Nutritional modulation of insulin resistance in the true carnivorous cat: a review

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2012;52(2):172-82. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2010.499763.


Cats are strict carnivores that rely on nutrients in animal tissues to meet their specific and unique nutritional requirements. In their natural habitat, cats consume prey high in protein with moderate amounts of fat and minimal carbohydrates in contrast to commercial diets, which are sometimes moderate to high in carbohydrates. This change in diet has been accompanied by a shift from an outdoor environment to an indoor lifestyle and decreased physical activity, because cats no longer need to hunt to obtain food. This transformation of the lifestyle of cats is thought to be responsible for the recent increase in incidence of obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes mellitus in domestic cats. At first, an overview of the evolutionary physiological adaptations of carbohydrate digestion in the feline digestive tract and of the hepatic carbohydrate and protein metabolism reflecting the true carnivorous nature of cats is given. Secondly, this literature review deals with nutritional modulation of insulin sensitivity, focusing on dietary macronutrients, carbohydrate sources, and dietary fiber for prevention and treatment of insulin resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed*
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose
  • Cat Diseases / metabolism*
  • Cat Diseases / prevention & control
  • Cats
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus / prevention & control
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / metabolism
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / prevention & control


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Proteins