Best Cat Food for Diabetic Cats

Feeding Cats with Diabetes

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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 nutrients your cat needs to thrive.

With obesity and diabetes so closely linked, great foods also help your cat to slim down and reach a healthy weight. That’s why we recommend Nom Nom’s Flavorful Fish Feast as the overall best cat food for diabetic cats.

At 5% calories from carbohydrate, this low-starch food controls blood sugar and reduces your cat’s reliance on insulin.

But what earned Nom Nom the top spot wasn’t its carbohydrate content—it was what it does for overweight cats. Nom Nom food comes in custom-portioned packages made with your cat’s weight goals in mind.

At a Glance: Best Cat Food for Diabetic Cats to Buy

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Top Pick

Nom Nom Flavorful Fish Feast Cat Food
  • Customized portion sizes help with weight loss
  • Low-carb at just 5% carbohydrates
  • Primarily made with high-value animal protein
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Runner Up

Tiki Cat Hookena Luau Cat Food
  • Contains tuna fish oil as a source of nourishing omega-3s
  • Exceptionally low in carbohydrates
  • Low in fat and moisture-packed
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Best for Paté Lovers

Hound & Gatos Canned Salmon Cat Food
  • Made with a single source of animal protein
  • Moisture-rich
  • Zero carbohydrate content
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Budget Pick

Purina Fancy Flaked Fish & Shrimp Feast Canned Cat Food
  • Moisture-rich and low-fat to encourage a healthy weight
  • Extremely low in carbohydrates
  • A highly-rated food that cats seem to love
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Best Dry

Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Lamb Recipe Cat Food
  • Highly-digestible
  • Free of chemical preservatives, artificial ingredients, and animal byproducts
  • Made with 96% fresh meat
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Best for Weight Gain

Instinct by Nature’s Variety Original Grain-Free Real Lamb Recipe
  • Rich in biologically-appropriate animal protein
  • Low in carbohydrates
  • A nourishing option for cats who need to gain weight
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Keep reading to learn about this food and five more of our top picks for diabetic cats. Before we get into the reviews, let’s learn more about diabetes and how the best food can help.

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Before we talk about how diet can help, let’s go over a refresher on what diabetes is.

There are two main types of diabetes—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. Again, only a tiny percentage of cats with diabetes have type 1.

Also Read: Feline Diabetes: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Remission Demystified

Instead, virtually all diabetic cats exhibit the metabolic patterns of type 2 diabetes. Also known as idiopathic hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), it’s an endocrine condition that typically involves some combination of insulin resistance and diminished insulin production. Without insulin working properly in the body, glucose remains in the bloodstream instead of converting to energy.

High blood sugar levels affect your cat in several ways, causing lethargy, weakness, excessive urination, and an unwell feeling.

Diet can both cause and treat your cat’s diabetes.

Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins, 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 a menace among cats leading human-controlled lifestyles – lifestyles that are in many ways disconnected from their natural instincts and biological needs.

Aside from a genetic predisposition to diabetes in Burmese cats, diabetes risk factors are largely environmental. The best candidate for type 2 diabetes is an overweight senior cat who spends his days lounging around indoors and munching on dry cat food—kitty cereal.

While we still don’t completely understand how diet contributes to diabetes, it does appear that cats on high-carbohydrate diets are most prone to developing it.

And while the wrong diet puts your cat at risk of diabetes, choosing the right food is your only hope of curing it.

Most diabetic cats who leave behind a biologically inappropriate diet see significant reductions in their insulin requirements. A large group can go into remission and no longer need insulin injections whatsoever.

The best time to clean up your cat’s diet is before they show symptoms of diabetes. The second best time is immediately after you start seeing these symptoms.

As diabetes progresses, the pancreas may become exhausted and will no longer secrete any insulin at all. In this case, there’s no hope of remission and insulin therapy is a life-long commitment.

Fortunately for anyone trying to wean their cat off of the wrong food, diabetic cats usually have a ravenous appetite. While a healthy junk food addict might balk at a dietary change, hunger is often enough to force a diabetic cat to try something new.

What’s the best kind of food for diabetic cats?

The best food for diabetic cats honors your carnivorous cat’s dietary needs.

As obligate carnivores, cats have thrive on nutrients derived from other animals. They can’t survive without the amino acids, fatty acids, and micronutrients originally found in their prey.

What your cat’s natural diet doesn’t have is large concentrations of carbohydrates. The feline diet may have as little as zero carbohydrate matter.

What little carbohydrate or fiber content their diet might contain would come from nibbles of grass and any digested plant matter found in the digestive tracts of their prey.

We’re not just looking at your cat’s ancestors and homeless cousins and assuming that their unprocessed diet is superior to today’s science-backed menu.

Though they can eat plants and metabolize carbohydrates, cats also exhibit a physiological anti-carbohydrate bias.

For example, cats lack salivary amylase (carbohydrate-digesting enzymes in their saliva). Further down the digestive tract, cats have low activities of digestive enzymes used to break down carbohydrates in the small intestine.

Cats have a limited ability to metabolize large glucose loads and critically, healthy cats—non-diabetic ones—exhibit mild insulin resistance.

That’s why the best cat food for diabetic cats is 10% carbohydrates or less on a dry matter basis.

Ideally, your cat’s food should mimic his natural prey diet. An optimal feline diet is about 52% protein, 46% fat, and 2% carbohydrates. According to Susan Gottlieb and Jacquie Rand’s Managing Feline Diabetes: Current Perspectives, the highest remission rates—over 80%—are reported when cats eat a very-low carbohydrate diet containing 6% or less calories from carbohydrate.

Controlled levels of dietary carbohydrates lower your cat’s blood sugar. As blood sugar goes down, so does his need for insulin injections.

Because a low-carbohydrate diet has an immediate and usually significant effect on blood glucose levels, home testing is critical.

The effects of switching to a low-carbohydrate diet kick in immediately. This means that after changing your cat’s diet, you can’t wait days, weeks, or a month before reducing the insulin dosage.

If you fail to reduce your cat’s insulin dosage according to your cat’s changing requirements, their blood sugar could dip dangerously low, leading to permanent brain damage or death.

Instead of relying on regular veterinarian visits to evaluate your cat’s condition, take testing into your own hands. This will allow you to carefully monitor the changes in your cat’s blood sugar and avoid a hypoglycemic crisis.

This video demonstrates how to test your cat’s blood sugar at home.

Choose high-moisture foods.

Because most diabetic cats are overweight, it’s important to choose foods that will encourage gradual weight loss.

Compared to calorie-dense kibble, moisture-rich foods are more satiating and will help your cat to stay satisfied between meals.

In addition to moisture depletion, dry foods have another problem—carbohydrates.

Consider that an average canned food may be less than 3% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis. Dry food from the same brand might be 44% carbohydrate matter. Both are marketed as complete and balanced foods, yet the dry formula may have fifteen times more carbohydrates.

If protein were the nutrient in question, you wouldn’t see that huge of a discrepancy from food to food. Cats who eat canned food all of their lives don’t suffer from carbohydrate deficiencies.

There’s no nutritional rationale behind it.

So why are most dry foods so high in carbohydrates?

Dry cat food is necessarily high in carbohydrates for the same reason why keto cookies aren’t the same as fresh chocolate chip cookies made with plenty of wheat flour and cane sugar. Starchy ingredients help to give the kibble its structure and crunch.

A few dry foods break that mold, using gelatin, guar gum, and other low-carbohydrate ingredients instead of the traditional potatoes and corn. If you want low-carbohydrate dry cat food, consider products from Ziwi Peak, Dr. Elsey’s, and Young Again.

Are veterinary diets good for diabetic cats?

Not necessarily. Look for low carbohydrate levels, a healthy amount of moisture, and plenty of animal protein. If you find those qualities in a prescription food, that’s great. Most prescription foods, however, have excessive carbohydrates and mediocre ingredients at high prices.

The Best Diabetic Cat Foods: Our Top 6 Recommendations

All of the products in our list of the 5 best foods for diabetic cats are less than 6% carbohydrate on a dry matter basis.

#1 Top Pick: Nom Nom Flavorful Fish Feast Cat Food Review

NOMNOMNOW-1-065_Edited fish recipe

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First 5 Ingredients: Tilapia, Salmon, Beef Fat, Yuca, Carrot

This food is a bit different from the others on the list—it’s sold as part of a cat food meal delivery service. Nom Nom cat food is made to order in a human-grade kitchen, then shipped to you according to a monthly or weekly schedule.

Because you choose portion sizes according to your cat’s weight goals, this food makes portion control easy for diabetic cats who need to lose or gain weight.

The company’s fish recipe is exceptionally low in carbohydrates, with just 5% calories from carbs. It’s primarily made from highly-digestible animal protein.

What We Liked:

  • Low-carb at 5% calories from carbohydrates
  • A high-protein food primarily made from fish
  • Customized portion sizes help with weight loss
  • Conveniently shipped to your door

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Fish shouldn’t be a mainstay of your cat’s diet
  • Cost is above market average

#2 Runner-Up: Tiki Cat Hookena Luau Cat Food Review

Tiki Cat Hookena Luau Ahi Tuna & Chicken in Chicken Consomme Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

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First 5 Ingredients: Chicken Broth, Tuna, Chicken, Sunflower Seed Oil, Tricalcium Phosphate

With an ingredient list centering around meat and under 2% carbohydrate content on a dry matter basis, this food skips the starch and delivers all the protein your cat needs.

The food features a combination of flaked tuna and chicken, lending it a fresh consistency and a flavor that most cats seem to love.

With under 30 calories per ounce, this food is one of the least calorie-dense on the market. Your cat gets plenty of juicy, flaky food without a lot of calories.

What We Liked:

  • Exceptionally low in carbohydrates
  • Low in fat and moisture-packed to encourage a healthy weight
  • Contains tuna fish oil as a source of nourishing omega-3s
  • Free from chemical preservatives, artificial ingredients, and animal byproducts

What We Didn’t Like:

  • On the expensive end of the spectrum

#3 Best for Paté Lovers: Hound & Gatos Canned Salmon Cat Food Review

Hound & Gatos 98% Salmon Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

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First 5 Ingredients: Salmon, Fish Broth, Calcium Carbonate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride

Hound & Gatos canned cat food is made with singular simplicity.

Salmon is combined with fish broth and enough synthetic taurine, vitamins, minerals, and other supplements to ensure that each meal is nutritionally complete.

Like all Hound & Gatos foods, this recipe’s only carbohydrate source is agar-agar. This gelling agent is all fiber, meaning that it won’t convert to sugar in the bloodstream. Ultimately, the food has zero net carbs.

What We Liked:

  • Moisture-rich with relatively low fat, encouraging a healthy weight
  • Made with a single source of animal protein, making it great for cats with digestive issues
  • Zero carbohydrate content
  • Free from chemical preservatives, artificial ingredients, and animal byproducts

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Gets mixed reviews from cats—about 30% of reviewers don’t like the way it tastes

#4 Best Budget: Purina Fancy Flaked Fish & Shrimp Feast Canned Cat Food Review

Purina Fancy Feast Flaked Gourmet Wet Cat Food

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First 5 Ingredients: Ocean Fish, Fish Broth, Shrimp, Vegetable Oil, Tricalcium Phosphate

Want to feed your diabetic cat well on a budget? Think about this food from Fancy Feast. This supermarket staple is one of the lowest-carbohydrate foods on the market with

Fancy Feast Classics foods are highly palatable, affordable, and exceptionally low in carbohydrates. At less than 5% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis, it’s one of the lowest-carb foods you can buy.

With its protein-rich recipe primarily composed of ocean fish and shrimp, the food is a species-appropriate meal that delivers the nutrition your cat needs. It’s moisture-rich and satisfying enough to help your cat lose weight and feel his best.

What We Liked:

  • Extremely low in carbohydrates
  • A highly-rated food that cats seem to love
  • Moisture-rich and low-fat to encourage a healthy weight
  • One of the most affordable options on the market
  • Doesn’t contain artificial colors or flavors

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Made with vaguely-named ingredients
  • Contains vegetable oil, which isn’t an ideal source of fat for cats

#5 Best Dry: Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Lamb Recipe Cat Food

ZiwiPeak Daily Cat Food Pouches Lamb

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First 5 Ingredients: Lamb, Lamb Heart, Lamb Tripe, Lamb Liver, Lamb Kidney

Few dry foods have what it takes to earn a spot in a diabetic cat’s bowl. This air-dried food from Ziwi Peak is one of those few. Instead of extruding the food, Ziwi air-dries its ingredients, making it possible to forgo high-carbohydrate binders.

The food is primarily made from lamb muscle meat and organs, with green-lipped mussel as a source of omega-3 fatty acids, lamb bone as a source of minerals, and a variety of key supplements.

With dried kelp and inulin its only plant ingredients, the food is radically low in carbohydrates compared to other dry foods. At 5% carbs, it can help to control your cat’s blood sugar and reduce his reliance on insulin.

If your cat’s overweight, be careful with this food. It’s one of the most calorie-dense products on the market, with 318 calories per scoop. You’ll need to use careful portion control to make sure your cat doesn’t get more than he needs.

What We Liked:

  • Made with 96% fresh meat, organs, bones, and green-lipped mussel
  • A highly-digestible, nourishing food that supports lean muscle and overall health
  • Free of chemical preservatives, artificial ingredients, and animal byproducts
  • Features high-quality ingredients from New Zealand

What We Didn’t Like:

  • One of the most expensive foods on the market
  • Very calorie-dense—not the best option for overweight cats

#6 Best for Weight Gain: Instinct by Nature’s Variety Original Grain-Free Real Lamb Recipe Canned Cat Food

Instinct Original Grain Free Real Lamb Recipe Natural

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First 5 Ingredients: Lamb, Lamb Broth, Turkey, Turkey Liver, Ground Flaxseed

Although most diabetic cats are overweight or obese, some cats with undiagnosed or untreated diabetes may become underweight over time. In this case, the best food combines low carbohydrate content with generous doses of high-quality protein and animal-sourced fat.

This food is 95% lamb, turkey, and liver—all nourishing sources of the protein your cat needs to thrive. The remaining 5% of the recipe is composed of fruits and vegetables. Despite a small amount of plant content, the recipe is about 4% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis, putting it well within the carbohydrate range for diabetic cats.

With about 37 calories per ounce, this food is more energy-dense than the other options on the list. That makes it a standout option for cats who need to put on some weight.

What We Liked:

  • Rich in biologically-appropriate animal protein
  • Low in carbohydrates
  • Free of chemical preservatives, artificial ingredients, and animal byproducts
  • A nourishing option for cats who need to gain weight

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Contains some fruit and vegetable ingredients

Want to explore more options?

Dr. Lisa Pierson, DVM has created an extensive cat food database that allows you to narrow your search by nutrient values. Remember that the values on this list may be outdated, so it’s important to follow up with more research to confirm that the food’s carbohydrate content is still within range.

Search Catinfo.org’s cat food database.

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*This article is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Your veterinarian can provide personalized suggestions relevant to your cat’s unique situation.

About the author


Mallory Crusta is a writer and adventurecat enthusiast on a mission to make cats’ lives extraordinary. She’s one of the founders of Wildernesscat – a site for happy, healthy, and adventurous cats who are fueled by nature. Visit Wildernesscat for radically natural cat nutrition, home remedies, and lifestyle inspiration.