet is not the best solution for diabetic cats who require high protein meals
Your cat is sweet enough as is—they don’t need the extra sugar!
Image (c) Untamed
When should I feed my diabetic cat?
Diabetic cats require a strict feeding routine. Give them meals and insulin injections at the same time every day and stick to recommended serving sizes.
The exact schedule can differ depending on your cat’s current condition and prescribed therapy. In most cases, diabetic cats need two doses of injectable insulin per day, i.e., once every 12 hours. Ideally, your pet should have had a full meal before getting their shot.
By timing the meals according to insulin administration, you’ll prevent the disease from advancing. Once you set up a feeding schedule and come up with a meal plan, try not to make any significant changes. If you feel like the routine is not working, consult your vet before changing it.
How to determine the purrfect portion size
Any cat, regardless of their age, gender, or breed, can develop diabetes. The disease is quite manageable as long as you follow specific dietary rules, like choosing high-quality cat food, controlling the portions, and limiting treats.
The amount of food a healthy cat should eat depends on various factors, such as:
- Life stage—Kittens and senior cats tend to eat less than felines in their prime
- Breed—Larger breeds like Maine Coons or Ragamuffins require larger portions
- Weight—Whether your cat is overweight or malnourished dictates how much you should feed them
- Activity level—If your cat is fairly active, they’ll need a higher calorie intake to sustain that energy
- Pregnancy—Pregnant cats tend to eat more. The increased appetite can last throughout the nursing period, i.e., until their litter starts weaning
Diabetic cats should have two full meals during the day, one before each insulin injection. As for the portion size, feel free to follow the feeding guidelines for healthy cats.
Most manufacturers state the recommended calorie intake on the label, but if that’s not the case, you can measure it yourself! To calculate your cat’s so-called Resting Energy Requirement (RER), use the following formula:
RER=70*( body weight in kg)0.75
Once you’ve determined the portion size, keep track of your pet’s weight, appearance, and behaviour. If you catch them gnawing on furniture or chewing grass—you might’ve miscalculated!
Are treats strictly off limits?
As a general rule, treats should only make for 10% of the daily caloric intake in the feline diet. With diabetic cats, it’s a tad tricky since their glucose levels fluctuate significantly during the day. You don’t want to spike their blood sugar by giving them heavily processed snacks packed with carbs!
Does that mean absolutely no treats of any kind? Not necessarily. Everyone deserves a cheat day, so why should your pet be excluded? If you want to treat your feline companion to something sweet, here’s a list of low glycemic, high protein treats for diabetic cats:
- Cooked fish (salmon and sardines)
What causes feline diabetes?
Like humans, cats can develop:
- Type I diabetes—The body cannot produce insulin, which results in high blood sugar
- Type II diabetes—The cells can no longer properly respond to insulin, elevating the glucose levels in the bloodstream
It’s estimated that between 0.2% and 1% of cats develop the disease throughout their life.
The symptoms of diabetes mellitus include:
- Sudden weight loss
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst and appetite
The exact cause of feline diabetes is still unknown, but several risk factors predispose the disease, particularly diet and lifestyle choices.
Cats are carnivorous by design, so their natural diet is packed with animal proteins and amino acids. When looking at the wild cat’s feeding pattern, the average intake of carbohydrates is less than 2%. The feline metabolism is not meant to process high amounts of sugar.
Because their diet typically consists of commercial cat food, domesticated kitties tend to consume more carbohydrates than they can process. If the meals aren’t portioned adequately and there’s an excess of sugar, some cats can lose the ability to process insulin.
Other significant risk factors include genetic predisposition, age, sedentary lifestyle, and obesity.
Feline obesity and diabetes
Feline obesity is a common precursor to several chronic conditions, including osteoarthritis, urinary tract disease, hypertension, and diabetes. While there’s nothing cuter than a chubby tabby, the excess weight can contribute to the condition and cause various diabetes-related complications.
What are the parameters for determining obesity? Take a look at the body condition score for felines:
- Underweight—If your cat’s ribs, spine, and hip bones are sticking out, their body condition score is below average
- Healthy weight—A healthy feline should have a tucked up tummy and barely visible but palpable spine and ribs
- Overweight—Chunky cats sport slightly rounded bellies, and their bones are a bit harder to detect
- Obese—You can’t feel your pet’s spine and ribs with the palm of your hand. Obese cats also have flappy, oversized stomachs
If you want your feline companion to live a long and happy life, you should help them lose weight by cutting down their portion sizes and getting them to exercise.
Diet and exercise? I think I’ll pass, thank you!
Source: Kat von Wood
Monitoring your cat’s glucose levels at home
It’s essential to keep records of your cat’s weight, appetite, water and calorie intake, and blood sugar levels. Your notes will help the vet determine the insulin dosage and monitor the progression of the disease.
To check your cat’s glucose levels at home, you need to purchase a glucometer. The handheld device is available at pet pharmacies and well-equipped pet shops. You can ask your vet for recommendations regarding the brand.
You’ll need to take a sample of your cat’s blood from their ear or paw pad to administer the test. The entire process is quick and painless, so you don’t have to worry about traumatising them!
Keep in mind that even with a glucometer, you still need to take your pet to regular checkups. Under no circumstances should you adjust their insulin intake without consulting a veterinary expert first.