What If My Diabetic Cat Doesn’t Like Canned Food?

By Dr . Joi Sutton|2018-01-26T13:32:33-05:00Updated: January 16th, 2014|Pet Care, Pet Diabetes, Pet Diet & Nutrition, Pet Newsletter|2 Comments

Today’s article is for our cat lovers. There is no known benefit to restricting carbohydrates for diabetic dogs provided they are complex carbohydrates and fed primarily at mealtime (when the insulin is given). Diabetic cats are a different story. Many vets, including myself, have found low carbohydrate diets extremely successful for managing diabetic cats.

Canned foods in general are much lower in carbohydrate content than dry food. I will provide a link at the bottom of this article by a veterinarian who charted the carbohydrate content of many over the counter and veterinary prescription cat foods. You might peruse it to find the carb content of the cat food you are feeding.

Clearly every patient is different and may have complicating disease processes that can affect dietary recommendations, but in general for diabetic cats we like a carb content less than 7 to 10 percent. You must speak with your veterinarian regarding your cat’s best recommendations. Or, veterinary teaching hospitals often have nutritionists on staff that can take referrals. If you are near a vet school, consider this option if you have a complicated pet nutrition questions or a finicky eater.

There are some cats who just don’t like canned food. I can understand. I love ice cream but dislike milkshakes. It’s a texture thing for me. Cats can be very finicky with textures and flavors. One of my own cats refused canned food until this year. He is 8 years old! As I feed my voluptuous cat (the one who is always hungry, not diabetic but perpetually battles the bulge) canned food only, my middle aged kibble-loving cat has only now (for no apparent reason) started to take an interest in canned food.

There are several veterinary prescription DRY foods made for diabetic cats. They still have a higher carb content than ideal for diabetics, but the companies understand that some cats refuse canned food. Purina DM dry feline (designed for diabetic cats) contain 13 percent carbs. Nonetheless, these diets are low carb relative to most dry foods. As expected, the manufacturers are able to make the canned versions of these foods lower than the dry version.

Another benefit of canned food over dry food is that there is a higher water content in canned food. The pet will feel full sooner eating canned food than a comparable calorie portion of dry food. This is important because many of our diabetic cats became diabetic from glucose toxicity and obesity. If your diabetic cat is overweight, we wish to control carbs AND limit calories for a gradual controlled weight loss. Feeling full (satiety) is a good thing for those who tend to overeat and need to lose weight.

I urge you to speak with your veterinarian if your diabetic cat doesn’t like canned food or has complicating issues. Hopefully I gave you food for thought.

As promised, here is the link to Dr. Pierson’s nutritional chart. Look up the carb content of your cat’s food!

NOTE: Consult your veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your pets special health needs.

About the Author: Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr. Joi Sutton is a 1993 graduate from Oregon State University. She has practiced both in emergency medicine and general practice. Dr. Sutton has done extensive international volunteer work though Veterinary Ventures, a nonprofit organization that takes teams of veterinarians to undeveloped countries for humane medical care. She also runs a small animal practice in South Florida. Connect with Dr. Joi on LinkedIn


  1. mary ann ankrom December 22, 2017 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    my diabetic cat does no want dry or wet diabetic cat food. The vet has told me to use hills kitten food. What do you think of this? I do not know which kitten food to use. Thank you

    • Dr . Joi Sutton December 24, 2017 at 1:18 pm - Reply

      Your vet is spot on! Before there were “diabetic low carb diets” the research for diabetic cats was done with canned kitten food. Canned food is lower in carbs than dry food in general. We wish to feed diabetic cats low carb diets, less than 10 percent carbs ideally. The prescription low carb diabetic canned diets for cats include purina dm, Royal Canin glycobalance and hill’s M/d. If your cat won’t eat these diets, then find a different low carb diet. Again, dry foods have a higher carb content so I’d strongly prefer canned food for your diabetic cat. You can google “cat food composition chart” and find a list of carb content for commercial prescription and over the counter diets. Good luck!

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