There are many reasons why cats should never eat dry food. Dry food is the equivalent of junk food for cats, it is the leading cause of most urinary tract problems, and it is responsible for the obesity problem among cats. Dry food has also been implicated as one of the contributing factors to diabetes, which is reaching epidemic proportions. 1 in 50 cats may be affected, with overweight cats being at increased risk.

A new study conducted at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences confirms that normal weight cats who consume a dry food diet are at an increased risk of diabetes mellitus.

Normal weight cats who consume a dry food diet are at an increased risk of diabetes.

Researchers used a web-based questionnaire in a case–control study. An invitation to participate was sent to owners of 1,369 diabetic cats and 5,363 control cats. The survey contained questions related to the cat’s breed, age, sex, neutering status, body condition, housing, access to the outdoors, activity level, diet, eating behavior, feeding routine, general health, stressful events, other pets in the household, medications, and vaccination status.

The response rate was 35% for the diabetic group and 32% for the control group. Indoor confinement, being a greedy eater, and being overweight were associated with an increased risk of diabetes. In cats assessed by owners as being normal weight, there was an association between eating predominantly dry food and an increased risk of diabetes.

These findings probably don’t come as a surprise to veterinarians and cat guardians who understand the connection between diet and diabetes, but it is encouraging to finally see some solid research that supports this knowledge.

Obesity is not the only risk factor for diabetes.

“Through our research we found that while obesity is a very important and prominent risk factor for diabetes mellitus in cats, there is also an increased risk of diabetes among normal-weight cats consuming a dry food diet,” Malin Öhlund, DVM, a Ph.D student of the department of Clinical Services at the Swedish University of Agricultural Science and lead researcher on the study told Veterinary Practice News. “This correlation, compared to normal-weight cats on a wet food diet, is a new and interesting finding that warrants further research, as a dry food diet is commonly fed to cats around the world.”

I’m hoping that this study will be widely published and encourage cat guardians who are not yet convinced that cats should never eat dry food to rethink the diet they feed their feline family members.

You can find the full study results here.

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28 Comments on Study Confirms that Dry Food Increases Risk of Diabetes for Cats

  1. While I agree that dry food is questionable for cats and that wet/raw may be the better choice, this study does not conclude or prove anything. It is only a summary of survey results sent in by owners, not veterinary professionals, and it is not a scientific, clinical study. All it says is that further investigation is warranted. I urge the author to reconsider their misinterpretation of the study and to look for other sources to support the point.

  2. I wonder if this holds true for Halo brand. It uses none of the “meat meal” or by products nor does it use grains.
    My cats were raised on grain free wet but one day just simply refused to it any type of wet food. Drives me crazy as I know wet food is better for them. Maybe next step will be to try raw.

  3. Thanks for the article and creating awareness. My vet would like me to consume 80% moist food, but because I have allergies to so many of the moist foods on the market (additives or individual ingredient(s), I am on primarily a dry food diet for the time being. Mom is skeptical of the many manufactured, over processed dry and moist pet foods on the market today.

  4. SO wonderful to see more concrete evidence supporting the dangers and downfalls of dry food for cats. As you know, a change in diet has (I believe) literally saved my cat Katie’s life.

    • This study warrants further investigation, but I would say it is not concrete evidence. I would keep a look out for clinical scientific studies conducted by veterinarians to address this issue before any concrete conclusions can be made.

  5. Goodness that’;s scary….. each cat is different I guess … none of our four cats has diabetes or any other disease related to “dry food” (thank goodness) but perhaps the risk is always there. Our now almost 18 years old is a sensible weight and has eaten dry food (refuses all other, including fresh chicken and fish) all her life – and doesn’t have diabetes. Never any understanding these cats! Appreciate the article though – thanks for that and all others. Always good to know these things.

    • Actually, in this case, it’s very simple to understand cats, Margaret: they’re obligate carnivores who need protein to survive, and they’re not designed to digest carbs. In other ways, you’re so right – they like to keep us on our toes!

  6. I have tried to switch my cat over to wet food, but she refuses to eat it. I don’t want to starve her, so what do I do?

  7. I will take dry food away from my cats. Does this go for cat treats as well? Also, I am never sure how much canned food to give my cats. I took a little cat in off the streets about a year and a half ago. We think she is about three years old. She weighs about 10 pounds and gets mostly wet food(she will now get only wet food) but she eats so fast. I am giving her about one can a day split up into three feedings.My 16 year old cat gets the same. They both only like pate and the can size is 5.5oz

  8. I changed to a grain free dry food after learning about cats getting diabetes from dry food with wheat. My current cats get wet food and only get kibble as a late night treat (and to keep them from waking me up over night.) I will be using the kibble more sparingly now.

  9. Great article. We have been transitioning our cats away from kibble since 2016 when our then 15 year old cat Casper was diagnosed with diabetes. When he went into remission, a few months later we found out he had early stage kidney disease and kibble is terrible for that illness as well. He’s nearly 16 now so we had to really reprogram ourselves about how to feed both cats.

    Since then, when we do feed it to them (for example; if we’ll be out for an entire day) the amount has been greatly reduced to about a tablespoon in each cats bowl – vs the several we used to put down. I’ve done a lot of research to make sure that the type we do use is at the very least higher protein and lower phosphorus (due to Casper’s kidney issues) than the ones we used in the past. But really, all of them are filled with ingredients that are just not suitable for a feline’s digestion so the absolute minimum is given to them.

    Both prefer wet food, thankfully, and there are many times the kibble is barely touched. The days when one or the other humans are home, no kibble is given at all. I’d rather keep opening up cans of wet food as many times as needed than feed dry food.

    I look forward to a day when we can dispense with it entirely and I have high hopes our younger cat won’t wind up with similar health issues as the older boy since we’re weaning away from the kibble earlier in her life.

    • Laurie,

      Sorry about Casper. Hope he’s doing better on the new diet.

      Have you looked into feeding raw? I know a lot of people say when they’re out for the day they give their kitty the normal portion in the am and leave a frozen chunk of raw in the dish so when it has defrosted enough the kitty has something to eat.

      • We have looked into raw, yes! Still debating on how to do this – I don’t have the time nor inclination to make my own but have been researching pre-made products.

        BTW, it’s astonishing how many vets will try to talk you out of raw feeding, even those who have their own cats. We have a wonderful group of vets but all of them are woefully uninformed about feline nutrition. When I told them I was not going to feed Casper a prescription diet – no way, no how, I could pretty much see their eyeballs rolling at me. I was also advised to stay away from raw.

        PS – Casper is doing good overall. We have him on a daily probiotic and have found other types of canned food which are better suited for his illness (lower phosphate for instance). His latest lab work did not get worse and I expect the longer he’s on the regimen we have him on, that those results will improve.

        • Yeah, I dont get some vets. I like to feed a variety of food. I feed commercial raw, freeze dried raw and canned food. Primal looks to have a good frozen and freeze dried raw. You could try starting out with freeze dried raw, see if they like that.

          Good to hear about Casper. Have you been to Tanya’s site? She has tons of wet cat food and their phosphorus levels.

        • Sadly, many vets are not well-informed about feline nutrition and only recommend what they were taught in vet school. Nutritional education in vet schools is mostly sponsored by major pet food companies.

          You can find a wealth of resources on raw feeding right here on our site, and also on Dr. Lisa Pierson’s site

  10. Thanks for this post. I was just wondering if your message, or part of it, is that cats should not be fed dry food. It would be great if you could let me know if that’s what you meant. Thanks again, Sean

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