Transitioning Your Cat To a Low Carb Diet: Part 2

By Dr . Joi Sutton|2023-08-25T21:28:55-04:00Updated: July 19th, 2012|Pet Care, Pet Diabetes, Pet Diet & Nutrition, Pet Newsletter|0 Comments

This article is part three in a series on Transitioning Your Cat To a Low Carb Diet. To catch up, please read part one.


I had long fed my cats dry food. Let’s face it: It’s just easier to feed dry food! Planning on going away for a night? Just put out extra kibble. Oh, it used to be so easy. It was part of the beauty of having cats!

Additionally, feeding canned food is more expensive than feeding dry food. Canned food is more effort. My cats would make a mess when eating wet food relative to dry food. Cans require recycling or they will fill up our landfills. Canned food must be put out several times a day or it dries out. Some believe that canned food promotes tartar build up. Finally, a lot of cats like their crunchies!

Many cat owners have more than one cat. I personally have 3 cats: Tatoo and Tutu (who come from Cook Islands) and Twinkle (who comes from American Samoa). I’ve done a lot of international veterinary volunteer work. Some people bring home souvenirs from their travels and I bring home cats. Tatoo and Tutu were kittens when they came to America. Except for their first few weeks of life, they’ve not known hunger. Twinkle, on the other hand, had to fend for herself. When I met Twinkle she was one tough street cat, feeding kittens in the rafters of the hotel and so skinny that I could put my hand around her spine, she was about one year old and starving. Twinkle has food issues. She came to America and became fat, despite being on some of the top veterinary diets. As I explained in last week’s newsletter, I now have Twinkle eating canned food only. No kibble at all.

This means separating my cats while feeding. Twinkle is not allowed to eat kibble except an occasional Greenies treat. Twinkle is given a specified portion. Three times a day we go through this routine. My other cats are fed their kibble, but it can no longer be left out or else Twinkle would eat it.

The difficulties I’ve encountered:

Cat jealousy is real. Tutu is certain something unfair is going on. She is downright peeved that Twinkle gets canned food while she is getting dry. Twinkle wants back in the spare bedroom where the dry food use to be left out, where I feed the other cats dry when she is in my own bedroom with her canned food. She likes her canned food but dearly misses the kibble. None of them are pleased, but I’m hearing less grumbling about it a month into the new protocol.

I have to catch and separate the cats before meal time. I’m like a traffic cop separating out the crew so I can feed them. Of course nobody wants to be where I tell them. They want to make sure the other cats aren’t getting special favors. Cats are so smart that they know what I’m doing.

Everybody is hungry by the time I wake up. They have been used to having small amounts of dry kibble left out overnight, and now there is no food left out. You guessed it: they wake me up early in the morning to alert me that the bowl is yet again empty. As much as I enjoy sleeping with my cats in the bed, if I really need a good night sleep I now kick them out of my bedroom. Since I now sometimes boot them out of the master bedroom/bathroom, I had to put a 2nd litter box in the spare bedroom!

It is frustrating being the food cop. It is more work. I’m certain my cats think I am daft and I suspect they may have even sworn at me. I feed them 3 times daily, which is certainly adequate. I even sneak the thin cats extra opportunities to eat. I tell them that no cat has starved to death for going 3 hours without food. Nonetheless, they believe we are a democracy and that there really should be food available at all times.

Despite my lack of popularity over the new regimen, in the last month my Twinkle Toes has gone from 15 pounds to 14 pounds. She is already more agile. I believe that as we get her toward her goal weight (probably about 10 pounds) that she will feel better. As a veterinarian, I know that tubby cats are at a much higher risk of diabetes. Before I took this more stringent approach to Twink’s weight management I feared that she would become a type 2 diabetic. I know that she will feel more energetic at a proper body weight.

Speak with your veterinarian regarding how much to feed your cat. Discuss food choices with your vet, particularly if your cat is pudgy. There are calorie requirement calculators available to veterinarians on the Veterinary Information Network that can even do the math for you. If your diabetic cat isn’t already on canned food, please do consider the transition.

NOTE: Consult your Veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your 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

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