Protein is an incredibly important part of a healthy, balanced diet for most cats. Cats are carnivores by nature, so their bodies can typically handle a high amount of quality, animal-based protein every day. In fact, most cats need protein for proper bodily functions.
However, just like some humans can’t handle specific diets, some cats can’t either. Foods high in protein can be harmful to cats with kidney problems because they have a difficult time excreting the waste from excess protein, making the kidneys work overtime.
In some cases, then, it might be necessary to feed a cat a low protein wet or dry cat food to keep their kidney function running smoothly. This review will talk about some of the reasons your kitty might benefit from a diet low in protein and how to find the best food to meet his needs.
What is the Best Low Protein Cat Food?
Why Might My Cat Need a Low Protein Cat Food?
The most common reason for cat owners to feed their cat a low protein cat food is because the cat suffers from chronic renal failure (CRF), also sometimes referred to as chronic kidney failure. CRF is more common in domesticated cats who don’t eat the same type of food that they would in the wild, which is typically very high in quality animal proteins.
There are some conflicting views as to what the best diet is for a cat with CRF. Some vets recommend a diet high in quality, easily-digestible proteins, whereas others say that a low protein diet is best. Mostly, it boils down to how your cat handles the digestion process. Some cats with CRF might fare better on a high protein diet, whereas others just can’t handle a lot of protein.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a little different but could also require a renal diet low in protein. CKD is a milder form of kidney disease that could eventually turn into CRF, and some research suggests that feeding cats with CKD a low protein renal diet may slow the progression of the disease.
Another common reason cat owners might consider a low protein diet is if they have an elder cat who is less active than he once was. Protein helps give the body energy, but as cats age, they need less protein because they aren’t burning off enough energy. Excess protein, then, may damage the kidneys, and a low protein diet may veterinarian-recommended once your cat turns a certain age.
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What to Consider Before Purchasing a Low Protein Cat Food
If you think your cat might be one that can benefit from a low protein cat food, then it’s crucial for you to know what to look for to give your cat the most balanced diet possible. Here are several essential things to consider before purchasing a low protein cat food.
Most Importantly, Get Your Vet’s Recommendation!
We can’t stress enough the importance of getting your veterinarian’s recommendation before switching your cat to a low protein diet. Many cat owners might think it’s the right solution for their cat, but your vet will know for sure if your cat needs a low protein food based on his medical history, activity level, breed, and more.
There are both commercial and prescription low protein diets available. You can’t buy a prescription diet without your vet’s prescription, but you can buy commercial. However, that doesn’t mean that you should. It’s still important to take your cat to the vet for routine checkups, at which point you can voice your concerns about any dietary changes you want to make.
Some cats may benefit from small diet changes, like eating less food more frequently during the day, without the need for a food change. If your cat has too little protein, his energy level can suffer, and he may have an unhealthy weight loss. It’s good to voice your concerns but remember that your vet has your cat’s best interest at heart too.
Since your cat will have less protein content in his low protein diet, it’s crucial that you choose food with a quality protein source that’s easily digestible for his belly. Animal proteins are the best options for most cats because they have more amino acids than plant-based proteins. Amino acids are what aids the digestive process and turn protein into vital energy for your kitty.
Some cats have trouble digesting animal proteins. In this case, you can consider a plant-based protein source as the primary protein for a low protein cat food. Again, you’ll want to check with your veterinarian to find out the best options for your cat.
The Right Nutrient Balance
In addition to a low protein diet for cats with CKD or CRF, you should maintain an optimal nutrient profile that can aid your kitty’s kidney function. Most feline experts agree that an optimal diet for cats with suffering kidneys includes:
- Low phosphorus content
- Low sodium content
- Extra potassium
Sodium can deplete your cat of his natural fluids, making him urinate more and dehydrating him. Moisture is key to healthy kidney function, so it’s vital that not only does your cat drink plenty of water, but that his diet stays low in sodium so that he doesn’t deplete the water supply in his body. Additionally, sodium can increase blood pressure, which makes the kidneys work harder.
Phosphorus is a nutrient that your cat’s body needs to build healthy bones and teeth. However, those with decreased kidney function will have a difficult time removing excess phosphorous from the body through the kidneys. This can cause hyperphosphatemia, which occurs when excess phosphorus makes its way into the bloodstream. Common symptoms include extreme weakness, pain, and tremors.
Extra potassium is beneficial for your cat with CKD or CRF because many cats with kidney problems suffer from lost potassium in the body. Potassium is necessary for your cat’s cells to function properly, which can affect everything from his nerves to heart health.
You might notice that low protein food for cats often consists of grain-based proteins as their main protein sources. Some manufacturers do this because grain-based proteins, like rice and wheat flour, do decrease the protein content in the food significantly.
The problem with plant-based proteins and other grains is that they can put the kidneys into overdrive. If the reason you need to switch your cat to a low protein diet is due to limited kidney function, then a food high in grain content may not be the best choice for her.
High-quality, animal-based proteins can limit the amount of work your cat’s kidneys need to do, which can keep them healthy for longer.
Wet Versus Dry Food
In our reviews, we’re focusing on low protein canned food as the top options for your cat that needs a low protein diet. The main reason for this is that a moisture-rich food can help combat dehydration problems that can lead to decreased kidney function. Canned food, of course, has much higher moisture content than dry food, which can give your cat extra water content in addition to what she drinks throughout the day.
Another reason is that most canned foods designed for cats with kidney problems have higher-quality proteins than those you’ll find in dry kibble. Animal proteins tend to be more easily digestible for cats than plant-based proteins, and chicken, lamb, salmon, and other quality proteins are ones you usually find in kidney-focused canned foods.
A low protein diet can be a bit more expensive than other cat foods, especially if you have to purchase a prescription diet. However, low protein food could be vital to your cat’s health if your veterinarian has suggested it for your cat.
Still, you shouldn’t have to worry about how to pay to feed your cat. Some low protein diets are more affordable than others. However, if you can’t afford to feed your cat a low protein food all the time, you can talk to your vet about other options. Your veterinarian might suggest ways to add some low protein food into your cat’s regular diet to lower his protein intake each day.
Is Your Cat a Picky Eater?
Finally, you might need to take a different approach to a low protein diet if your cat is a particularly fussy eater. Low protein diets tend to have less animal product in them, which can decrease their flavor significantly. Some cats won’t mind, but others might refuse the new food altogether.
Usually, you can combat this by transitioning your cat to the new food slowly. Mix in small amounts each day, gradually increasing the amount of new food. Your veterinarian can likely suggest helpful ways to persuade your cat to try and enjoy her new food.
Reviewed: The Best Low Protein Cat Food Options
Quick Look : Best Low Protein Cat Food in 2022
If you’ve discussed your options with your veterinarian and decided that a low protein diet is right for your cat, then we encourage you to consider these four low protein options.
Evanger’s Low Fat Vegetarian Dinner Canned Dog & Cat Food Check Price
Evanger’s Low Fat Vegetarian Dinner is a canned food meant for either dogs or cats who require a vegetarian diet. Although most cats don’t need to eat a vegetarian diet, those who have severe allergies or food sensitivities to animal proteins might benefit from one, so we think it’s an excellent option to add to this list of low protein foods for cats.
Evanger’s includes several quality plant-based proteins in this food that are also high in fiber to promote healthy digestion and keep your cat’s kidneys from working overtime. You’ll find veggies like sweet potatoes, peas, and carrots, with some protein-rich eggs to boost the protein content to the right amount. The formula eliminates grainy foods that can harm the kidneys, like corn, soy, and wheat, and doesn’t use harmful additives or flavors.
Antioxidant-rich fruits, like cranberries and blueberries, increase the vitamin content in this food, packing it with several of the vitamins and minerals your cat needs to support overall immunity and health.
- All-veggie recipe is perfect for cats who require a vegetarian diet
- Protein from quality plant-based proteins, like sweet potato and peas
- Very low phosphorus content
- Raw ingredients canned in their natural juices
- Least expensive option on our list
- Not an option for all cats; check with your veterinarian before feeding a vegetarian diet
- Some cats won’t prefer the flavor of this veggie-based food
Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care Chicken & Vegetable Stew Canned Cat Food Check Price
If your cat needs a low protein diet due to decreased kidney function but isn’t suffering from joint or mobility issues, then Hill’s Prescription Diet offers another canned food option focused solely on kidney care. The k/d Kidney Care canned food has decreased protein content. This formula sources its protein from pork liver, chicken, and chicken fat, which are highly-digestible animal proteins for cats.
Your cat will get plenty of minerals and vitamins from ingredients in the diet, like spinach and carrots. However, Hill’s also adds vitamins and minerals that the body tends to deplete when kidney function is low. Supplements of Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3, Folic Acid, and other important vitamins and minerals can boost your feline’s overall health.
This diet is one that you can only purchase with a veterinarian’s prescription because of its nutrient profile that differs from mainstream cat food. Your vet will likely only recommend this low protein food if your cat is currently in Stage 2 or 3 of kidney disease.
- Kidney care formula may benefit cats with CRF or CKD
- Added vitamins and minerals to replace what decreased kidney function expels
- Controlled phosphorus and sodium levels
- Small chunks can digest more efficiently in the digestive tract to aid low-functioning kidneys
- Potassium-rich additives
- Contains soybean oil, which is a common allergen in household pets
Dave’s Pet Food Restricted Diet Protein & Phosphorus Chicken Formula Canned Food Check Price
Dave’s Pet Food created a diet geared toward cats that need restricted protein foods to meet their health needs. This food may also benefit cats with reduced kidney function because it’s low in phosphorus content and high in fiber to help your cat’s digestive processes move smoothly.
This food also is low in sodium, which can further support your cat’s kidney function by maintaining consistent blood pressure and preventing dehydration from sodium content.
Dave’s Pet Food Restricted Diet has several wholesome ingredients that can benefit your cat, like sunflower oil, salmon oil, carrots, parsley, and dandelion greens. This food has high fiber content, which can ensure that your cat has an easy time digesting it, taking some of the pressure off his kidneys.
With additional vitamin and mineral supplements, like Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12, Riboflavin, and Folic Acid, you can ensure that your kitty’s getting a healthy, balanced meal.
- Quality protein content comes from chicken broth, chicken, and chicken liver
- Salmon and sunflower oil can decrease inflammation, which can have an impact on kidney function
- Low sodium levels to keep your cat hydrated and maintain a healthy blood pressure
- Includes extra vitamin and mineral supplements to support your cat’s health
- Grain-free food
- Possibly the least palatable; picky eaters may have a difficult time with the flavor
- Somewhat dry consistency for a canned food
Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care & Mobility Care Canned Cat Food Check Price
Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care + Mobility Care is a canned food focused mostly on older cats that are in the beginning stages of kidney disease and may also suffer from joint pain and limited mobility. This food has a high amount of essential amino acids from pork liver and chicken that can help your cat build essential muscle protein that’s crucial for mobility and can also aid digestion.
To combat kidney issues and keep them functioning at their best, this food meets the nutrient needs of cats with CKD or CRF with low sodium and phosphorus profiles. Plus, your cat can benefit from the additional antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids to decrease inflammation, which is vital to both kidney and joint health. The high fat content ensures that your cat’s body gobbles up the important vitamins and minerals in the food that typically get depleted fast in cats with kidney problems.
This formula is designed both by Hill’s experts and veterinarians who know what it takes to have the right nutrient profiles for cats with kidney problems.
- May best meet the needs of older cats with kidney and joint issues
- Low sodium and phosphorus
- Antioxidants that support healthy kidney function
- Moderate protein levels may be best for cats with mild kidney disease
- Priciest option on our list