Main characteristics of the kidney diet

Dietary Protein

Experts recommend a low protein cat food for felines with CKD as it helps reduce glomerular proteinuria and nitrogenous wastes. In plain English, a cat’s kidneys will get fewer toxins to deal with, which helps decrease their workload. Plus, it will minimize the consequences of nitrogenous wastes: uremia, anemia, azotemia, polyuria, platelet dysfunction, and more.

Notwithstanding that, the necessity of protein restriction for cats is still under discussion: Specialists argue on how much protein to leave in kidney diet cat food to avoid protein malnutrition and loss of lean body mass. As for now, 26-35% on a dry matter basis is a norm.

Claudine Sievert, DVM

Dietary Phosphorus

Phosphorus retention is common for cats with CKD, and that is why kidney-friendly cat food will lack this element to prevent calcitriol deficiency and renal secondary hyperparathyroidism. Phosphorus restriction also delays CKD progression and saves from soft tissue mineralization.

Phosphorus is a vital nutrient for felines: Despite its high content in animal proteins, many regular diets often contain added phosphorus to prevent its deficiency. Speaking about kidney care cat food, restricted protein here already helps reduce the total phosphorus content of this food. And while regular cat food generally contains more than 1.5 g/1000 kcal of phosphorus, kidney diet cat food will label from 0.7 to 1.35 g/1000 kcal.

Dietary Omega-3 Acids

The best food for cats with kidney disease is rich with omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) because of their renoprotective effects. These acids reduce kidney inflammation, prevent oxidative stress to the kidney tissue, and promote a cat’s longevity. There’s proof that felines eating higher levels of EPA with their therapeutic kidney diet may live longer.

Dietary omega-3 fatty acids slow down the CKD progression by reducing protein “leaking” through a cat’s kidneys. When choosing renal cat food for your four-legged pal, look for 0.4-2.5% of omega-3 fatty acids on the label.

Dietary Sodium

Cats with CKD suffer from sodium retention, which can lead to systemic arterial hypertension. That is why kidney care cat food contains restricted sodium to maintain healthy blood pressure and therefore reduce the kidney workload.

The sodium content of kidney care cat food ranges from 0.5 to 1 g/1000 kcal.

Other characteristics

Are there any other specifications distinguishing kidney-friendly cat food from regular diets?

First off, it’s calorie-dense for a cat to get enough energy since protein is reduced. Second, it contains increased levels of vitamins (C and E) and antioxidants to reduce renal oxidative stress in cats.

There’s also added soluble fiber in the best cat food for kidney disease to promote the growth of colonic bacteria. Potassium citrate is in this food to correct metabolic acidosis and prevent hypokalemia in cats.

⚡ Please note: Urinary diet works best when complemented by high quality cat supplements for kidney disease.

The role of hydration

As you know, kidneys regulate water concentration in the body. When a cat suffers from kidney disease, this organ doesn’t work correctly, failing to conserve water and therefore making urine more concentrated. It leads to dehydration, and that is why a cat must consume enough moisture to “help” kidneys work better.

The problem is that even healthy felines may ignore water and don’t drink enough to stay well-hydrated. That is why pet food brands do their best to make their wet formulas as moisture-rich as possible. Speaking about cats with kidney disease, the problem grows: They lose appetite and may ignore both food and water, so the challenge here is to fix that.

What can you do to help your cat drink more?

  • Give her more wet than dry food (the proper ratio is 75% to 25%)
  • Provide a cat with fresh and cool water only: Change her water bowl often and use ice cubes to add to her water on warm days.
  • Benefit from a cat drinking fountain that keeps water clean and fresh.
  • If you have a multi-cat household, make sure each feline has her own bowl: Cats don’t like sharing their bowls with other felines.
  • Even if your cat is the only pet in the house, place several water bowls in different locations. Consider quiet places so that a cat would feel calm and safe when drinking.
  • Some cats with kidney disease need additional fluids, so ask your vet if your feline needs any injections or dropping tubes to get extra moisture.

Best wet cat food for kidney disease

The best wet cat food for kidney disease will provide a feline with extra flavor and moisture, necessary to consume when ill. Feel free to consider any canned food options listed in this guide, as they are vet-recommended and AAFCO-approved:

Best dry cat food for kidney disease

And here go the best dry cat food for kidney disease options. Designed in collaboration with vets and professional nutritionists, these formulas go along with all the main characteristics a kidney diet should have:


Which cat food is best for kidney disease?

Cats suffering from feline CRF need a specific diet, designed to slow the progression of their disease, minimize problems with mineral balance, and yet satisfy all the nutritional needs. The best options are kidney diet cat foods designed in collaboration with nutritionists and vets. Most of these formulas are vet-prescribed though non-prescription low phosphorus cat food is also available on the market. Examples of kidney-friendly cat food include Royal Canin Renal Support, Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d, and Purina ProPlan Veterinary Diet NF Kidney Function.

What is the difference between cat kidney health & regular food?

Compared to the recipes your cat regularly eats, cat food for kidney disease contains less protein, sodium, and phosphorus to reduce the pressure on the kidneys and help them work better and cope with the disease. Such food also contains increased omega-3 fatty acids that help minimize inflammation in the organs.

How to shift to a renal diet?

As stated by AAFCO, all the food labels should share feeding and transition recommendations. The cat food for kidney health is not an exception, so you’ll find the instructions on packages. General rules are as follows: start with mixing regular and new food, and then gradually decrease the amount of the current food while increasing the portion of renal cat food during a week.

In a word

Many cats start suffering from kidney disease with age or on the back of other health problems. Poor nutrition and lack of moisture they get can cause chronic renal failure too. To ameliorate this condition and help our felines deal with the problem, many pet food brands collaborate with professional vets and nutritionists to design a specific cat food for kidney disease.

Most of such recipes are vet-prescribed, and they serve to reduce the pressure on the kidneys yet providing a cat with all the necessary nutrients and extra moisture. We’ve reviewed the best cat food for kidney health, both dry and wet, in this guide for cat parents to know what diet to choose for their four-legged friends with CRF. If you still have any questions or thoughts on the topic, don’t hesitate to share them in the comments.

I’m Kimberly Baumgart, a future veterinary physician from Manhattan, Kansas. Volunteering in animal shelters and assisting in the local vet hospital, I help pet owners learn more about feline lifestyle. Read my works on Catpet.Club blog to discover the world of healthy nutrition and well-being for your four-legged friend.


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