One of the most effective tools for managing feline diabetes is diet. But what happens when your cat friend tires of the food you've been feeding him? Teri H. writes:
Teri, you sound like you're managing Salem's diabetes very well. Navigating the maze of information and misinformation about cat food is difficult in the best of circumstances. We'll try our best to help you sort out your options.
All cats need a high-protein, low-carb diet. All cats. Not just those with diabetes. We're seeing an increase in diabetes in cats partially because so many cats are being fed carb-heavy dry cat foods. If you can afford it, you really shouldn't feed your feline friend any dry cat food.
It's important to be aware that the information published by cat food producers about their products is often incorrect. The information isn't updated as the production lines roll on and on with new sources of ingredients. Each batch can differ greatly from the ones before. No third parties are involved, so pet food manufacturers often spin their information in ways that make their products seem better for cats than they actually are. Nutritional content labels are especially suspect. Carbohydrate content can be as much as double what the label says. We can only hope that one day we'll get better information. In the meantime, we have to go by the information we have and base our decisions solely on the list of ingredients.
The ingredients should be mostly meat. There should be absolutely no cereals, grains, or other plant-derived fillers. This includes potatoes, corn, rice, wheat, soy, carrots, and all sorts of berries. Many of these have become popular fillers because they allow pet food manufacturers to enthusiastically claim that their food is "grain-free". While it's acceptable for a few plant-derived ingredients to be consumed by most cats, diabetic cats need to avoid these.
By far, the best diet for any cat is a raw food diet. If you can afford the cost and the time, a raw diet will absolutely be the best thing for Salem. It's important to note that the better cat foods cost a lot more than the junk. This is a surprise to some people, but I don't know of any product where higher quality doesn't mean a higher price. It's really up to you to decide how much you're willing to spend. We're making our recommendations based on quality alone.
Our number one commercial "raw" food recommendation is for Radcat Raw Frozen food. This food is easy to manage at home and it fulfills all the requirements of a raw food diet. Rad Cat has had a recent voluntary recall because of an FDA finding of listeria and salmonella. In our minds, this is a good thing because it means their products are closely monitored. If this concerns you, please note that most cats will not touch tainted food. If your cat turns down a batch of food, there's usually a good reason.
Our number one freeze-dried raw diet (add warm water to hydrate and feed) is Primal Freeze-Dried Nuggets in Turkey or Venison flavors. We don't recommend the other varieties because they contain fish and/or pork. These do contain some plant-derived ingredients that the manufacturer claims are there to provide vitamins. This may be true, but we feel it's best to be skeptical. If you choose to try this food, you'll need to be careful to add extra water to it. For some reason, the recommended amount is terribly low in our opinion. No cat ever suffered from having too much moisture in his or her diet.
Our number one canned food recommendation is Ziwi Peak. This is the only canned food that's almost as good for your cat as a raw diet. Unfortunately, it's made in New Zealand and that adds to the cost for those of us who don't live down under.
A close second in the canned category is Nature's Variety Instinct line of canned foods. By far, our favorite, and our cats' favorite too, is their Ultimate Protein chicken formula. The first four ingredients are chicken, turkey, chicken liver, and chicken broth. This food also has the advantage of being available in both 3.5 oz. and 5.5 oz. sizes, unlike Ziwi Peak. Instinct also has the advantage of being widely available at a reasonable price.
You can also mix up your own raw diet with meat you purchase from the grocery store. Just know that the meat alone doesn't include sufficient nutrition. You need to add a feline supplement like Wysong's Call of the Wild powder. The Amazon listing refers to this as a supplement for dogs, but rest assured that it's designed for cats as well. They even picture a cat on the label.
For further reading, we recommend the Natural Cat Care Blog's cat food lists. We've found their recommendations to be spot-on across the board. If you feed Salem based on his cat needs, his food will be naturally low in carbs and he won't require foods that are made for diabetic cats. His food will be naturally low in carbs to begin with.
We wish you and Salem all the best, Teri!