High-Protein and Low-Carb Cat Food Diets


Diabetes is one of the most prevalent endocrine diseases to afflict cats, and if your cat is pudgier than she should be, she is at an increased risk for developing this condition. Obesity also predisposes your cat to other health problems, such as arthritis, liver disease, cardiovascular disease and anesthetic complications. If you have tried without success to trim her excess pounds, your veterinarian may prescribe a high-protein and low-carbohydrate diet.

Return to the Wild

Cats are obligate carnivores. Their dietary needs require animal-based protein sources to access vital nutrients, including taurine, which is an amino acid essential for feline heart health, and arachidonic acid, which is an omega-6 fatty acid that helps to maintain kidney health. In the wild, cats are hunters who rely on their prey to meet their nutritional needs.

When a cat consumes a freshly killed rodent or bird, the bulk of that meal is protein. The only carbohydrates consumed by your cat may be an herbivorous victim's last meal that has yet to pass from its tiny stomach. Domesticated house cats, on the other hand, are fed commercial cat foods that tend to be high in carbohydrates. Cats lack the necessary enzymes for maximum efficiency in digesting and metabolizing carbohydrates. The extra carbohydrates contribute to higher sugar levels and end up stored as fat. High-protein and low-carbohydrate diets are formulated with the wild cat's feeding habits in mind.

Benefits of High-Protein Low-Carbohydrate

Veterinarians prescribe high-protein and low-carbohydrate diets to some of their feline patients for two reasons:

  • As part of a healthy weight loss program for obese cats. 
  • For dietary management of diabetes in cats.

The low level of carbohydrates found in these diets dramatically reduces the amount of fat stored in the body. Additionally, the high protein content provides higher amounts of carnitine, an amino acid that is found in muscle tissue and plays a role in metabolizing fat. In diabetic cats, the high-protein and low-carbohydrate combination provides the balance of nutrients that effectively manage glucose levels, maintain healthier insulin levels and support the pancreatic secretion of insulin.

Prescription Diets

If your veterinarian recommends feeding your cat a prescription high-protein and low-carbohydrate diet, he or she likely will offer one of two choices:

  • Hills Prescription Diet m/d from Hills Pet Nutrition. 
  • Purina MD from the Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diet line. 

Both of these diets are available in canned and dry kibble preparations. They can be obtained with a veterinarian's prescription at most animal hospitals and at some online pet pharmacies. Some diabetic cats who are placed on one of these prescription diets are able to eliminate their need for insulin therapy once they have achieved a healthy weight.

High protein and low carbohydrate diets should not be fed to cats who have been diagnosed with chronic renal failure, as high levels of protein accelerate the progression of this degenerative disease.

Dietary Success Through Communication

If your feline friend is finicky, or if you would prefer to prepare a home-cooked diet for her, it is imperative that you consult with your veterinarian. There are some over-the-counter commercial cat foods that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Your veterinarian can help you to select those that fall within acceptable protein and carbohydrate levels for your cat. Your veterinarian can provide the guidelines for cooking a diet that will provide the ideal levels of protein and carbohydrates as well as provide your cat with the nutrients that are essential to her overall health. Your veterinarian also can recommend a healthy rate for your kitty's weight loss and the ideal daily feeding amount to achieve her target weight.

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