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3 Best Cat Food For a Diabetic Cat Picks (Non-Prescription)

Disclaimer: As a Chewy and Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This does not impact our reviews and comparisons.

Aim for less than 6% carbs (dry matter) for diabetic cats.

Here are our best 3 picks:

  1. Tiki Cat After Dark | Best Overall
  2. Nulo Freestyle | Best Value
  3. Ziwi Peak Air-Dried | Best Dry

Not sure what is the best cat food for a diabetic cat?

Diabetes is a serious medical condition. If untreated, it decreases your cat’s lifespan and increases vet bills.

Let’s prevent that. I’ll go through what to look for with a buying guide.

Then I’ll go through the best options and cover frequently asked questions.

Let’s go.

The goal of this website is to help cat owners learn more about taking care of their cats. I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions.

Buying Guide

Low carb cat food is best for diabetes.

The highest remission (~80%) occur with diets of less than 6% carbs metabolizable energy (ME).

Research recommendations vary.

Some suggest diabetic cats can have up to 15% ME carbs. I recommend sticking to 6% for strictness.

This eliminates most dry cat food from the menu.

Most are above 15% ME carbs.

Start by looking for wet cat food.

Use a dry matter basis calculator to check for carb content. Check the guaranteed analysis and enter that.

If you can’t find the ash content, use 2%.

Either check the physical label or check online (e.g. Chewy).

A cat food guaranteed analysis.
Check the guaranteed analysis, then use a calculator to find the dry matter basis of each nutrient.
An example of a dry matter basis calculation for cat food.
Use a calculator to find the dry matter basis for carbohydrate, protein, fat, and fiber.

Check for high carb ingredients. These include:

  • Oats
  • Potato
  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Tapioca starch
  • Sweet potato
  • Corn
  • Cranberries
  • Rice

The higher these ingredients appear on the list, the higher in weight.

Some types of carbs are problematic, including rice. Rice has a high glycemic index, and causes wild insulin swings.

Remember:

Cats eat mice, not rice.

Aside from carbs, choose high protein cat food.

Cats with diabetes tend to lose muscle. Diabetes is a problem where fuel (glucose) isn’t being used by the body, which starves muscle.

Aim for >40% protein dry matter basis to prevent losses.

Many diabetic cats are obese (yes, even with muscle loss).

The body condition score (BCS) helps you find out if your cat is at a healthy weight.

Aim for BCS of 5. Here’s a link to the chart.

If your cat is above a BCS of 5, consider low fat wet food.

A body condition score chart (BCS) for cats. Aim for a BCS of 5.
Aim to keep your cat at the ideal BCS of 5.

Experts suggest <35% fat dry matter basis to help with weight loss.

Keep in mind though, it’s the total calories that matter most.

To lose weight, a cat needs to eat fewer calories than they use creating a calorie deficit. Wet cat food is portion controlled by design, helping to control calorie intake.

One last thing:

Check the cat food meets AAFCO’s nutrition guidelines for growth, maintenance, or all life stages. This helps you find cat food with the micronutrients cats need.

Supplemental feeding foods are just that, supplemental. Examples include Applaws.

A great low carb choice, but not a complete meal for cats.

Despite the name, food intended for growth (i.e. kittens) is better than maintenance. It contains higher amounts of protein.

Some micronutrients affect diabetes. For example, a deficiency in the mineral chromium worsens glucose control. Grass-fed meats contain higher amounts of chromium.

Check the cat food label to make sure the food contains complete & balanced nutrition.
Check that your cat food meets the nutritional levels set by AAFCO (this food meets the needs for adult cats).

Here’s a summary of buying tips for diabetic cats:

  • Choose wet cat food
  • Aim for <6% carbs (dry matter)
  • Aim for >40% protein (dry matter)
  • Consider low fat wet food for weight loss
  • Look for and avoid high carb ingredients like rice and potato
  • Choose a complete and balanced cat food (check the AAFCO statement)

Learn More:

Useful Resources:

3 Best Cat Food For A Diabetic Cat picks

1. Tiki Cat After Dark

Best Cat Food for Diabetic Cats

Tiki Cat After Dark

Pros and Cons

  • No added carbs
  • High protein
  • No fillers
  • Limited variety
  • Pricey

Review

Tiki Cat After Dark is free of carbs. Perfect for diabetic cats.

It’s rich in high protein ingredients, in authentic shreds. Picky cats will enjoy it.

This will help with weight control.

The main issue is the price here.

Read More: Tiki Cat Food Review

Tiki Cat After Dark dry matter nutrition analysis
Tiki Cat After Dark dry matter nutrition analysis
Tiki Cat After Dark cat food review score
Tiki Cat After Dark cat food review score

2. Nulo Freestyle

Best Value Cat Food for Diabetes

Pros and Cons

  • Low carb
  • Easy to chew pate
  • Affordable
  • Not tested
  • Added gums

Review

Nulo Freestyle is an affordable choice with less than 6% carbohydrate. Great for diabetic cats.

It’s a good all round food. Suitable for all life stages.

The easy chew pate and flavors will suit older cats.

We haven’t tested this one yet.

Read More: Nulo Cat Food Review

Tiki Cat After Dark dry matter nutrition analysis
Tiki Cat After Dark dry matter nutrition analysis
Tiki Cat After Dark cat food review score
Tiki Cat After Dark cat food review score

3. Ziwi Peak Air-Dried

Best Quality Dry Cat Food

Pros and Cons

  • Low carb
  • Grass-fed animal produce
  • Complete meal for all ages
  • Pricey
  • Exotic flavor

Review

Ziwi Peak is air-dried and carb free. It’s your best dry cat food choice for diabetic cats.

There’s no grains or legumes here. It’s a complete meal for all life stages.

No meat meals. Great taste, although a little exotic.

The price is a steep though.

Learn More: Ziwi Peak Cat Food Review

Ziwi Peak Air-Dried cat food dry matter nutrition analysis
Ziwi Peak Air-Dried cat food dry matter nutrition analysis
Ziwi Peak Air-Dried cat food review score
Ziwi Peak Air-Dried cat food review score

How Did I Choose These Cat Foods?

I’ve looked at over 50 popular cat foods. Many tested with my cats.

For this article I chose any cat food under 6% carbohydrate (dry matter). I also sorted out foods under 40% protein.

I sorted cat foods based on:

  • Nutrition
  • Ingredients
  • Taste
  • Cost
  • Trust

We use a qualitative and quantitative scoring system.

Here’s an extended list of the 10 best cat foods for diabetic cats:

Best cat food for a diabetic catsTypeTextureLifestageProtein*CarbsCalcium: PhosphateKcal/kgCost
Hound & GatosWetPateAll45.5%0.0%2.31,222$$
Tiki Cat After DarkWetShredsAll77.7%0.1%0.9751$$$
Dr. Elsey’s Clean ProteinDryDryAll67.0%0.3%1.94,030$$
Fancy Feast Savory CentersWetPateAdult45.0%1.0%N/A966$$
Meat MatesWetPateAll41.7%1.7%2.41,084$$$
Feline NaturalWetPateAll51.5%2.1%1.3895$$$
Instinct OriginalWetPateAll59.1%3.2%N/A944$
Wellness Core Tiny TastersWetPateAdult46.7%3.7%1.71,291$$
Ziwi Peak Air-DriedDryDryAll40.7%4.7%1.35,600$$$
Nulo FreestyleWetPateAll51.4%5.8%1.51,225$
*dry matter basis !calcium to phosphate ratio #despite being ‘kitten’ foods, these are suitable for older cats

Frequently Asked Questions

What Food Is Best for a Diabetic Cat?

Aim for wet cat food with less than 6% carbohydrate on a dry matter basis.

This helps your cat manage their blood glucose levels. Use an online calculator to find out how many carbs are in your cat food.

Cats eat mice, not rice.

Stick to animal-based ingredients for best results.

What Is the Life Expectancy of a Diabetic Cat?

Your cat can enjoy a normal life expectancy if their diabetes is managed. Some suggest 3 years as an estimate for lifespan.

Ask yourself the following:

  • How old was your cat when diagnosed?
  • How is their health otherwise?
  • What breed of cat do I have (some have shorter lifespans)?
  • Are they overweight?
  • Do they have any other health conditions?

Sadly, around 30% of owners euthanize their diabetic cat within a year due to financial and emotional hardship.

Is Purina Good for Cats With Diabetes?

There are a lot of brands owned by Purina including:

  • Fancy Feast
  • Purina ONE
  • Purina Pro Plan
  • Friskies

We found some Purina Pro Plan wet cat food products suitable for diabetic cats.

This includes:

Is Fancy Feast Classic Pate Good for Diabetic Cats?

Yes.

I took a look at Fancy Feast Classic Turkey & Giblets Pate.

On a dry matter basis it has 3.8% carbohydrate. This meets the recommendation for cat food under 6% carbohydrate for diabetes.

Is High-Protein Cat Food Good for Diabetic Cats?

Yes. Aim for >40% protein dry matter basis to prevent muscle loss.

Diabetic and senior cats are at risk of muscle loss.

Is Wet or Dry Food Better for a Diabetic Cat?

Wet food is best.

Most dry food contains too much carbohydrate for diabetic cats.

Wet cat food improves hydration. Diabetic cats are at higher risk of urinary tract infection, a problem water helps with.

Speaking of water, remember the golden rule:

Make the walk to water, shorter.

Add more bowls of water to give your cat easy access at all times. Consider different shapes and size bowls to best suit your cats preference.

A cat eating wet food.
Wet food is best for diabetic cats.

How Often Should a Diabetic Cat Be Fed?

This depends on the insulin dose. Most sources recommend 2 meals as this is easier to manage with insulin doses.

Some long acting insulin forms (e.g. glargine) can allow for frequent small meals.

Speak with your vet for advice in this area.

Can Diabetic Cats Eat Grain Free Food?

Yes. Grain free can exclude insulinogenic food sources like rice.

However, many grain-free cat foods swap out grains for other high carb foods including:

  • Potato
  • Tapioca starch
  • Peas
  • Lentils
  • Sweet potato

Don’t rely on grain-free to be low carb. Use a calculator to check the dry matter basis of each nutrient.

Aim for fewer than 6% carbs dry matter.

What Happens if a Cat Misses an Insulin Shot?

Insulin is what takes sugar out of the blood into cells for energy. If your miss an insulin shot, a diabetic cat will get hyperglycemia.

Without energy getting into cells diabetic cats get hungrier. It can cause weight loss due to wasting (no energy getting into muscle).

High blood sugar can lead to more water loss in the kidneys (called polydipsia).

Always make sure you take the dose recommended by your cat professional.

A cat with a vet.
Make sure to stick to the insulin dosage suggested by your care professional to avoid complications.

What Percentage of Diabetic Cats Go Into Remission?

If treated early (within 6 months of diagnosis), up to 84% of cats can enter remission.

Success depends on many factors including:

  • Age
  • Breed
  • Weight
  • Dietary adherence

How Can I Lower My Cats Blood Sugar?

Weight loss improves the effect on insulin in the body. Improving insulin helps control blood sugar. Low carb diets also help regulate blood sugar.

90% of cats have type 2 diabetes. This type of diabetes is related to lifestyle.

Losing weight helps improve insulin function. Aim for a healthy weight (BCS of 5).

Use a calculator to find out how much to feed your cat.

Here’s another tip:

Play with your cat. As little as 10 minutes of exercise can help cats lose weight.

Learn More:

Is Blue Buffalo Good for Diabetic Cats?

Most Blue Buffalo products are grain-free but use high carb ingredients like potato.

Blue Buffalo have a wide range of dry and wet cat food including:

  • Blue Life Protection
  • Blue Wilderness
  • Blue Freedom
  • Blue Basics
  • Blue True Solutions
  • Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet
  • Blue Tastefuls
  • Baby Blue

I couldn’t find any suitable products and found inconsistency with nutrition reporting.

For example, the Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Kitten ingredient list includes potato (high in carbs).

On the other hand, the nutrition information adds up to ~0% carbs ME. Not possible.

One of the answers on the question tab says there are 4% carb as fed (~15% ME).

What Triggers Diabetes in Cats?

Obesity is a main cause of type 2 diabetes in cats. It increases the risk over 4 x compared to cats at a healthy weight.

Helping your cat lose weight can help a cat enter remission.

Is Turkey Good for Diabetic Cats?

Yes. Turkey is a high protein and low carb animal based food.

It isn’t a complete food by itself.

You’ll want to make sure you feed your cat food that meets AAFCO’s guidelines as a sole source of nutrition.

Are Eggs Good for a Diabetic Cat?

Yes. Eggs are a high protein food that diabetic cats can enjoy.

Make sure to factor in the calories from eggs into your cats daily intake.

You don’t need to give eggs raw. Feel free to hard boil them.

Is Yoghurt Good for Diabetic Cats?

No. Dairy milk and yoghurt contain sugar in the form of lactose. This bumps up a cats carb intake.

Whilst some yoghurt is lower in sugar (e.g. plain Greek yoghurt), it’s not the best choice for diabetic cats.

Learn More:

What Is My Diabetic Cat Always Hungry?

Insulin takes sugar from the blood into cells for energy.

In diabetes, insulin either doesn’t work as well or there isn’t enough in the body.

That means the cells don’t get the energy they need. This is why diabetes results in hunger if not well managed.

If not treated, a diabetic cat would waste muscle and fat whilst starving. Extra sugar passes out the pee into the litter tray.

Take care to give your cat insulin as directed by your care professional.

Stick to low carb cat food to help your cat avoid blood sugar fluctuations.

A cat looking at a plate.
Diabetic cats can get hungrier due to less sugar getting into their body. Talk with your vet for support.

Can I Make Diabetic Cat Food at Home?

You can but I don’t recommend it.

Most cat food recipes found online suck.

A balanced homemade cat food diet must include a range of muscles, organs, and even bone. This gives your cat the nutrients they need.

Most online recipes forget sources of zinc, iron, and copper among other nutrients. Among that, some include toxic ingredients like garlic.

Do Cats With Diabetes Suffer?

They might. Diabetic cats have a higher risk of diabetic neuropathy. This affects walking, jumping, and other motor actions.

Diabetes can also increase hunger. Frequent vet visits can cause stress to cats.

Although your cat can’t communicate suffering, it’s fair to say diabetes isn’t a fun time.

Are Veterinary Diets Good for Diabetic Cats?

One study compared the following two foods on diabetes remission rate:

  • Moderate carb and high fiber diabetic cat food (Hill’s w/d canned)
  • Low carb and low fiber (Hill’s Science diet feline growth) kitten food

More diabetic cats in the kitten food group went into remission (68%) compared to the diabetic food (41%).

This suggests cutting carbs is a better strategy than adding fiber. Veterinary diets aren’t always best.

What is Diabetes in Cats?

Feline diabetes is a metabolic disorder leading to high blood sugar.

Insulin is a hormone that helps sugar enter cells for energy use. Diabetes is a result of defects in the way insulin is produced or how it is working.

How is Diabetes Diagnoses in Cats?

A vet uses a range of diagnostic tests to find out if your cat has diabetes.

Here are diabetic blood values in cats:

  • Blood glucose (any time): >180–288 mg/dL
  • Fasting blood glucose: 3.0–6.5 mmol/L

Which Cats Are Most at Risk of Diabetes?

Obese cats are over 4 times more likely to get diabetes.

Other risk factors include:

  • Ageing
  • Being male
  • Indoor restriction
  • Low activity
  • Breed
  • Corticosteroid usage

Burmese cats are four times more likely to get diabetes. Diabetes affects 10% of Burmese cats over 8 years.

What Are the Symptoms of Diabetes in Cats?

Clinical symptoms include:

  • Polyuria (excess urination)
  • Polydipsia (excess thirst)
  • Weight loss

If you notice any of these symptoms, see a vet.

How Many Cats Get Diabetes?

At least 1 in 81 cats will get diabetes (as of 1999).

The prevalence of feline diabetes is increasing. In 1970, the rate of diabetes was 1 in 1,250 cats.

How Do You Manage Diabetes in Cats?

Speak to your vet for a diabetes management plan for your cat.

The goal is of management is strict glycemic control (blood glucose <10mmol/L), whilst avoiding hypoglycemia.

Some cats may need a portable glucose meter calibrated for feline blood. This helps you know if your cat has high blood sugar.

Can You Reverse Diabetes in Cats?

Many cats go into remission with dietary therapy.

A high protein and low carb diet is best for diabetic cats. ~80% may enter remission eating a diet of less than 6% carbohydrate (dry matter) with medical care.

Is Nulo Cat Food Good for Diabetic Cats?

Yes. Nulo freestyle wet cat food is suitable for diabetic cats.

We looked at Nulo Freestyle Duck & Tuna.

This cat food is 5.8% carbs ME, meeting recommendations. It’s suitable for all life stages.

A great budget pick.

What Can I Feed My Diabetic Cat to Gain Weight?

Feed a diabetic cat a high protein diet. Aim for 40% protein ME or more.

This helps diabetic cats maintain muscle and keep the weight on.

What Is the Best Over the Counter Cat Food for Diabetic Cats?

I recommend Tiki Cat After Dark for diabetic cats needing to lose weight. It’s high in protein and contains no added carbs.

To help gain weight, Feline Natural is a great filler-free choice. It’s got more fat to boost calories.

If you’re on a budget, check out the following (all contain fewer than 6% carbs ME):

Conclusion

Choose wet cat food with less than 6% carbohydrate.

This helps control blood sugar. It improves the chance of remission.

Diabetes is a disease that results in high blood sugar in cats. It’s more common in obese cats.

>> Our best pick for diabetic cats: Tiki Cat After Dark

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