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Does feeding cats carbohydrate-based diets such as dry commercial food cause diabetes mellitus?


  • No, available evidence does not support a direct cause-and-effect relationship between increased carbohydrate intake or dry commercial food and diabetes mellitus (DM) in cats.1
  • Identified risk factors for diabetes mellitus include obesity, increasing age, male gender, Burmese breed, being neutered, and decreased physical activity. 2-5
  • Most research suggests that being overweight or obese is a key factor that may play a larger role in the development of chronic disease in cats (i.e. DM), not the type of food.1
  • Obesity has been associated with insulin resistance in cats.
  • Free-choice feeding of dry food is the most common way indoor cats are fed6 and it is one of the environmental factors that contributes to obesity. Commercial dry foods may be the target of scrutiny because dry foods typically have a higher carbohydrate component than wet foods. The majority of cat owners feed their cats both dry and wet food in the U.S.6

More supporting facts:

  • Other environmental and developmental factors that contribute to obesity: sedentary indoor lifestyle, lack of requirement to hunt for food, and neutered status.
The Science Behind our Recommendations
1. Buffington C. Dry foods and risk of disease in cats. Can Vet J. 2008; 49:561-563. 2. McCann TM, Simpson KE, Shaw DJ, Butt JA, Gunn-Moore DA. Feline diabetes mellitus in the UK: the prevalence within an insured cat population and a questionnaire-based putative risk factor analysis. J Feline Med Surg. 2007 Aug; 9(4):289-99. 3. Panciera DL, Thomas CB, Eicker SW, Atkins CE. Epizootiologic patterns of diabetes mellitus in cats: 333 cases (1980-1986). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1990 Dec 1;197(11):1504-8. 4. Prahl A, Guptill L, Glickman NW, Tetrick M, Glickman LT. Time trends and risk factors for diabetes mellitus in cats presented to veterinary teaching hospitals. J Feline Med Surg. 2007 Oct; 9(5):351-8. 5. Slingerland LI, Fazilova VV, Plantinga EA, Kooistra HS, Beynen AC. Indoor confinement and physical inactivity rather than the proportion of dry food are risk factors in the development of feline type 2 diabetes mellitus. Vet J. 2009 Feb;179(2):247-53. 6. Buffington C. Dry foods and risk of disease in cats. Can Vet J. 2008; 49:561-563. 7. Hill’s Pet Nutrition. Habits and Practices Study, 2002.