The 6 Best Cat Foods For Kidney Disease

Cats Jun 13, 2021
Written by | Updated Oct 22, 2021
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The 6 Best Cat Foods For Kidney Disease

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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 commercial cat 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 chronic kidney disease (CKD).

At a Glance: Best Cat Food for Kidney Disease To Buy

We highly recommend looking at the comparison table below where we highlighted the features of each product. You’ll also find more detailed information about each product later in the article.

Compare Best Cat Foods For Kidney Disease

Overall Best
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Support D Thin Slices in Gravy Canned Cat Food

1. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Support D Thin Slices in Gravy Canned Cat Food

Runner Up
Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care Chicken & Vegetable Stew Canned Cat Food

2. Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care Chicken & Vegetable Stew Canned Cat Food

Best Fresh Food
Smalls Fresh Ground Bird

3. Smalls Fresh Ground Bird

Best Non-Prescription
Weruva Truluxe Steak Frites with Beef & Pumpkin in Gravy Grain-Free Canned Food

4. Weruva Truluxe Steak Frites with Beef & Pumpkin in Gravy Grain-Free Canned Food

Most Appetizing
Forza10 Nutraceutic Actiwet Renal Support Wet Cat Food

5. Forza10 Nutraceutic Actiwet Renal Support Wet Cat Food

Best Dry Food
Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet K+M Kidney + Mobility Support Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

6. Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet K+M Kidney + Mobility Support Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Protein
6.5% Min
Protein
4.0% Min
Protein
21% Min
Protein
10% Min
Protein
6.0% Min
Protein
26.0% Min
Fat
6.5% Min
Fat
3.0% Min
Fat
8.05% Min
Fat
1.3% Min
Fat
4.5% Min
Fat
18.0% Min
Fiber
1.7% Max
Fiber
1.5% Max
Fiber
0.4% Max
Fiber
0.5% Max
Fiber
0.5% Max
Fiber
6.0% Max
Life Stage
Adult
Life Stage
Adult
Life Stage
Adult
Life Stage
Adult
Life Stage
Adult
Life Stage
Adult
Type
Wet/Canned
Type
Wet/Canned
Type
Fresh
Type
Wet/Canned
Type
Wet/Canned
Type
Dry
Made In
United States
Made In
United States
Made In
United States
Made In
Thailand
Made In
United States
Made In
United States

What’s The Best Cat Food For Kidney Disease?

Your veterinarian is the best person to ask for advice in treating and managing kidney disease, but if your vet recommends a change in diet to support your cat’s kidneys, it’s important to be able to make an informed decision.

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

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 levels of 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 progression of the disease, fights inflammation, and reduces the amount of toxins in his bloodstream.

Which Cat Foods Do All Of Those Things At Once?

Not many commercial cat foods deliver on all seven qualities at the same time. The few that come close are almost all veterinary diets formulated to support kidney function.

In my opinion, prescription diets for kidney health are far from perfect. They focus on dietary 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 do seem to help.

The following list features a number of prescription and non-prescription foods with lower-than-average phosphorus levels, many with low protein levels as well. They’re listed from lowest dry matter phosphorus content to highest.

Our Top Picks For The Best Cat Foods For Kidney Disease

Now that you have a better understanding of how we came to our top picks, you’re probably eager to see them! Here are our top 6 picks for best cat foods for kidney disease:

Overall Best
1.

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Support D Thin Slices in Gravy Canned Cat Food

Product Info

  • Protein: 6.5% Min
  • Fat: 6.5% Min
  • Fiber: 1.7% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Wet/Canned
  • Made In: United States

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 6.5%
Crude Fat: 6.5%
Crude Fiber: 1.7%
Moisture: 78.5%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 30.23%
Fat: 30.23%
Fiber: 7.91%
Carbs: 31.63%
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
2.

Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care Chicken & Vegetable Stew Canned Cat Food

Product Info

  • Protein: 4.0% Min
  • Fat: 3.0% Min
  • Fiber: 1.5% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Wet/Canned
  • Made In: United States

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 4%
Crude Fat: 3%
Crude Fiber: 1.5%
Moisture: 91.5%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 47.06%
Fat: 35.29%
Fiber: 17.65%
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 Fresh Food
3.

Smalls Fresh Ground Bird

Product Info

  • Protein: 21% Min
  • Fat: 8.05% Min
  • Fiber: 0.4% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Fresh
  • Made In: United States

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 21%
Crude Fat: 8.05%
Crude Fiber: 0.4%
Moisture: 66.1%
Ash: 2.25%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 61.95%
Fat: 23.75%
Fiber: 1.18%
Carbs: 6.49%
Pros
  • Made with real animal protein (chicken thigh/breast)
  • High calorie density and rich in flavor
  • Wholesome ingredients for maximum digestibility
  • Full of natural chicken flavor, very palatable
Cons
  • Only available as part of a subscription
  • Meals aren’t portioned individually
Cats with kidney disease require a diet of the highest quality and that’s exactly what Smalls fresh food has to offer. Not only do they use real animal proteins as the primary ingredient, but they don’t use any low-quality grains, fillers, or artificial additives. Only the best for your cat, and only from Smalls.

If you’re concerned about limiting your cat’s protein intake, consider increasing the quality instead. High-quality protein is essential for all cats and generally comes from fresh, animal sources.

This Smalls Fresh Ground Bird is a great choice for cats with kidney disease because it is made with whole food ingredients, starting with chicken thighs and chicken breast. It offers high calorie density and plenty of moisture, not to mention irresistible chicken flavor.

Perhaps what you’ll love most about Smalls is that they take the work out of shopping for cat food. Simply fill out a quick profile for your pet and they’ll match you with the perfect diet. Even better, they’ll ship it right to your door in regular deliveries.

This recipe’s phosphorus content is 203 mg per 100 kcal and the protein content is around 62% on a dry matter basis.
Best Non-Prescription
4.

Weruva Truluxe Steak Frites with Beef & Pumpkin in Gravy Grain-Free Canned Food

Product Info

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

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 10%
Crude Fat: 1.3%
Crude Fiber: 0.5%
Moisture: 86%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 71.43%
Fat: 9.29%
Fiber: 3.57%
Carbs: 15.71%
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. This cat 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 toxin buildup in the bloodstream.

While this food contains several plant ingredients including 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 pet food, consider supplementing with salmon oil or another source of EPA and DHA for anti-inflammatory benefits.
Most Appetizing
5.

Forza10 Nutraceutic Actiwet Renal Support Wet Cat Food

Product Info

  • Protein: 6.0% Min
  • Fat: 4.5% Min
  • Fiber: 0.5% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Wet/Canned
  • Made In: United States

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 6%
Crude Fat: 4.5%
Crude Fiber: 0.5%
Moisture: 82%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 33.33%
Fat: 25%
Fiber: 2.78%
Carbs: 38.89%
Pros
  • High moisture formula rich in flavor
  • Three sources of animal protein as main ingredients
  • Free from inflammatory and artificial ingredients
Cons
  • Contains controlled levels of protein
  • Fairly expensive
Another non-prescription cat food that seems to work well for cats with kidney disease, this wet food formula from Forza10 has an appealing fish and lamb flavor and a high-moisture pate texture. Not only is it packed with flavor, but it’s rich in species-appropriate animal protein.

This wet cat food features fresh salmon, chicken liver, and lamb as the top three ingredients. In fact, they are the only main ingredients aside from rice. Overall, this renal diet appears to be highly digestible because it is made with a short list of whole food ingredients, primarily animal proteins.

While not a prescription formula, this recipe is designed for renal support. We don’t love the lower protein levels, but we do like that almost all of the protein in the formula comes from animal sources. We also like that the recipe is free from corn, wheat, soy, by-products, and artificial additives.

With controlled phosphorus levels around 0.72% on a dry matter basis, it’s higher in phosphorus than other foods on this list but still lower than many commercial cat foods. It’s also rich in moisture to support your cat’s water intake.
Best Dry Food
6.

Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet K+M Kidney + Mobility Support Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Product Info

  • Protein: 26.0% Min
  • Fat: 18.0% Min
  • Fiber: 6.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Dry
  • Made In: United States

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 26%
Crude Fat: 18%
Crude Fiber: 6%
Moisture: 9%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 28.57%
Fat: 19.78%
Fiber: 6.59%
Carbs: 45.05%
Pros
  • Fresh deboned chicken as the main ingredient
  • Controlled levels of phosphorus
  • Supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids
Cons
  • Contains a significant number of plant ingredients
  • Made with some plant protein concentrate
Generally speaking, we prefer wet food for cats because it tends to be higher in protein, lower in carbs, and contains the moisture your cat needs for hydration. That being said, some cats simply prefer dry food. If your cat is a kibble fanatic, this veterinary formula from Blue Buffalo could be a good option.

This recipe starts with deboned chicken as the first ingredient, a high-quality source of animal protein. Dried egg provides a supplemental source of animal protein, but you’ll also see pea protein on the list. We prefer to avoid plant proteins in cat food, but you often have to make compromises when choosing a therapeutic diet for renal disease.

Not only does this recipe contain pea protein, but it contains a fairly significant number of plant ingredients. The estimated carb content is very high, but that’s pretty typical for dry cat food – especially prescription formulas with limited protein content. We wouldn’t recommend it for healthy cats, but it might be a good option for cats with kidney disease.

At about 0.77% dry matter basis, the phosphorus level in this food is higher than the others on the list but still low enough that it may be beneficial for cats with kidney disease. The protein content is about 28.5% on a dry matter basis.

Final Thoughts

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

It’s almost impossible to find a cat 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 of those balls. Some will sacrifice muscle mass for controlled protein and lower BUN levels. Others will forget about low protein diets to save our cats’ muscles. Most eventually forget about nutritional control and just try to find a formula our cats are willing to eat.

Especially in older cats, weight loss is a significant concern. Though it helps to try kidney disease-specific foods, you don’t have to keep feeding them if they don’t help your adult cat. The ultimate 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.

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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
2 Comments
  1. Tatyana Svirsky

    Thank you very much for this article. My 15 years old cat was just diagnosed with beginning stage of renal disease and your article really helps me to navigate the new world of renal support foods.

    • Mallory Crusta

      Glad to hear that it was helpful. Wishing you and your cat all the best.

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