Cat eating balanced diet -- photo by by fofurasfelinas under CC license
I've been searching for diabetic cat food as my cat may be a bit diabetic (2008 but see my updating comment). She has some signs of it. She's overweight and she drinks lots of water. It's a worry to me. I thought, if I could find something that might help, why not try it.
The trouble is I am a bit skeptical about the idea of diabetic cat food. I am not sure it really exists. Then I spotted a book in Foyles (London's most famous book shop) by Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins, called "Your Cat". This is a book about cat food and cat health, it seems to me.
Anyway, she has a chapter on Feline Diabetes, which she calls a man made killer. What does that mean, I thought? Well at the beginning of the chapter she has inserted a picture of dry cat food in a large bag. That tells me what the chapter is about; that dry cat food contributes to feline diabetes.
On the inside cover of the book it says that Elizabeth Hodgkins, a veterinarian since 1977, worked as a director of technical affairs at the largest proprietary pet food manufacturer worldwide. So, she has a good, if not excellent, grasp of the manufacturing aspects of cat food. She knew that modern dry cat food used ingredients necessary for the manufacturing process that were high in refined carbohydrates.
She starts by saying that feline diabetes is on the increase in America (reaching a possible 1.5m cats with diabetes at the time of publication - 2007). Low carbohydrate, wet cat food diets, are much less likely to result in overweight cats, she says, because dry cat foods cause wide changes in blood sugar levels resulting in sluggishness.
Ms Hodgkins rejects the conclusions of research carried out in the 1980s that high fiber, high carbohydrate diet combined with insulin injections would control diabetes. When her own cat, Punkin, developed diabetes she decided to revert to a wet canned food diet, low in carbohydrate and higher in protein. Punkin's condition improved and no longer needed insulin. The same result occurred with other cats.
In her book, she says that obesity and diabetes have the same cause, meaning obesity does not cause diabetes. Cats predisposed to getting diabetes (and/or becoming obese) are more likely to get it if given dry cat food. Add to this indoor living and obese diabetic cats can result. Of course, cats are individuals. Some cats will respond better than others.
What are the signs of diabetes? Look for a diet centered around dry cat food. Most often, diabetic cats are neutered overweight males, she says. Diabetic cats drink more water than usual, which will lead to more frequent trips to the litter and they may go outside the litter box. They may eat more than usual and may vomit and begin to lose weight. A visit to the vet might be needed.
So, what is the conclusion? Dr. Hodgkins says stop feeding dry food. It is better to feed wet canned foods avoiding foods with corn, rice potato, carrots, apples and fruit. She says that if your cat needs insulin ask for animal sourced insulin called PZI.
Her thoughts are still controversial, as I understand it. Your vet may well disagree. For me, I modified my cat's diet. I now feed lots more wet canned cat food. My cat still eats some dry cat food but much less. My target is a diabetic cat food diet. My girl is still overweight and still drinks lots of water. And I am still skeptical. But what Dr. Hodgkins says makes sense so I follow her advice but not completely.
Here is some more advice on cat food generally and diabetic cat food. Feed good quality wet cat food and vary the cat food diet. I feed wet food, some dry food, some human food (cooked plain fish/prawns, for example) and some treats. Dry cat food should be as good a quality as can be afforded.
Update: Taurine as a supplement may assist in prevention of diabetes in cats. Commercial cat food has or should have taurine added. Bengal cats, it is thought, require more than the usual amounts. If you make homemade cat food it should be added in a multi-supplement or separately.