If your cat has recently been diagnosed with kidney failure or reduced kidney function then you will likely have some challenging times ahead of you. This will be difficult for both you and your cat, but if you arm yourself with the right knowledge then you can easily find a way to manage their kidney issues using their diet.
While there are many different foods out there marketed for cats with kidney failure, the most important thing to do is to stick to a few key principals that can help manage their illness. In this article we’re going to go over the dietary requirements for cats with kidney failure, and then we’ll make a few recommendations for some foods that you can offer them. Let’s get started!
Why kidney cat food is slightly different
For patients of all species with reduced kidney function, the most common advice is to offer them a low protein diet. Unfortunately, this advice is a little harder to apply to cats. Felines are obligate carnivores, their bodies were designed to process meat, and you just can’t stop giving them protein. Even a reduced protein diet for a cat will not be the same as one for say a dog. Cats need meat, end of story. However, the types of meat you offer them can both be highly nutritious and also offer a reduction of protein. For example, allowing your cat to get more calories from fat could be a good way to do this. A bad way to do this would be to offer them more carbohydrates, your cat doesn’t need that.
The other problem item for cats with kidney failure is phosphorous. Pet parents should keep in mind that this is a necessary nutrient. It’s just that animals experiencing renal failure may not be able to expel the excess, hence a limitation is typically imposed upon them. Most meats are in fact high in phosphorous, but since cats need to eat them, it’s best to choose one that is lower in this. Some examples which are used by many pet parents include chicken and rabbit. Though, rabbit can also be rather lean, and if your cat needs more fat calories, chicken is likely better.
What kind of foods should I be looking for?
First, you should feed your cat a wet food. While dry foods are more convenient for pet parents, they simply aren’t great for cats. Kitties who eat a diet of only dry food can have many health problems, and these will only get worse as your cat ages. Many cats simply don’t drink enough water, instead preferring to take in liquids through eating. Being dehydrated can not only complicated their current medical conditions, but it can also lead to struvite crystals. These crystals appear in your cat’s urine, and they can actually create blockages that stop them from urinating. If this happens cats need emergency medical attention or they will die.
It’s simply better to feed them a food with more liquids. Fresh foods are obviously the best because they will contain the most nutrients, and they will be most attractive to cats with poor appetite, one of the common symptoms of renal failure. However, there are canned varieties or even freeze dried foods which can do the job if you reconstitute them with water.
Look for a food that provides liquids to your cat, uses high quality protein items, offers an adequate amount of calories, is low in carbohydrates and is easy to digest. These key principals should help you to find something your cat will eat but will also be helpful for their condition.
Helpful nutrients for cats with renal failure
Low protein is not always enough though, and you should also consider a few other factors when choosing your cat’s diet. Omega3, A vitamins and B vitamins are important for everyone, but they are particularly important for a cat suffering from renal failure. You should try to look for a food which will include these items in it to help your cat’s health.
However, if you have found a cat food that is mostly ideal, that your cat will eat, but it is lacking a few of these items, then you may be able to add them using a supplement. Wysong makes an excellent supplement for kidney support, and as a bonus it’s also pretty tasty for cats and can inspire them to eat more. It’s a great all around additive for pet health. It is particularly useful if your cat has experienced weight loss or if you’re having trouble getting them to eat.
This supplement is called PDG, and it’s base ingredients include a variety of organ meats and even fish which will be high in vitamin A and Omega 3s for your cat. It’s a great way to additional healthy fats and calories to your cat’s food if they are underweight as well.
The problem with commercial cat food for kidney disease
While there are tons of prescription cat foods targeted at cats with renal failure, they all share one huge problem. Cats hate eating them. In fact, one of the largest health issues that impacts cats with renal failure is actually protein catabolism. In many animals with kidney disease, starvation or lack of nutrition is the actual cause of their death.
The reason for this is that in many cases these animals will suffer from a lack of appetite. Since many of the prescription foods are less palatable, many of them will simply refuse to eat. If your cat is refusing to eat his prescription diet, then do not try to “starve” them until they eat it. This can be dangerous for them. Offer them a food that they will eat instead as the effects of not eating will be much worse than them eating a food that is not quite ideal.
As stated previously, if you have found a food that is more or less ideal and your cat is refusing to eat, then you can try making it more appealing with something else. This could include the Wysong supplement we mentioned, or you could even try to attract them using a bit of their favorite food. A small bit of freeze dried meat on top could also tempt them.
How much protein is too much for a cat?
This question seems to be a little tougher to answer. Cats are obligate carnivores, and they will need more protein than most other creatures, even on a renal failure diet.As a general rule, you’re looking at 28-35% protein for a low protein diet for a cat.
Keep in mind that this should be meat protein. Make sure to look at the ingredients. If one of the first ingredients in vegetable protein, then avoid this. The first few ingredients at least should preferably be whole meat and organs like liver.
What are some good foods to feed a cat with kidney problems?
Okay, now that we’ve gone over what is required for a cat expereiencing kidney failure, now we can make some suggestions. When making our picks we’ve chosen only foods which feature high quality proteins, low carbohydrates and recipes which will be particularly palatable to cats who are ill. These recipes should help inspire them to eat.
Remember though, if your cat is looking a little too skinny, don’t be afraid to add something to their foods to help bulk them up. Being under weight is dangerous for a sick cat and you should try to help them maintain a healthy weight as much as possible. Here’s our picks!
#1 – NomNomNow
NomNomNow is a pet food delivery service that specializes in providing fresh meals to pet parents. This is a great solution if you’d like to offer your cat fresh foods. While it is possible to make fresh foods at home it can be very tricky to get everything right. If you mess up, your cat could be missing vital nutrients. All of NomNomNow’s foods are prepared fresh every week, and they are formulated by a vet so as to be nutritionally sound. The recipes are also super limited ingredients, making them excellent for sick kitties or those with allergies. In the below image you can see the ingredients for their Chicken Chow-Meow recipe. Chicken is a great ingredient for cats with renal failure as it scores pretty low on the phosphorus scale.
It’s also important to note that while the below image reads 56% for protein, this is actually the amount of calories that come from protein. The guaranteed analysis is actually a minimum of 18%, and is much closer to our goal. While this number may appear small, due to the superior moisture content of fresh foods, these numbers may be a little deceiving when compared to a dry food.
As you can see, this recipe includes only a few base ingredients. It includes great chicken cuts, but it also includes nutrient rich items like liver and spinach which are great for your cat. Down at the bottom of the list you’ll see an odd ingredient, cantaloupe! While this seems strange at first, believe it or not cats love cantaloupe, and it’s a great way to get them to eat. If you want to feed your cat something that you know they will eat, then this is the best bet. This company uses only the freshest human grade ingredients, and they offer simply the high quality food you can find. If you’re interested in feeding your baby like a kitty king, then you can learn more about them here.
#2 – Wysong Uretic
If NomNomNow does not quite fit in the budget but you still want to feed your cat a high quality food, then our number 2 pick is from Wyson. Their Uretic food is a very high quality canned diet which is also low in protein, making it a good choice for cats with kidney issues. It’s also composed mostly of organic chicken, making it very palatable. While many cats often refuse to eat many prescription diets, they should do very well with this one.
This food is also great for pets with allergies because it’s very limited in ingredients. In addition to high quality organic chicken, they also include easy to digest brown rice. This food also provides your cat with a lot of vital nutrients and vitamins he or she needs to be healthy. This food also carries a low phosphorus rating, which is good for cats with kidney disorders.
However, many pet parents have reported great success feeding this food to their cats, and it is recommended by Wysong for that condition. All of their products are formulated by veterinary experts who take a more natural approach to pet health. If you’re interested in trying this food for your cat, then you can get it from the company’s website.
#3 – Wysong Geriatrx
While it’s recommended to feed your cat a wet food diet for the issues we talked about earlier, Wysong does have a dry food diet for older cats that is suitable for renal failure. It features a lower protein percentage than many other diets, and some pet parents have reported success feeding this recipe. However, there are a couple of caveats here. For starters, this is not the most palatable option on the list. Several consumers have found that their cats have refused to eat it. If your cat has shown signs of reduced appetite and they are avoiding foods, then this is likely not a great choice. It is possible that you could up the attractiveness factor with the PDG supplement though. This product adds additional flavor that might entice your cat to eat the dry formula.
The other issue is that feeding your cat a dry food diet could lead to dehydration which could further complicated their condition. For that reason, it’s recommended that you feed them at least a portion of their diet as a wet food. You could of course supplement with a high quality canned food, like the Uretic on top of it to up the appeal. This will add some liquids to your cats diet and make it more attractive to them to eat while still being cost effective if you’re on a budget.
The ingredients for the dry food are also not quite as good as Archetype. While there’s nothing really wrong with them, there are a lot of meat meals in the dry food. Meat meals are typically heavily processed and not as nutritious as feeding whole meats like the ones featured in our other picks. If you’d like to try this diet for your cat, then you can pick some up at the company’s website.
Additional considerations for kidney health
Giving your cat an improved diet is an excellent first step to managing their kidney issues. However, there are a few other things you should consider that could help their health as well.
Is your cat getting enough water? Even healthy cats are at risk here, but it could be difficult to get your cat to drink. If you’d like to make their water more appealing to them have you considered getting a pet fountain? Believe it or not, cats can be picky about their water. Ever seen a cat drinking from the tap? They love fresh, aerated water, and by getting them a pet fountain, you can give that to them all the time, inspiring them to drink more liquids. Pet fountains are relatively inexpensive, and they’re an easy way to make your cat’s water much more attractive to them since it will taste better.
Consider digestive supplements
Some cats with renal failure may also experience fits of nausea. If your cat is having difficulties in keeping his food down, then you may consider a digestive supplement. Many of these can include enzymzes or probiotics which can assist your cat in digesting his food. However, pumpkin can also be great for digestion in many animals. Adding a bit of canned pumpkin to their food can be helpful.
If you’re interested in offering your cat a digestive supplement, then FlexPet makes an excellent product. While this is actually marketed for joint health, it does contain Bromaine and enzymes which help with digestion. As a bonus, since many cats facing renal failure are older, the supplement will also help them with arthritis or joint pain since it reduces inflammation.