Having your cat diagnosed with kidney disease can be scary. However, with early detection, appropriate medical treatment, and a kidney diet designed for cats, you can slow the progression of the disease and minimize symptoms, while also helping your cat live a longer and happier life.
“When your cat has kidney disease (also called chronic renal failure), the food you feed them is extremely important,” says Dr. Carly Fox, senior veterinarian at Schwarzman Animal Medical Center in New York City. “Feeding a kidney-friendly diet has been shown to almost double survival time in cats with chronic kidney disease (CKD).”
Dr. Fox says kidney disease foods for cats contain less protein, phosphorus, and salt than a normal maintenance adult cat food, as well as increased omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil.
“If your cat is diagnosed with kidney disease, speak to your veterinarian about which foods they recommend,” Dr. Fox explains. “Often, it will be a prescription diet, as commercially based diets generally have too much phosphorus and salt.”
Why Your Cat Might Need a Kidney Disease Food
By feeding them specially formulated cat food for kidney disease, you can help protect your cat’s kidney function, while also ensuring they get the essential nutrients they need. One study found that cats with kidney disease who were fed a special diet restricted in phosphorus and protein survived longer than cats with kidney disease who weren’t fed a special diet .
Feeding your cat a kidney-support cat food can also help to relieve any nausea they may experience, increase their energy levels, reduce phosphate levels in their blood, and minimize protein loss through their kidneys.
Best Cat Food for Kidney Disease: Top Picks
- Best Overall: Royal Canin Vet Diet Renal Support Canned Cat Food
- Best Dry Cat Food for Kidney Disease: Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care Cat Food
- Best Wet Cat Food for Kidney Disease: Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets NF Kidney Function
- Best Grain-Free Cat Food for Kidney Disease: Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet Kidney and Mobility Support Dry Cat Food
How We Ranked Our Picks
We spoke to veterinarians to find the best kidney-support cat foods on the market, taking under consideration factors including taste, availability, and value.
4 Best Vet-Approved Cat Foods for Kidney Disease
There is no one specific diet that is appropriate for all cats with kidney disease. Since some cats are picky eaters, and others experience a reduced appetite with kidney disease, it’s important to find cat food your feline will consistently enjoy eating.
Here are some top-tier options to discuss with your veterinarian.
Best Overall Kidney-Support Cat Food
Our Pick: Royal Canin Vet Diet Renal Support Canned Cat Food
A reluctance to eat is a common symptom of kidney disease in cats, so Royal Canin decided to address this right out the gate by offering a tasty formula that cats find hard to resist. Their renal support canned cat food contains D-morsels, made from slices of pork and chicken soaked in gravy. The D stands for “delectable” and may help stimulate your cat’s appetite. We love that this formula offers fatty acids from fish oil, antioxidants, and targeted protein levels, all designed to support your furry loved one’s kidney function.
- Served as a low-phosphorus pate in gel form that appeals to cats
- Designed to stimulate your cat’s appetite
- Some reviewers say it’s the only CKD food their cat will eat consistently
- Available in 3-ounce cases of 24 cans
Best Dry Cat Food for Kidney Disease
Our Pick: Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care Cat Food
While it can sometimes be hard to get a cat with kidney disease excited about a meal, Hill’s does a good job of enticing even the pickiest cats. This dry cat food for kidney disease is formulated with the brand’s Enhanced Appetite Trigger (E.A.T.), which is shown to stimulate appetite in cats. This veterinarian-endorsed cat food contains the important nutrients needed to support their kidney health.
- Targeted levels of high-quality protein
- Low in sodium
- Uses a proprietary blend of ingredients designed to stimulate a cat’s appetite
- May boost vitality and energy
Best Wet Cat Food for Kidney Disease
Our Pick: Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets NF Kidney Function
If your cat has just been diagnosed with kidney disease, this Early Care wet cat food with reduced phosphorus and sodium levels is a good starting point to help them better manage their disease. Cat owners can feel good knowing Purina employs full-time veterinary nutritionists and strives to deliver high-quality food. Over time, as your cat’s kidney disease progresses, Purina Pro Plan also makes an Advanced Care formula to continue supporting your feline’s kidney health.
- Contains antioxidants and a prebiotic fiber that help to nourish a healthy GI tract
- No artificial colors
- Pate texture
- Contains B-complex vitamins to support your cat’s metabolism and energy levels
- Good taste for cats with limited appetites
Best Grain-Free Cat Food for Kidney Disease
Our Pick: Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet Kidney and Mobility Support Dry Cat Food
If your cat turns their nose up at canned cat food, Blue Buffalo offers a delicious dry kidney-support cat food. This grain-free formula offers controlled levels of protein (high-quality deboned chicken) and minerals to aid kidney function. It’s also low in phosphorus and sodium. We like this diet for aging cats with kidney issues because it also contains glucosamine and chondroitin to benefit joint health and mobility.
- Controlled protein and mineral levels to aid kidney function
- Contains glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint health and mobility
- Pet parents may like that this food is grain-free
Kidney Disease Cat Food Buyer’s Guide
If your cat has been diagnosed with kidney disease, it’s important to work with your veterinarian to find the right kidney care diet. Here are some tips and things to consider when making a choice for your feline family member:
Follow your vet’s recommendations. A veterinarian will guide you to a choice they recommend based on your cat’s health needs and lifestyle. However, if you’re interested in a dry food vs. a wet food, a specific texture or flavor, or are concerned about cost, you can have a conversation with your veterinarian to come up with a few options.
Ask for samples. Some cats with kidney disease may have a decreased appetite, so finding a food that your cat enjoys and wants to eat is important. “It might just be a matter of finding the right one for your cat,” Dr. Fox says. “Many cats prefer certain textures or flavors, so trialing diets with different textures, tastes, and forms will likely find the right diet if your cat is picky.”
Most veterinary clinics have samples of feline kidney diets because of this issue. Ask your vet if they have any samples of kidney diets for cats that you might be able to try at home before purchasing a larger amount of food.
Transition your cat to a new food slowly. When starting your cat on a new food designed to support their kidney function, it’s beneficial to transition slowly to avoid gastrointestinal upset. Start by mixing 25 percent of the new food with their current food and gradually increase the quantity of new food over the next week.
Monitor your cat’s weight. Diets designed for cats with kidney disease are often high in calories, which can help picky felines maintain their weight. However, it’s important to monitor your cat for unwanted weight gain. If your cat is gaining weight on a kidney-care diet, talk to your veterinarian about adjusting their portion size.