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What to Feed a Diabetic Cat to Gain Weight: Vet-Reviewed Health Tips

Written by: Luxifa Le

Last Updated on January 4, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

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What to Feed a Diabetic Cat to Gain Weight: Vet-Reviewed Health Tips


Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg DVM Photo


Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Diabetes has become an epidemic, not just in people but also in pets. Feline diabetes is most similar to type 2 diabetes in humans, meaning that weight management and diet are critical factors in controlling the condition. Cats with diabetes often lose weight rapidly when their condition isn’t managed well, leading to further health complications and even death.

Let’s take a look at some tremendous diabetes-friendly foods you can feed your cat to help them gain weight.


What Is Feline Diabetes?

Feline diabetes is similar to human type 2 diabetes. It occurs when the pancreas is overloaded and shuts down, preventing or slowing the production of insulin—the hormone that processes the nutrients in our bloodstream into energy.

Cats with feline diabetes may need to be put on supplemental insulin, delivered by injection under the skin. These insulin injections provide the cat with the insulin the pancreas cannot make and allow them to process its food into energy correctly.

Diabetic cats who do not get insulin can die from an overage of blood sugar that will shock the body.

Best Foods for Diabetic Cats to Gain Weight

maine coon cat eating
Image Credit: Lita Keire, Shutterstock

Helping your cat gain back some weight they’ve lost in the beginning stages of its diabetes can be tricky since diabetes can cause consistent weight loss, even when it is eating enough. Diabetes also requires a special diabetes-friendly diet that prevents drastic spikes in blood pressure that overwork the pancreas. Thus, choosing the right food for your diabetic cat is critical to their continued health.

To help cats gain back the weight they lost from their diabetes, you’ll need to feed them a diet that won’t overload their pancreas to consume the correct number of calories to gain weight. This means you need to choose foods with a specific nutrient profile.

Low Carbohydrates

Diabetic cats should be fed low-carbohydrate diets. Truthfully, all cats should be fed a low-carbohydrate diet. Cats are scientifically classified as “obligate carnivores,” which means they’re biologically designed to eat a diet comprised of at least 70% animal proteins.

Carbohydrates also cause sudden spikes in blood sugar levels. This puts a lot of pressure on the pancreas to produce more insulin to process the carbohydrates into energy. When the pancreas is already struggling to produce insulin, forcing it to attempt to make more will only hasten its demise.

Cats with diabetes should be fed a diet of less than 10% carbohydrates, but some cats may need a carbohydrate content of 5% or less.

High Protein

Cats with diabetes should get most of their nutrients from protein. Again, all cats should be getting most of their nutrients from animal protein. Proteins are more accessible for the pancreas to break down and satiate the cat’s hunger drives longer. Protein is also the building block for cats. A cat’s body starts and ends with proteins. Ideally, most cats will do well on a diet that is at least 30% protein, but diabetic cats should be fed a diet that is at least 50% protein.


Your diabetic cat’s diet should be rounded out with healthy fat sources. At least 20% of their diet should come from healthy fats because these are also relatively easy on the pancreas.

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Canned vs Dry

cat eating dry and wet cat food
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, shutterstock

Canned food is typically better for cats with diabetes as carbohydrates are a critical component of making kibble. Canned foods usually contain lower carbohydrate content than dry food. Thankfully, if your cat will not eat canned food—a relatively rare occurrence in cats, you can look for special, low-carb kibble that provides the correct nutrient profile for diabetic cats.

Do I Need to Feed My Diabetic Cat Prescription Food?

Contrary to popular belief, diabetic cats do not need to eat prescription diets. Many commercially available cat foods contain the protein, fat, and carbohydrate contents necessary to help treat feline diabetes without the added price tag.

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Final Thoughts

Finding out that your cat has diabetes can be upsetting and worrying, but the good news is that it’s a condition that is relatively easy to manage with diet and medication. Getting your cat onto a diet specifically designed for its unique needs is critical to caring for a diabetic cat. So, talk with your vet to create an individualized plan for your cat’s continued health and overall well-being.

Featured Image Credit: Hanish, Pixabay

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