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The 5 Best Cat Foods for Kidney Disease

Cats September 15, 2019
cat food hyperthyroidism

The 5 Best Cat Foods for Kidney Disease

The best cat food for kidney disease eases the burden on your cat’s organs while keeping him as strong and healthy as he can be. It’s a tricky balance that few foods achieve.

We recommend Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Support D Morsels in Gravy as the best cat food for kidney disease. Though it’s not perfect, this food has a good record among renal patients and one of the least objectionable ingredient lists in the veterinary diet category.

To help you find the right food for your cat, we’ve recommended five foods for cats with kidney disease. Most are prescription foods. Others aren’t. All of them have a history of helping cats with CKD.

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Customers say their cats love the food’s taste and texture
  • Controlled protein and phosphorus help to reduce toxins in the bloodstream
  • Contains fish oil as a source of anti-inflammatory EPA and DHA
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  • Restricted phosphorus and protein reduce limit toxins in the blood
  • Contains fish oil as a source of anti-inflammatory EPA and DHA
  • Appears to help cats feel better
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  • Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil help to reduce inflammation
  • Controlled phosphorus helps your cat feel healthier
  • Customers report that the square kibble is easy for their senior cats to eat
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  • Exceptionally low in phosphorus
  • Many people say they use this as an alternative to prescription cat food
  • Rich in highly-digestible protein from beef
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  • Low sodium and phosphorus
  • Relatively low protein
  • Free of potentially-harmful additives
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What’s The Best Cat Food For Kidney Disease?

After hours of research, I’ve identified seven qualities that set apart the best cat food for kidney disease.

The seven key qualities to look for: 

  1. High calorie density
  2. High palatability
  3. High-quality or restricted protein
  4. Low phosphorus levels
  5. Increased B vitamins
  6. Anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids
  7. Low sodium

By combining these qualities, the best cat food for kidney disease keeps your cat strong and lean, slows disease progression, fights inflammation, and reduces the amount of toxins in his bloodstream.

Which Foods Do All Of Those Things At Once?

Not many foods have all seven qualities at the same time. The few that come close are almost all veterinary diets formulated for cats with kidney disease.

They’re far from perfect. They focus on protein restriction rather than protein quality. Most offset disease-appropriate nutrient and mineral levels with species-inappropriate carbohydrate content and unwanted additives.  If you’re used to giving your cat the meatiest and best, these diets are going to be a hard sell. But they seem to help.

The following list features three prescription foods and two that you can buy with or without a veterinarian’s approval.

Best Cat Food For Kidney Disease: Our Top 5 Picks

Overall Best: Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Support D Morsels in Gravy Canned Cat Food

Product Info:

  • Protein: 6.5% Min – 9.5% Max
  • Fat: 6.5% Min
  • Fiber: 2.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Wet/Canned
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Customers say their cats love the food’s taste and texture
  • Controlled protein and phosphorus help to reduce toxins in the bloodstream
  • Contains fish oil as a source of anti-inflammatory EPA and DHA
  • Doesn’t contain harmful sweeteners, artificial colors, or carrageenan

Cons:

  • Relatively high carbohydrate content

This Royal Canin food is formulated for cats with kidney disease and is only available with a veterinarian’s prescription.

With wheat flour, modified corn starch, and corn flour prominent on the ingredient list, it’s a high-carbohydrate product and not one we’d recommend for healthy cats. That said, it has several qualities that make it a good option for those suffering from kidney disease.

While many therapeutic foods suffer in the flavor department, this food has a cat-friendly taste and, according to customer reviews, encourages sickly cats to eat. With 32 calories per ounce, the food is relatively calorie-dense, helping your cat to keep weight on.

Controlled protein and phosphorus help to reduce toxins in the bloodstream and the inclusion of fish oil helps to control inflammation.

The food is roughly 30% protein and .44% phosphorus on a dry matter basis.

Runner-Up: Hill's Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care with Chicken Canned Cat Food

Product Info:

  • Protein: 6.0% Min
  • Fat: 4.0% Min
  • Fiber: 1.5% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Wet/Canned
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Restricted phosphorus and protein reduce limit toxins in the blood
  • Contains fish oil as a source of anti-inflammatory EPA and DHA
  • Appears to help cats feel better

Cons:

  • Contains potentially-harmful sugar and caramel color

Like the Royal Canin recipe listed above, this food is only available with a veterinarian’s approval. According to Hill’s, the nutrition of k/d has been “clinically tested to improve and lengthen the quality of life” of cats with kidney disease.

The k/d formula addresses kidney disease with increased calorie density, controlled phosphorus, mild protein restriction, anti-inflammatory fish oil, and low sodium.

Compared to our number one recommendation, this food has a few more warts. For example, it contains sugar and caramel color, neither of which are necessary or beneficial for cats.

The food’s phosphorus content is .49% on a dry matter basis and the protein is 30% on a dry matter basis.

Best Dry: Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Support S Dry Cat Food

Product Info:

  • Protein: 22.5% Min – 26.5% Max
  • Fat: 19.5% Min
  • Fiber: 5.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Dry
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil help to reduce inflammation
  • Controlled phosphorus helps your cat feel healthier
  • Customers report that the square kibble is easy for their senior cats to eat
  • Restricted protein helps to lower uremic toxins
  • Free of artificial colors or added sweeteners

Cons:

  • Lacks the moisture your cat needs

Healthy or not, all cats are prone to chronic dehydration. When you add kidney disease into the equation, dehydration becomes almost inevitable. Rather than relying on subcutaneous fluids, we recommend feeding a high-moisture diet. It’s the effortless way to hydrate your cat with every meal.

But when caring for a cat with kidney disease, you can’t always have things your way. Some cats refuse to eat anything but kibble and, ultimately, you have to give your cat what he wants.

If your cat will only eat dry food, consider this kibble from Royal Canin. Like other prescription renal diets, the formula has low protein, restricted phosphorus, and extra EPA and DHA from fish oil.

The food’s protein content is between 24.5% and 28.8% on a dry matter basis, while phosphorus lingers under 0.59% on a dry matter basis.

Best Non-Prescription: Weruva TruLuxe Grain-Free Steak Frites with Beef & Pumpkin in Gravy

Product Info:

  • Protein: 10% Min
  • Fat: 1.3% Min
  • Fiber: 0.5% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Wet/Canned
  • Made In: Thailand

Pros:

  • Exceptionally low in phosphorus
  • Many people say they use this as an alternative to prescription cat food
  • Rich in highly-digestible protein from beef
  • Low carbohydrate content
  • Free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Doesn’t contain any sources of EPA and DHA

This Weruva food isn’t a prescription diet and doesn’t check all of the kidney disease control boxes, but it’s a good option to consider if you’re looking for a non-prescription food that doesn’t contain any sugar, artificial colors, or other potentially-inflammatory ingredients.

Unlike most protein-rich foods, it’s low in phosphorus with just 1.0 mg per 1000 calories or 0.57% on a dry matter basis. That’s about as low as you can get without a prescription. The food doesn’t skimp on protein or meat content, with shredded beef playing center stage.

As always, that protein content presents a challenge. The protein-forward recipe will help your cat to maintain lean muscle mass but might contribute to toxic buildup in the bloodstream.

The food contains pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot, and potato starch, but it manages to keep carbohydrate content minimal. The food is also light on fat and doesn’t contain any sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

If you choose this food, consider supplementing with salmon oil or another source of EPA and DHA for anti-inflammatory benefits.

Best Non-Prescription (Budget Option): Hi-Tor Veterinary Select Neo Diet For Cats

Product Info:

  • Protein: 8.0% Min
  • Fat: 10% Min
  • Fiber: 1.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Wet/Canned
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Low sodium and phosphorus
  • Relatively low protein
  • Free of potentially-harmful additives

Cons:

  • Doesn’t contain an omega-3 supplement
  • Some reviewers say their cats didn’t like the food

If you’re looking for a way to give your cat the best and still have some money left over for cat litter, this recipe from Hi-Tor may be a good alternative to traditional prescription foods. Though it’s available without a veterinarian’s approval and Hi-Tor doesn’t explicitly call it a therapeutic diet, the recipe embodies many of the characteristics of prescription cat food.

For example, it has reduced protein, controlled levels of phosphorus, and low sodium. The food is intended to be highly-digestible and easy to eat.

The food is around 36% protein and 0.71% phosphorus on a dry matter basis.

In an article on low-phosphorus food, a writer at NomNomNow describes feeding cats with kidney disease as “a life-saving dietary juggling act.”

It’s almost impossible to find food that keeps all of those balls in the air—one that’s low in protein but won’t starve your cat’s muscles, low in phosphorus but rich in animal-sourced nutrition, palatable but made with CKD in mind.

Most of us are going to drop at least one. Some will sacrifice muscle mass for controlled protein and lower BUN levels. Others will forget about protein restriction to save our cats’ muscles. Most eventually forget about nutritional control and just try to find food that our cats are willing to eat.

Though it helps to try kidney disease-specific foods, you don’t have to keep feeding them if they don’t help your cat.  The goal is to keep your cat happy, strong, and eating for as long as possible.

*This article is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Your veterinarian can provide personalized suggestions relevant to your cat’s unique situation.

Mallory Crusta

Mallory Crusta is a blogger and adventurecat enthusiast who brings you the facts about cat products, wellness, and care. She's the co-founder of Wildernesscat, a resource for savvy cat guardians who want to give their felines richer, healthier lives. Visit Wildernesscat for product reviews, radically natural nutrition tips, and lifestyle inspiration
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