Food for Cats with Kidney Problems

Updated February 21, 2017

Chronic renal failure (CRF) is the most common form of kidney disease in older cats. Although kidney problems can occur in younger cats, they are much less likely. This is a serious, progressive disease that has no cure. Cats with kidney problems can still live comfortable lives for several months to several years. Correct treatment requires appropriate cat food, formulated to reduce strain on the kidneys.


Diet has a big effect on your cat's quality of life once it has been diagnosed with kidney problems. The kidneys ordinarily filter toxins from the body. When they aren't working properly, your cat may suffer from depression, mouth ulcers, vomiting, and even seizures. Feeding your cat an appropriate diet takes some of the stress away from the kidneys and allows the cat to feel better longer.


Contrary to popular belief, a high-protein diet will not cause kidney problems in cats. Feline distemper vaccines may contribute to CRF, as can chronic dehydration. Diets low in potassium may also lead to renal failure. Many cats also develop this problem as a result of exposure to melamine in contaminated cat food, which was recalled in 2007. Feeding your cat a high-quality diet with adequate moisture is an important part of preventing kidney problems later on.


Many foods for cats with kidney problems are less appetizing to your pet than ordinary cat food. You may need to coax your cat to eat and have to try several different types of cat food. If your cat is unwilling to eat the dry version of a food, try wet food. If your cat will not eat CRF foods at all, discuss other options with your vet. Not eating at all is much worse for a CRF cat than eating the wrong food.


Appropriate food for cats with kidney problems is designed to keep uremic toxins low. High-protein diets, such as normal cat food, may increase toxicity levels. This is why most food for cats with renal failure is quite low in protein. Low levels of salt and phosphorus in feline renal diets help control electrolyte imbalances, which are very common in CRF. High moisture levels keep your cat well hydrated.


Chronic renal failure is an incurable disease. Even cats who are fed a high-quality diet intended to extend their lives will eventually suffer from serious problems. It's important to keep close watch on your cat's health and to have regular checkups. Cats with kidney problems must be monitored for quality of life and may eventually need to be euthanized.

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About the Author

G.D. Palmer is a freelance writer and illustrator living in Milwaukee, Wis. She has been producing print and Web content for various organizations since 1998 and has been freelancing full-time since 2007. Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and studio art from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis.