Diet For Diabetic Cats; Exercise Tips


Diet plays an essential role in helping to control your cat's diabetes and maintain its quality of life.

A number of cat foods have been created specifically for diabetic pets.

However, a food that works well for one cat may not be the right choice for another.

Your veterinarian will assess which diet may be better in your cat's situation. You may have to try a few different foods in order to find one that meets the veterinarian's recommendations and is accepted by your cat.

color photo of a mouse in a basket
The body composition of a mouse is a good guideline for a cat’s diet: around 45-50% protein, 40-45% fat and 3-5% carbohydrate.

Low Carbohydrate, High Protein Diet for Diabetes Management

Cats evolved as pure carnivores. Their systems are designed to digest foods that are high in animal protein. The body composition of a mouse provides a good guideline for a healthy cat’s diet: approximately 45-50% protein, 40-45% fat and just 3-5% carbohydrate.

Some preliminary clinical trials have investigated the use of low-carbohydrate, high protein diets in diabetic cats. The results have been encouraging, with many of the cats showing improved clinical signs, reduced insulin needs, and improved blood glucose levels.

In general, most supermarket canned cat food is low in carbohydrate. Canned diabetes food sold by veterinarians is especially high in protein and low in carbohydrate.

If you prefer to feed your cat dry food, you can obtain low-carbohydrate, dry diabetes cat food from the veterinarian. It has about twice the carbohydrate level of diabetes canned cat food. However, it contains 60% less carbohydrates than regular canned cat food, and much lower carbohydrate levels than conventional dry cat food. Therefore, it is a better choice for your diabetic cat than store-bought dry cat food.

It may take some time to find a diabetes diet that your cat is willing to eat but it is worth the effort. Remember: a diabetes diet is only useful if your cat agrees to eat it regularly. If the cat turns its nose up at the first diabetes diet you try, ask your veterinarian to suggest others. If your cat gets tired of eating the same food every day for several months, you may need to identify a second choice.


For most diabetic cats, strenuous exercise is not a reasonable option because of obesity or nerve damage.

One way to encourage your cat to move around is to feed it small meals placed in various spots around the house, so it needs to walk from one to the next.

Take 5 minutes a few times a day for some active play with your kitty.  Have it walk after a string that you drag along the floor, play soccer with a small ball, or swat at a long feather that you wave in the air.

Courtesy, Salt City Cat Club

Whatever exercise you do with your cat, it should be reasonably consistent. If the cat's activity varies too much from day to day, this will disrupt the effectiveness of its insulin regimen.

Talk to your veterinarian before starting an exercise routine with your cat. Start carefully, in short sessions, and don’t force your cat to move around if it clearly does not want to.


The BD Diabetes Learning Center describes the causes of diabetes, its symptoms, and diabetes complications such as retinopathy and neuropathy. This site contains detailed information about blood glucose monitoring, insulin injection and safe sharps disposal. Interactive quizzes, educational literature downloads and animated demonstrations help to teach diabetes care skills.

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