Diabetic cats are becoming dangerously more common. As nearly 60% of cats are overweight, eating a bad diet, and more cats are older, increasingly cats cannot produce enough insulin to manage the glucose levels in their blood.
You are a crucial part of the journey back to health after a vet diagnoses your cat with diabetes. Diabetic cats can live long and happy lives with a proper diet and timely medications. This article offers a guide on how to feed the diabetic cat, including the best food for diabetic cats.
Diabetic Cats: Why Do Cats Get Diabetes?
The exact cause of diabetes is still largely unknown, but obesity appears to be a major risk factor. We do not know for sure that a bad diet is a factor, but it likely does play. Other factors include medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism or Cushing’s disease.
However, we find that diet is linked to most conditions related to diabetic cats.
As more cats are inactive house cats, and many owner free feed their felines, obesity is certainly on the rise in cats. However, we sometimes overlook one factor in feline obesity:
Are pet food companies making our cats fat?
Pet nutrition guides often point out that cats and dogs naturally regulate their own food intake to meet their energy needs. Some experts suggest that in a natural environment, pets will even select foods for the specific nutrients they need most.
The issue is that, like humans, companies fill processsed food with palatants or flavors like animal digest, and fats. The high fat content in cat food and all the additives that make it enticing, encourages cats and dogs to eat more than they need.
If you are looking for help with your overweight cat, you can read our article here.
However, other conditions can cause diabetic cats. But if we take a closer look we can see that these conditions are also connected to diet.
Related Medical Conditions that cause Diabetic Cats
Pancreatitis can damage the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas, causing diabetic cats. In short, pancreatitis happens when the enzymes that the organ produces to break down fat (lipase), proteins (protease), and carbohydrates (amylase) are activated too soon and damage the tissue in the pancreas.
Infections and injury can lead to pancreatitis, but it is also often connected to a high fat diet.
Hyperthyroidism and Diabetic Cats
Hyperthyroidism is another condition that is on the rise in cats. This disease is closely linked to diabetes because it causes the thyroid to be more active, and dump stress hormones in the body. These hormones lower insulin and raise blood sugar, causing diabetes.
Hyperthyroidism is likely more common in cats because of processed food, particularly canned food. In fact, feeding commercial canned food is the leading risk of hyperthyroidism in cats. Studies indicates that this may be because of:
- Particular flavors of canned food, namely, fish, liver, and giblets.
- Canned food with plastic linings in easy-open (pop-top) lids, that may contain the thyroid disruptor chemical bisphenol A (BPA).
- Soy products in cat food that are well known for being goitrogenic and interfering with the uptake of iodine
- Iodine levels in cat food that are typically too high or too low.
Cushing’s Disease and Diabetic Cats
Cushing’s disease or hyperadrenocorticism is another endocrine disorder that can cause diabetes. This is because it releases too much of a hormone called endogenous glucocorticoid (GC) that disrupts the body’s ability to regulate glucose. This one disorder is not directly tied to diet, since it is usually caused by a tiny tumor on the pituitary gland.
Dental issues and Diabetic Cats
In general, low-grade inflammation in the body is linked to diabetes. One source of chronic inflammation is poor dental hygiene. Inflammation in the gums and problems like periodontitis in cats weakens a cat's ability to regulate blood sugar, leading to diabetes.
You can read our article on how to brush a cat’s teeth here.
Leaky gut and inflammation
Another insidious cause of diabetes in cats is bad digestive health. A cat with a healthy digestive tract has a thin layer of mucus and epithelial cells that allow nutrients into the bloodstream, but stop pathogens and undigested food.
However, if the mucus lining is stripped away, or the cells in the epithelial layer become inflamed, it opens up gaps that allow bacteria, endotoxins, and other unwanted particles in the gut through, causing inflammation. This inflammation also wreaks havoc with blood sugar and ultimately can result in diabetes.
Common causes of leaky gut include saturated fats, such as those in beef and pork fat, or even coconut oil. It can also be in additives such as polysorbate 80 or CMC.
Most feline parents find out their cats are diabetic when they have a ravenous appetite coupled with reduced weight. Other signs of diabetes in cats include increased thirst, increased urination, and sticky urine. Visit the vet for an official diabetes diagnosis when your cat exhibits the signs listed above, and you suspect that they have diabetes.
Other risk factors for diabetes include:
- Use of glucocorticoids (steroids)
- Physical inactivity - A sedentary lifestyle eventually leads to obesity. Overweight cats are likely to develop diabetes.
- Genetic predisposition - Certain breeds like the Burmese may be at a higher risk of developing diabetes.
- Age progression - senior cats are more likely to get diabetes because of lower activity levels.
What Is the Best Kind of Cat Food for Diabetic Cats?
The best kind of cat food for diabetic cats is as anti-inflammatory as possible, and low in carbohydrates and certain fats. Good fats, such as those from marine oils such as krill and fish are ideal. Avoid any high-saturated fats, such as beef, pork, palm oil, or coconut oil.
Food should be minimally processed, so freeze dried, frozen, or raw and fresh foods are ideal. These foods have less inflammatory compounds from processing, and raw-meat based foods can even be anti-inflammatory.
Taking care of your cat’s digestive health is also vital. This means less carbohydrates, and slightly more fiber, particularly soluble fiber that can help restore the mucosal gut lining. Insoluble fiber also lowers the overall glycemic index of the food, helping to keep blood sugar levels steady.
Finally, when it comes to cats, we must never forget the importance of quality protein. Look for plenty of white meat sources, such as different fish and poultry.
Do You Need to Start a Special Diet for Diabetic Cats?
Diabetic cats need special focus on the food they eat. The diet for a diabetic cat must be low in carbohydrates and rich in protein. Cats are obligate carnivores meaning that animal proteins must form the biggest chunk of their diets.
This need for protein increases even more for diabetic cats. A special diet for diabetic cats includes low-carbohydrate foods and animal meats. Carbs should ideally form less than 10% of the total calories in a diet tailored for the diabetic cat.
What Is The Best Food for Diabetic Cats?
Some of the foods we can recommend for a diabetic cat are :
Water added to this dehydrated cat meal turns it into wet cat food that is much better for your cat’s liver and other organs. The cat food is dehydrated, meaning it has fewer inflammatory compounds that can affect blood sugar. The high protein content of chicken and fish is good for diabetic cats.
This is a raw cat food that is high in quality animal protein (chicken). The nutrient content is still mostly intact because the food is still uncooked. It comes with probiotics for gut health, and is free of fillers and additives. This is an excellent choice for diabetic cats.
Instinct Raw Meals Cage Free Chicken Recipe
This cat food is heavily packed with chicken protein and is free from grains. The low-carbohydrate composition makes it an excellent choice for feeding diabetic cats. Freeze-dried food is also a more natural option for diabetic cats.
How Does Diabetic Cat Food Work
Diabetic cat food aims to provide the cat with adequate glucose for energy after the body breaks it down. Hypoglycemia is a common side effect of diabetic medications where the glucose levels in the blood get too low.
Diabetic medications can cause a spike in the absorption of glucose into cells, causing the sugar levels to drop too much. Diabetic cat food ensures that the blood sugar level is normal and constant.
It is advisable to feed your diabetic cat twice a day after giving your cat the insulin shots. Feeding your feline friend after diabetes medications helps maintain blood sugar levels in case the insulin is too much.
Even when your cat's diabetes goes into remission, continue feeding a diabetes-appropriate diet. Low-carb, diabetic cat foods maintain a healthy weight in cats with diabetes that keep the disease at bay.
Where to Buy Diabetic Cat Food
Pet assistant’s marketplace is a great way to compare prices and find the ideal cat food for your diabetic cat.
Diabetic cats can live long and satisfying lives with a proper diet and timely medications. A diet low in carbs and high in protein is crucial in maintaining good health for a diabetic cat. Obesity places a cat at major risk of developing diabetes mellitus
Administering insulin shots to your cat may seem daunting at first, but it gets easier with time. Wet cat foods are better for diabetic cats because they contain more moisture for hydration.