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5 Best Cat Food For Kidney Disease Choices

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Top 5 Best Cat Foods for Kidney Disease

Looking for the best cat food for kidney disease that’s not prescription? We got you covered.

Kidney disease is a common problem, especially in senior cats. The disease is progressive and decreases your cat’s lifespan if not treated. A low phosphate and high calcium wet canned diet help protect the kidneys of cats.

Here are my best 5 cat foods for kidney disease handpicked from research:

Many kidney disease foods are low-quality prescription products that cats often don’t enjoy. Not only this, but these foods are pricey.

In this article, I’ll help you find the best cat food for kidney disease to keep your cat happy and healthy. I’ll also help you with a buying guide with tips on what to look for.

Finally, I’ll go through some frequently asked questions on the topic. I’ve tested many of the foods I’ve presented in this article.

So how do you know what to look for? What are some easy ways to pick out food in the supermarket?

Read on to find out.

I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions. This article is not intended as a replacement for medical advice.

5 Best Cat Food for Kidney Disease Choices

Best Wet Cat Food for Kidney Disease

Range: Meat Mates wet cat food

Who it’s for: Meat Mates is kidney friendly with low phosphorus content (1.1% on a dry matter basis) and a 2.4:1 calcium to phosphate ratio. Our 5 cats enjoyed Meat Mates.

Who it’s not for: The crappy availability and pricier price tag are the only issues here because you can give any cat Meat Mates wet canned foods. Just hope for the best of it they don’t run out…

Learn More: Meat Mates Cat Food Review

Best Senior Cat Food for Kidney Disease

Range: Ziwi Peak Otago Valley

Who it’s for: Ziwi Peak Otago Valley contains green mussels, which is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids for senior cat mobility. It’s also got a high calcium to phosphate ratio (1.6:1) to help with kidney disease.

Who it’s not for: This product is quite pricey. When we tested it with our 5 cats, we got mixed reviews. Use caution with a fussy eater.

Learn More: Ziwi Peak Cat Food Review

Best Weruva Cat Food for Kidney Disease

Range: Weruva Classic Mideast Feast

Who it’s for: Weruva Classic Mideast Feast is a low phosphate food that fussy cats with kidney disease will enjoy. Lower in calories than most wet cat foods and also helps with weight loss.

Who it’s not for: At 64.9% protein on a dry matter basis, this might not be the best choice to limit protein depending on the stage of kidney disease. Check with your vet.

Learn More: Weruva Cat Food Review

Best Low Phosphorus Dry Cat Food for Kidney Disease

Range: Dr. Elsey’s Clean Protein dry cat food

Who it’s for: Dr. Elsey’s clean protein is your best dry food bet that’s non-prescription for kidney disease. It’s got a high calcium to phosphate ratio (1.9:1), is low carbohydrate, and is low in oxalates.

Who it’s not for: Another high protein choices at 67.0%. Might not be the best choice to limit protein depending on the stage of kidney disease. Check with your vet.

Best Over the Counter Cat Food for Kidney Disease

Range: Wellness Core Tiny Tasters

Who it’s for: Wellness Core Tiny Tasters is an affordable over-the-counter choice for cats with kidney disease. It’s got a high calcium to phosphate ratio (1.7:1). Our cats enjoyed Wellness Core, and this product will suit fussy eaters.

Who it’s not for: Nothing really bad here! Although you will have to check with you vet for your specific situation.

Learn More: Wellness Core Cat Food Review

Buying Guide

What should you feed a cat with kidney disease?

Kidney disease is a progressive disease with different needs depending on the stage.

Feeding the wrong type of diet will decrease your cat’s lifespan.

In this buying guide, I’ll provide tips on what to look for when buying cat food for kidney disease.

What Nutrients Should I Look For?

Protein

Cats with kidney disease benefit from moderate protein restriction as this helps reduce uremia (build-up of toxins in the blood).

However, the evidence for protein restriction in cats is poor. The benefits of protein restriction vary depending on the stage of the disease.

Renal diet formulas contain 6-7g/100kcal of protein which is less than 9-10g/100kcal in most commercial cat food formulas. This works out as about 28-35% protein on a dry matter basis.

Cats need at least 26% protein on a dry matter basis, with some cats needing more. Restricting protein too much may lead to lean muscle loss, especially in senior cats.

Cats with kidney disease tend to lose weight, so it’s important to not restrict protein too much.

Cats prefer a high protein diet (about 50% on a dry matter basis), so a low protein food may result in rejection.

Most quality wet cat foods are high protein. You can add animal fat (e.g. duck fat) to ‘buffer’ the protein per kcal of food (more in the frequently asked questions section).

Bottom Line: A moderate protein restriction (6-7g/100kcal of protein) may reduce uremia, but the evidence is poor.

Cat's with kidney disease may benefit from protein restriction, but this depends on the stage of disease.
Cat’s with kidney disease may benefit from a lower protein diet, but this depends on the stage of disease.

Fat

Cats with kidney disease need a moderate-high fat diet. This will help with weight loss and provide a source of energy if restricting protein.

There’s some evidence that high omega 3 fatty acid foods may improve survival times for cats with kidney disease. Sources of omega 3 include salmon, green mussels, and herring.

Cats prefer a moderate-fat diet for taste which helps maintain food intake. A fat intake of 25-40% on a dry matter basis seems to be the tastiest for a cats enjoyment.

Most cats with kidney disease are senior cats. Senior cats have decreased fat digestion and tend to lose weight. A higher calorie diet helps to maintain weight.

Bottom Line: A moderate-high fat diet helps cats with kidney disease maintain weight and improves the taste of food.

A cat eating wet food.
Cats with kidney disease may lose weight. A higher fat diet can help cats maintain weight.

Carbohydrates

Cats have no requirement for carbohydrates in the diet. It’s best to limit carbohydrate in all cats diets, including those with kidney disease.

Many older cats with kidney disease have diabetes. Older cats with diabetes may benefit from a diet of less than 15% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis for health.

Cats prefer low-carbohydrate diets when given a choice. Avoiding food rejection is important to help a cat with kidney disease maintain weight and food intake.

Bottom Line: Give a cat with kidney disease a low carbohydrate diet (<15% on a dry matter basis).

It's best to limit your cats carbohydrate intake for health.
Cats eat meats, not sweets.

Phosphate

Phosphate restriction may help a cat with kidney disease live longer. This mineral is found in meat and grains.

Giving a cat too much phosphate leads to renal secondary hyperparathyroidism. This increases renal calcification and hastens the progression of kidney disease.

A diet with too much meat without a source of calcium causes hyperparathyroidism. This causes bone abnormalities and depression.

Balancing calcium with phosphate at a 1:1 ratio helps prevent renal calcification.

Choose a cat food with contains calcium to phosphate ratio of 1:1 or better. All the choices in this article meet this ratio.

Bottom Line: Choose a cat food with a calcium to phosphate ratio of 1:1 or better to prevent kidney damage.

Bones are a great source of calcium for cats  and also benefit cats with kidney disease.

Functional Foods

There are no proven functional foods that help with kidney disease.

This includes:

  • Prebiotics
  • Probiotics
  • Chinese rhubarb
  • Rice bran
  • Apple pomace
  • Herbs

Some ingredients such as rice bran and apple pomace decrease taurine digestibility. This is problematic since cats must get taurine from their diet.

Taurine maintains the heart and eye health.

Bottom Line: There are no proven functional foods that help cats with kidney disease

A cat looking at a juice. Cat's have no taste for sweetness.

Moisture

Cats with stage 3-4 kidney disease are at a higher risk of dehydration from diuresis.

Make sure your cat with kidney disease always has access to clean water from a variety of sources. Water fountains also help encourage drinking.

This is also why wet food is best for kidney disease. Wet food is high in moisture (75-85% moisture) and helps cats stay hydrated.

If you serve dry cat food, try to moisten it with water and have fresh water available at all times.

Bottom Line: Wet food is best for kidney disease to keep your cat hydrated.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Signs of Kidney Disease in Cats?

Here are some of the signs of kidney disease.

  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Anorexia
  • Vomiting
  • Halitosis
  • Polyuria (excessive urination)
  • Polydipsia (excessive thirst)

Kidney disease is progressive. Catching the problem early will help you adjust your cat’s diet to improve lifespan.

Bottom Line: The signs of kidney disease in cats include weight loss and excessive urination.

A vet examining a cat.

What Treatments Do Cats With Kidney Disease Need?

Treatments include:

  • Dietary therapy
  • IV fluids
  • Medication (e.g. phosphate binders)

Speak with your vet to find the proper treatment for your cat. Treatment depends on The International Renal Interest Society (IRIS) stage of the disease.

Diet modification is important to slow the progression of kidney disease.

Bottom Line: Cats with kidney disease need a modified diet to slow the progression of the disease.

A vet examining a cat.

What Diet Do Cats With Kidney Disease Need?

A low phosphate and high calcium diet. A diet with excess phosphate in relation to calcium contributes to renal calcification. This increases the progression of kidney disease. Aim for a ratio of 1:1 calcium to phosphate.

Too much phosphate causes hyperparathyroidism which increases calcium deposits in the kidneys. Calcium and vitamin D decrease parathyroid hormone.

Early-stage kidney disease involves lean muscle loss. A high-calorie diet helps with weight loss in the early stages of the disease.

Protein restriction may help in the later stages of kidney disease.

Do not follow homemade recipe advice on the internet because almost all recipes fail to meet a cats needs.

Homemade recipes on the internet aren’t formulated to help with kidney disease. This may be due to a lack of training in nutrition from the authors (including veterinarians).

Bottom Line: Cats with kidney disease benefit from high calcium and low phosphate diets. This slows the progression of the disease.

A cat eating meat and bones.
Dietary calcium to phosphate ratio of 1:1 helps slow the progression of kidney disease. Calcium is found in bones.

What are the Benefits of a Kidney Disease Diet?

They increase the survival time in dogs and cats with kidney disease. A kidney disease diet also reduces the risk of a uremic crisis (kidney failure).

Improving your cat’s health also helps with financial costs related to medical treatment. A healthier cat means fewer trips to the vet.

Bottom Line: A kidney disease diet increases the lifespan of cats with kidney disease.

Do I Have to Give My Cat Hill’s Science Diet?

Check with your vet for tailored advice.

Hill’s Science Diet is formulated for cats with kidney disease, but has a high markup.

The ingredients in this product are low quality (e.g. brewers rice) and may not be optimal for a cat’s health.

A better choice is high-quality wet canned food with real animal ingredients including meat, bones, and organs.

The main goal is to find a product with a calcium to phosphate ratio of 1:1.

Bottom Line: Check with your vet to see what are the best options for your needs.

How Long Does a Cat with Kidney Disease Live?

Disease progression is unpredictable. Many owners may opt for euthanasia due to the time and financial burden of caring for a cat with kidney disease.

The prevalence of kidney disease increases with age. 10% of cats over 10 years old have kidney disease. This increases to 31% of cats over 15 years old.

Feeding your cat a kidney-protective diet improves the lifespan and health of your cat.

Bottom Line: The progression of kidney disease is unpredictable. Most cats with kidney disease are older, to begin with.

A relaxing cat.

Can I Reverse my Cat’s Kidney Disease?

No. Chronic kidney disease is progressive. Although optimal diet therapy slows the disease, you can’t reverse the problem.

Acute kidney failure may be reversible if caught in time. This is a sudden drop in kidney function related to infection and/or medication.

Bottom Line: You cannot reverse chronic kidney disease. Diet therapy helps slow progression.

Can Healthy Cats Eat Kidney Disease Foods?

Yes. All cats benefit from a diet higher in calcium and lower in phosphate. This lowers the parathyroid hormone (PTH), a stress hormone.

Excess PTH causes problems such as bone abnormalities, depression, and lack of movement. This occurs at any age with a diet void of calcium (e.g. only fresh meat and no calcium source).

A low phosphorus diet should start in adulthood to help prevent kidney disease.

Bottom Line: All cats benefit from kidney disease foods for health and for preventing kidney disease.

Why Does the Calcium to Phosphate Ratio Matter for Kidney Health?

A ratio of 1:1 calcium to phosphate slows and/or prevents the progression of kidney disease. Reducing phosphate helps to protect the kidney from structural damage.

Too much phosphate increases parathyroid hormone, which increases calcium deposits in the kidney.

Calcium and vitamin D both inhibit parathyroid hormone and have a protective role in a cat’s health.

Bottom Line: A ratio of 1:1 calcium to phosphate slows and/or prevents the progression of kidney disease.

Can Cats Eat Chicken if They Have Kidney Disease?

Yes. Cats are obligate carnivores and benefit from animal-based foods such as chicken for strength and energy.

However, fresh meat is high in phosphate and low in calcium.

Your cat’s diet must have a balance of calcium sources in the diet. Ground bones and eggshells are a source of calcium.

If a cat only eats fresh meat, it will get nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism. This causes problems such as bone abnormalities and depression.

It’s best to give your cat commercial food with a 1:1 calcium to phosphate ratio.

Bottom Line: Cats may eat small amounts of chicken if they have kidney disease.

A cat eating meat.

What Causes Kidney Disease in Cats?

Factors increasing the risk of kidney disease include:

  • Dental disease
  • Free feeding
  • Breed
  • Aging
  • Low body weight
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Dehydration

Breeds at a higher risk of kidney disease include:

  • Maine coons
  • Abyssinian
  • Siamese
  • Russian blue
  • Burmese

Speak with your vet for more information.

Bottom Line: Many things increase the risk of kidney disease including aging, breed type, and dehydration.

How do I Introduce a Kidney Disease Food?

Introduce new food slowly. Cat’s have neophobia, which means an aversion to new foods. It takes time to adjust your cats taste to new food.

There are two approaches to introducing new food:

  1. Placing the food next to old food side-by-side in the same bowl
  2. Mixing with the old food

Start by adding a small amount to the old food, and increase the amount over the course of 4-8 weeks.

Warming food to room temperature helps improve the smell and taste.

Bottom Line: Introduce a kidney disease food slowly for best results.

How Do I Find Out How Much Protein Is in Cat Food?

Here is what you do step-by-step.

Remember, we are looking for a protein intake of 6-7g/100kcal for kidney disease.

1. Find the guaranteed analysis of the food

A guaranteed analysis of cat food.
Go to the nutritional info tab online to find the guaranteed analysis.

2. Calculate the dry matter basis protein using an online calculator

Using an online calculator to find the guaranteed analysis of cat food.
Use an online calculator. Enter guaranteed analysis to find dry matter basis protein (51.43% in this case).

3. Find out how many kilocalories of protein per 100kcal of food

We know that in this product, the dry matter basis protein is 51.43%.

That means for every 100kcal of the food, 51.43% is protein.

51.43% of 100kcal is 51.43kcal.

How many grams of protein is this?

There’s about 1g of protein per 4kcal.

51.43/4 = 12.8g

This means for every 100kcal of this food, there is 12.8g of protein.

Per the recommendations, this is too high in protein, but as mentioned the evidence is poor.

Most quality wet cat foods are high protein. You can add animal fat (e.g. duck fat) to ‘buffer’ the protein per kcal of food.

Conclusion

Kidney disease is a common problem, especially in senior cats. The disease is progressive and decreases your cat’s lifespan if not treated.

A low phosphate and high calcium wet canned diet help protect the kidneys of cats. Dry food is less preferable as cats with kidney disease need a high moisture diet.

Discuss food choices and treatments with your vet. Cats with kidney disease need annual diagnostic testing to check biochemistry and body condition.

Our top cat food pick for kidney disease: Meat Mates wet cat food

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