Diabetes in cats is much like in humans. There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 is caused by the body not being able to produce enough insulin. Type 2 is the body not being able to process more insulin effectively. Diabetes can strike cats really at any age, but it is seen more in older cats.
A source of diabetes is an improper diet. This means foods that are loaded with grains and, more importantly, carbohydrates. There is a controversy as to whether a high-fiber diet is the best treatment, or way to manage, a diabetic cat. In the past, diabetic cat food was essentially a high-fiber diet.
These days, there are a lot of arguments against a high-fiber diet, and rightly so.
However, giving advice on what can be classified as a good diabetic cat food is mostly subjective. A veterinarian can say that a high-fiber diet is the best. I can say to you that a good wet food that is packed with high and good quality protein is the best. Someone else on another site can say that a raw food diet, completely cut out the commercial food, is the best diabetic cat food. It is really all subjective for the most part.
If you are asking me, a good quality high protein, low carbohydrate food is the best.
Cats are carnivores and what they naturally eat contains little carbohydrates. Domesticated cats are eating too many grains and carbohydrates. They are not equipped for that.
It is important to look at the ingredients list and make sure that a meat source is most prominent.
Here is a real-life example of a vet prescribed diabetic cat food:
“Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Pork Fat, Brewers Rice, Wheat Gluten, Powdered Cellulose, Pork Protein Isolate, L-Lysine, Chicken Liver Flavor, Lactic Acid, Whole Grain Corn, Potassium Chloride and so on”
I am not kidding. This would actually be more expensive than buying the high quality wet cat food. This is because it comes from the vet and of course that is automatically more expensive.
Corn, rice, and cellulose are all source of carbohydrates.
Make sure that there are no grains present, unlike this example. Stay away from dry food completely when dealing with diabetes. There is a saying that the best dry cat food is still worse than the worst wet cat food. Dry always has more carbohydrates.
Grain free doesn’t necessarily mean low carbohydrates. Vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and peas are seen often in grain free cat food. Cat food that is grain free yet has no vegetables, or vegetables low on the ingredients list, may indicate that it is a low carbohydrate cat food. Grain free cat food loaded with vegetables is a red flag for carbohydrate levels.
If your cat is already on insulin and you wish to change the diet, please consult with a vet because a better quality cat food can mess with the insulin levels and you can end up overdosing the little guy.
If you go to the Special Needs Cat Diets page, I also have a little blurb about what is helpful for diabetic cats.