Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I have a 7-year old Siamese mix cat who came to my house as a starving kitten. She was terified of humans, but hunger won out, and after many weeks she allowed me to pet her. I brought her inside where she has stayed since then. She only likes dry food, except for tidbits of chicken which I give her for good behavior. She was drinking lots of water and peeing massive amounts, so I took her to the vet about two weeks ago and had a metabolic panel done. It turns out she is borderline diabetic, and the vet put her on Hill’s Prescription diet m/d for weight loss, low carbohydrate, diabetic — I’m feeding her 3/4 cup per day. She currently weighs 16 pounds. I had a cat that lived 16 1/2 years and died from kidney failure. He didn’t show symptoms until about a year and a half before his death. Is my current cat headed in that direction? Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.
Siouxsie: Carol, it’s a good thing you took your cat to the vet when you did. If she’s borderline diabetic, there’s a very good chance you and your vet can work together to manage her care and perhaps even get her back to remission — a non-diabetic state that could last for weeks, months, or even the rest of her life!
Thomas: You didn’t say your vet put your cat on insulin. That’s a good sign: it seems that your vet believes your cat’s diabetic symptoms are due to her obesity, and that if she loses weight she may well go into remission.
Dahlia: Sixteen pounds is quite heavy for a cat. It’s more or less the equivalent of a 5’6″ woman weighing 250 pounds when her ideal weight is somewhere between 135 and 155 pounds.
Siouxsie: So your vet prescribed the m/d food not only to control your cat’s blood sugar but to help her lose weight. If you feed her an appropriate amount of food and spend more time exercising her with interactive toys, the weight will come off, and at a reasonable pace.
Thomas: We visited the Hill’s Pet Nutrition website to get more information on m/d food. According to the chart on that page, 3/4 cup per day is a maintenance dose for a 16-pound cat. For weight loss, they recommend half a cup a day (of course, their chart is trumped by your vet’s orders, so if he or she recommended 3/4 cup a day, take your vet’s advice).
Dahlia: But the thing that really stunned us about m/d dry food was the ingredient list! Most vets agree that a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet is the best way to manage diabetes and correct problems like obesity. But the m/d food’s second ingredient is corn gluten meal. Ingredients 5, 6 and 7 are powdered cellulose (plant fiber), brewers rice, and whole-grain corn.
Siouxsie: Although we’re sure that the carbohydrate levels in this food are lower than they are in most dry cat foods, which is why they can call it low-carbohydrate food, we would encourage you to think about switching her to a canned food.
Thomas: Canned foods have more meat protein by volume and fewer carbohydrates than many kibbles. The reason for this is that kibble needs to be made with carbohydrates or plant products in order to be shaped into those little crunchies, but canned foods don’t.
Dahlia: You say your cat likes tidbits of chicken, so we think you might be able to convince her to eat canned food if you use a product that features chicken. Of course, you may have tried this before, with no luck. But fear not, veterinarian Lisa Pierson has written a great guide on how to transition a dry-food addict to a canned diet.
Siouxsie: We think it would be a great idea for you to do some research on diet and nutrition, and diabetes management in cats, and we’re going to give you some great places to start.
Thomas: Little Big Cat is an award-winning website written by veterinarian Jean M. Hofve and celebrity cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy. Mama’s learned lots of cool stuff from Doctor Jean, and she highly recommends you check out the Health and Nutrition sections of the site.
Dahlia: We’re big fans of a species-appropriate diet for cats. Cat Nutrition has information on species-appropriate diets and about obesity and diabetes.
Siouxsie: Veterinarian Lisa Hodgkins runs Your Diabetic Cat, a website dedicated to information on the management, treatment — and prevention — of diabetes.
Thomas: The Feline Nutrition Education Society has information on species-appropriate diets, and how to read pet food ingredient labels. You should know, however, that FNES advocates a raw-food diet, and this is still very controversial among veterinarians.
Dahlia: That said, we eat a raw diet at least half the time. Our vet knows this, he knows Mama uses recipes from highly qualified and experience-tested sources, and he’s fine with it, especially because we’re such healthy cats.
Siouxsie: In any case, Carol, you don’t have to make drastic changes and turn your and your cat’s life upside down for her to be okay. Just start educating yourself about diet and do try to transition your cat away from dry food. Canned food — any canned food! — is, in our opinion, better for cats than kibble. Exercise your kitty every day and work with your vet to make sure she’s losing weight at a proper pace.
Thomas: We’re certain that your sweet girl will stay healthy for a very long time to come because you’ve discovered her health condition early. Your quick intervention will ensure that she’ll be a part of your life for many years to come.
Carol, I have done a lot of research on this subject and I think this is very good advice. I started researching feline nutrition after my beloved cat Cassius died from an illness that came on very shortly after he was put on a prescription diet made by Hills. I don’t have any proof that the food is what made him sick, but the coincidence was pretty remarkable. My reading has really opened my eyes about petfood companies, and what kind of food cats need to be eating.
After doing some more reading, I switched my cat from a primarily dry food diet to canned food. I also eliminated any foods with excess grains (I had to work within what she was willing to eat) and by-products. Yes, that meant returning all her cans of Fancy Feast to the store, but I vowed that she would never eat one more bite of by-products after I found out what’s in them. I had to try a bunch of different foods to see what she would eat. She now eats about 1/2 canned and 1/2 raw, with frequent by-product-free treats and snacks as well as any table scraps that are meat, either cooked or raw.
My cat is 12 years old – almost 13 – and she was in the early stages of kidney problems. At her last vet exam, the vet said her kidneys were perfect! Since I stopped feeding her dry food, she is now going through a second kittenhood – she chases her mousie all day – and her fur is like fine silk. She also poops about 1/3 as much as she used to, since there is less stuff her body can’t use being passed through to the other end.
I think the hardest thing for me was realizing that the vets don’t always have the best answers about nutrition, and that the petfood companies are not really well regulated and don’t always use the most nutritious ingredients. But once I realized that I had been feeding my cat something that wasn’t really good for her, I made it my job to make up for it by giving her the very best food I possibly could. This is just my experience and I’m not medically qualified in any way, but I wanted to share my thoughts… after nursing one cat through a long and horrible illness, I was horrified at the thought of watching another one die too. I am so glad I took the time to find out!
WOW, Thank you for that comment. I too have a part siamese cat (female) that was a starving kitten. A wonderful lady took my baby and her two brothers in. She nursed them until they were old enough to give away. Since then I got her fixed and she lives a cats life. She is 3 and 3/4yrs. old, but she weighs a whopping 14lbs. We give her about a cup of “Purina one” and half a small can twice a day of “Fancy Feast” wet. The Vet says she is very healthy. But I worry about her health and wwhat goes into her body. Can you give me any advice on what a better plan could be ? Yes she is very snooty about her food. But I would do anything for Monet. Thanks
I have to agree with Rebecca. I have 2 overweight cats: an 8 year old and a 16 year old, both around 15lbs. They were closer to 17! The 16yr old has kidney issues. The Hills Rx was prescribed, and that made him diabetic because of all the carbs. He has been on insulin and gone into remission twice. I refused to put him back on any of the Hills. If you read the ingredients, they are pretty bad. I did a LOT of research and “taste tests” to come up with a solution. They both now get Weruva canned. The 16 year old will only “graze”, so I HAVE to leave down some dry. The best solution I have found is Blue Buffalo weight loss dry. It is CORN FREE, and has quality ingredients. They both like it. The protein is low enough for the kidney issue (28%) and the carbs are low enough to keep the diabetes controlled. Every cat is different, but this routine has made both of mine healthy, and helped them lose weight. They don’t eat as much of the Blue Buffalo, because the ingredients are better! Hope this helps someone!
I have a 11 year old male who was diagnosed as Diabetic about a year ago. The Vet tried Science Diet in both hard (which he ate for awhile) and soft (wanted nothing to do with it) and it didn’t help lower his Sugar Levels (time he was tested he was at 500) He has been on 2 units of Insulin twice a day and I still can’t regulate his Blood sugars. Was taking him to the Vets every two weeks to have his Sugar Levels tested and was still high. Left him for a day at the Vets to have them check his sugar throughout the day and it started high, went down a little then went right back up. The Vet doesn’t want to raise his units because they are afraid he’ll end up going too low. He’s now still taking his 2 units twice a day, gets around (though his back legs are sometimes weaker than others), eats and drinks VERY well (though he’s skin and bones – a far cry from his original 11 pounds) and goes to the litter box quite well too. Sometimes he acts like a kitten running (yes, he still can) after the others, and times he likes to just lie around and sleep. I know how sick he is and plan to continue with his meds untl they no longer help him at all, then I’ll know it’s time to let him go. Until then, he’s my baby and I love him A LOT!
well i have found that 99% of all commercial pet foods are simply filled with bottom of the bagel ingredients if you can call them that,and in my opinion not at all healthy for your pet,i feed my kittys all holistic foods wet and dry,as feeding just dry is not good for cats as they dont get the moisture that is required,anything that is rendered,meals of all kinds,by products are simply that,intestines feet heads,every thing they can put in they do,read the labels and get to understand them,for diabetic problems corn,wheat,grains,some grains are not as bad as others,glutins stay away from altogether as they are nothing but high carb.my kittys are Blue i have had her since she was a kittin and she is now 21 with no health problems,she just had 9 teeth out 4 mounths ago and is fine,the vet said that her blood work was that of a teenage kitty,she is a bit over wait but at that age she can be if she wants and is happy she is a Russian Blue.Ruffus he is a Main Coon,and is 12,i adopted him 2 years ago he is 18 pounds of gental and is with out health problems,i ohnistly beleave it is what you feed them you are what you eat.
Wow, what great advice you all have. Where do you get these holistic foods, etc. I plan to keep this article for future use. I have a fourteen year old down to ten pounds from 18 because of Stomatitis on the left side of his mouth. A month and a half ago he had 5 teeth pulled and this hard food lover now only eats soft food. Once in a while I catch him eating hard but it must still hurt so he goes back to soft. His blood tests were all good.
I have a three year old I rescued who likes nothing but hard food. I found out on New Year’s Eve however, that she loves….pork. I gave her some small pieces. She had a skin condition but it seems to be clearing up.
I think a lot of these cat food diets with the expensive food are silly. I feed a feral colony and some of these cats have lived to be 15 and have never been to a vet. Still, all the stuff talked about is interesting and I’ll look back on it when I need it. Thanks!
Kathy, I would highly recommend getting your kitty off the Purina or anything that has grain (carbohydrates) in it. There are a couple of issues to consider here –
For weight loss, take a look at the carb intake, keeping in mind that felines did not evolve eating grains. Their bodies are simply not set up to process that stuff. Again, I’m not a vet but from what I’ve seen, it looks like your kitty could be on the path to developing diabetes. Try to get kitty’s diet closer to something like what cats eat in the wild, and I’ll bet the pounds will come off
Please consider looking into changing your cat’s primary diet from a dry food to wet. Cats have a naturally low thirst drive and do not get the liquids they need from a bowl of dry food with a bowl of water sitting next to it. One of the links above, catinfo.org, is an outstanding website by a veterinarian who really knows her stuff. Not only does switching cats to a moist diet dramatically improve their health, but she has had amazing success with getting them to lose weight. If you only check out one website, catinfo.org would be a good place to start.
Please consider giving your cat a food that does not contain by-products. They are produced at rendering plants which have very little oversight and all manner of dead animal ingredients go into them.
Hi again, I’m on my phone so I had to submit that comment before I was quite finished.
Anyway, the stuff that goes into by products is nasty, I’ll just say that much. Without going into the gruesome details, testing has shown that cat and dog foods contain phenobarbital, which is used to euthanize animals … that alone should give anyone pause.
Lastly, I would like to say that the ideal diet for any cat is what they eat in nature – raw, whole prey. That may not sound very practical or affordable, I know. But there is a growing community of people who are feeding their cats a raw diet, and the health benefits are dramatic. I believe one of the links above is for the Feline Nutrition Education Society – it has an outstanding website full of all kinds of articles, advice, and success stories. Maybe feeding a raw diet sounds extreme, but it’s worth at least taking a look at the website. And consider this – have you ever seen an obese wild lion, cougar or tiger? We are what we eat, and that goes for our cats too, and the closer you can get your cat’s diet to what they evolved to eat in nature, the healthier they will be.
One more comment and then I’ll shut up. Please do NOT think that you should start feeding your cat hamburger or cold cuts and that will be a good diet. There are things in their natural diet that you won’t find in muscle meat alone. It can be extremely unhealthy to just feed muscle meat without the other parts they need, so either buy a pre-prepared diet or use a good recipe for home-made food that has been tried and tested by people who know about these things. :)
I like my cat
I cat is beautiful and chubby.
Science diet does not cure diabetes or kidney disease or work any miracle last minute cures. Yeah there’s probably are better cat diets. But for the money. Science. Diet rocks. If you don’t feed your cats premium food all their life’s by the time you notice there sick its probably too late