Best Low Phosphorous Cat Food Reviews: Non-Prescription & Prescription
3 in 10. That's how many cats aged 7+ years have chronic kidney disease (CKD).
You read that right—cats can get chronic kidney disease just like humans do. And the impact of this disease on feline health can be just as serious.
Did you realize that CKD can make your furry friend feel pretty darn sick? Frequent episodes of vomiting and diarrhea, weight loss, a poor appetite, bad breath—all of these and more are common signs of the illness. Cats with CKD also tend not to live as long as their healthy feline friends. What's more, sometimes a cat doesn't get diagnosed—which means she doesn't get treatment—until the disease has already progressed to a more advanced stage.
Here's the truth:
CKD is a chronic, incurable, serious, and potentially life-threatening condition. But with the right approach—and importantly, the right nutrition—it CAN be managed and controlled.
Now, there's way more to know about cat kidney disease and nutrition than can fit in one concise article. After years of research, pet parents, experienced vets, and animal researchers still have just as many questions as they do answers.
So what's our point?
Our point is, this article, Low Phosphorous Cat Foods, is intended to educate you about the specific dietary needs of cats living with CKD, and to help you find the best kidney disease cat food for your furry friend…BUT:
The knowledge and choices we'll present here should NOT be considered medical advice nor a substitute for individualized guidance from a vet. If your kitty has CKD, educate yourself AND speak with your veterinarian. It's the best way to support your four-legged friend…who's purrrfect just the way she is, even if she is living with a chronic illness.
- Best Commercial Low Phosphorous Cat Food Brands
- The Top Rated Prescription Foods
- What Role Does Nutrition Play in Managing Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)?
- How do Nutritional Requirements Differ for Cats with CKD?
- Is Phosphorus good for cats?
- Is Weruva cat food low in phosphorus?
- What foods are low in phosphorus?
- What is the best food for a cat with kidney disease?
Best Commercial Low Phosphorous Cat Food Brands
Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet K+M Support
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Weruva Truluxe Steak Frites
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HI-TOR Veterinary Select Neo Diet
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Royal Canin Renal Support
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Hill's Prescription Diet Kidney Care
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The following products are considered the top three renal cat food non prescription diets available on the market. They've been selected based off customer reviews, ingredients, price, and overall effectiveness. Of course, your kitty is the only one of her kind walking around this world! What works best for one animal may not be best for her—and believe us, we know how tough this can be from your point of view as a consumer and as a concerned pet parent.
Your best bet is to get input from your vet and introduce these foods slowly. Fortunately, the right diet can truly enhance your kitty's overall comfort and quality of life, even if she's living with a chronic illness. If you're investing extra time and energy into finding the best food for her, bravo—it really is worth it, and we applaud your effort and commitment because your kitty deserves to be happy.
1. Blue Buffalo Natural Kidney + Mobility Support for Cats
This low phosphorous dry cat food by the reputable brand Blue Buffalo is formulated with high quality ingredients that are overall great to eat for kitties with CKD. It also comes with “extras” like chondroitin and glucosamine for healthy joints—helpful for many kitties with CKD who are also overweight and/or have a hard time moving around.
This cat food contains the recommended amounts of sodium and crude protein for cats with CKD, and also contains a good amount of DHA—an important omega-3 fatty acid. It's overall omega-3 fatty acid content at 1.5% is within the desired range for a CKD diet, but there's certainly room for improvement.
- Pros: grain-free, low in sodium and protein; contains DHA and healthy omega-3 fatty acids; vet recommended; cats like the taste
- Cons: upper limit of phosphorous may be higher than recommended for cats with CKD; low moisture; pricey
2. Weruva TruLuxe Grain-Free
Steak frites, pumpkin, and gravy? That sounds like a meal we'd want to eat! This canned cat food from Weruva is both low in phosphorous and grain-free. Plus, it's made with grass-fed beef for a high quality protein source (with only 10% crude protein). It's supplemented with key B vitamins, too, and most cats seem to give it “two paws up” in taste.
Might not be the best for your kitty if she's a picky eater though, since the texture is a bit soupy.
- Pros: gluten- and grain-free; contains high quality protein but in low amounts; high moisture
- Cons: pricey; some cats don't like the soup-like texture
3. Veterinary Select Neo Diet for Cats
This food may be considered one of the more advanced types of commercial cat food for kidney disease. It contains just 0.10% max phosphorous, 6.10% crude protein, and 0.06% sodium—a trifecta of kidney support. It's also boosted with calcium and other important nutrients, and is easy on the stomach for a lot of nauseous kitties.
Unfortunately, this highly specialized formulation contains beef, ocean fish and meat by-products which may be problematic for cats who suffer from beef, seafood or meat by-products food allergies.
- Pros: super low in phosphorous; considered safe for critically ill, chronically ill, and/or recovering kitties; can be inserted through a tube feed
- Cons: contains beef, ocean fish and meat by-products which is problematic for cats with allergies.
The Top Rated Prescription Foods
In some cases, your kitty's health may be impaired enough that she needs a prescription diet. Prescription foods come directly from your vet and are special formulas to help manage her chronic illness, such as renal failure or severe CKD.
We're going to discuss the two top-rated prescription cat foods with low phosphorous in a moment. But first, we want to mention an important point that often surprises a lot of pet owners who are caring for an ill animal:
When you look at these products' ingredients list, you might notice they actually aren't top-of-the-line healthy compared to other cat food products. Many of these ingredients—including wheat, animal by-products, and corn starch—aren't so great for your kitty's general well-being.
Unfortunately, it may be reasonable to assume that if these foods were only manufactured with the highest quality ingredients on the market, the cost may be prohibitively high.
Despite these drawbacks, the following foods are still good for cats with renal failure. If your vet recommends one of these brands, it's almost definitely because your vet deems it the best choice for your kitty's specific needs. The risk is worth the reward, so to say.
It might be helpful to think of thee foods as prescription “medications.” That is, they can only be given with vet supervision, you should give them to your cat exactly as instructed by your vet, and you should be aware that they can come with some unintended side effects (namely, some unhealthy ingredients).
1. Royal Canin – Renal Support
Royal Canin is well-known in the pet food world. Their prescription canned food for cats has both low protein and restricted amounts of phosphorous for optimal renal support.
This food is relatively calorically dense. But this formula is intended for animals who are only intermittently feeding due to lethargy, nausea, depression, and other issues that would otherwise put them at risk for anorexia.
- Pros: low phosphorous and protein; complete with antioxidants, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids
- Cons: contains wheat, animal by-products, and modified corn starch
2. Hill's Prescription Diet Kidney Care Chicken & Veg Stew Flavor
This prescription canned food from Hill's contains only 4% crude protein and is low in sodium, so it's easier on the kidneys. Reviewers tend to marvel at the palatable attractive taste that intrigue their kitties, even ones who are notoriously finicky eaters.
That said, it's not a guarantee to be a hit for all cats. If your vet recommends this formula though, it may be worth trying, especially because it's been clinically tested and formulated.
- Pros: more affordable than many other options; contains bite-sized morsels of real chicken meat; enhanced with B vitamins and antioxidants
- Cons: some cats don't like the taste and may not eat it
What Role Does Nutrition Play in Managing Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)?
The goal of this article is to help you figure out what kind of food you should be giving your kitty if she has been diagnosed with CKD. Before we get into the nutritional science of it, though, let's make sure we all have a decent understanding about what CKD is.
To that end, here's feline CKD in a nutshell:
- Normally, healthy feline kidneys produce urine to flush out metabolic waste and protein by-products from the blood (the “stuff” that gets emitted during normal healthy physiological functions, similar to exhaust from a car). Kidneys also help control blood pressure, make hormones, and balance electrolytes, salts, and acids in the body.
- Chronic kidney disease, also called CKD or chronic renal failure, occurs when the kidneys undergo progressive damage and are unable to perform their normal functions. This means waste products start to build up in the blood, which makes your cat sick. (Acute kidney disease/renal failure occurs when an animal has a sudden and/or severe injury to the kidneys, e.g., accidental poisoning, direct trauma, or a severe infection. Acute kidney disease is considered a medical emergency. For the purposes of our discussion, we'll be specifically talking about CKD.)
- CKD tends to progress slowly, and symptoms can worsen as the disease does. Symptoms include loss of appetite, increased thirst and urination (you may find larger-than-usual chunks of litter in the kitty litter box), weight loss, vomiting, pale gums, low body temperature, and a dull coat.
- Researchers and vets don't always know what causes CKD. Risk factors for CKD include advancing age, certain breeds, and other underlying health conditions like cancer, kidney infections or blockages, thyroid problems, and high blood pressure.
Now, the conventional model of veterinary help for CKD involves lifelong use of various medications that support renal health and manage the symptoms of the disease. To be clear, medications are extremely important for kitties with CKD. These medications should be given exactly as prescribed by your vet.
But, have you ever heard that expression “let thy food be thy medicine”? Well, it's applicable to kitties with CKD, too!
If you're a CKD cat guardian, your vet will likely recommend specific cat food for kidney disease. This is because nutrition plays a major role in kidney health and management of CKD. Here are a few ways how:
- Certain nutrients can support renal (kidney) function, immune health, blood pressure, and weight, all of which can slow CKD progression and improve a kitty's overall-well-being.
- Certain nutrients can further damage or hinder renal function, which can make CKD worse.
- Cats with CKD often lose their appetite and are at risk for dehydration. So, food needs to be specially engineered and formulated to meet these specific issues faced by kitties with renal failure.
How do Nutritional Requirements Differ for Cats with CKD?
If your cute cat is living with CKD, it's incredibly important to know that her dietary needs will be different from other cats you own or have had in the past. In fact, there are several characteristics of cat food for kidney disease that must be met—with proper input from your vet, of course.
Kitties with CKD need to stay well-hydrated, because adequate hydration supports kidney function and also helps manage blood pressure (which is a common issue for cats with kidney disease).
“But my cat drinks water all the time,” you may be wondering. “Isn't she getting enough fluids?”
Unfortunately, her excessive thirst is typically a sign that she is trying to compensate for her under-functioning kidneys, which aren't able to create high quality urine (and therefore aren't as good at flushing out toxins from the body). In advanced stages of CKD, she may never be able to “make up” for her dehydration by drinking more water. This is why a lot of vets provide extra fluids via subcutaneous or IV injections.
Even so, it's still important to encourage your kitty to drink fluids. Give her an unlimited supply of fresh water, and make sure her food contains enough moisture—something that canned cat food may help with.
You should also check out our huge guide on picking the water fountain for cats. These can really help your kitty increase the amount of water she drinks every day.
Meanwhile, make sure her food is low-sodium, or less than 0.4% dry matter basis. High sodium intake further impairs kidney function and can lead to dehydration.
In general, most kitties with CKD need to be eating low phosphorous type of food.
As kidney function declines with CKD, phosphorous levels tend to rise in the blood. To compensate for this, a kitty's body will begin to take calcium from her bones and into the bloodstream. The result? Weak bones—sometimes dangerously weak.
So, the less phosphorous there is in the diet (0.3 to 0.6% of dry matter basis), the less likely your kitty with renal failure will have weak and brittle bones.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids may help control or slow CKD progression because they are anti-inflammatory and can reduce oxidative stress caused by inflammation. These acids can also prevent protein from “leaking” through weak and damaged kidneys.
Most vets recommend a CKD cat diet that contains 0.4 to 2.5% of these acids per dry matter basis.
In many cases, limiting protein in your kitty's diet may help manage her CKD and preserve kidney function, since the kidneys will have less protein waste products to excrete (or try to excrete). Many vets recommend a dry matter protein percentage of 28-35%.
Important question: if your cat has CKD, should you always go low protein?
Answer: not necessarily!
A low protein cat food is not always recommended for kitties with CKD, let alone other health conditions. This is a decision that requires full input from your vet.
Kitties with CKD tend to have excessive thirst and excessive amounts of urine. This urine tends to be dilute and contains a lot of important nutrients, including B vitamins. Your cat's diet should be rich in it to make up for the amount that is lost through urine.
A healthy gut = a healthy immune system! And if your kitty is fighting a chronic illness, she needs her immune system to be as strong as possible.
Probiotics help top up the amount of healthy bacteria living in your kitty's digestive tract. Not only can this boost her immune health but it will also help her absorb all the important nutrients she needs from her food to support renal health.
Thanks to advances in modern veterinary medicine, cats living with CKD and renal failure have much better prognoses than they used to. With the right care, these kitties can live longer, healthier, and happier, even in the face of a challenging diagnosis.
Of course, no matter how many advances are made in foods, medications, and other interventions, a chronically ill kitty simply won't thrive if she doesn't have the right support at home.
This is why we applaud any pet parent taking care of an ill animal—including you! It's not an easy job, and we commend you fore doing everything you can to provide your furry companion with the humane and helpful care she deserves…including finding her the best cat food for kidney disease.
Remember that the best nutritional choices for your kitty may not be the best choice for another animal, and vice versa. Meeting the specific nutritional needs of your kitty requires patience, as well as direct and consistent input from your veterinarian.
- Kidney Diets for Cats: What to Look for at PetMD.com
- Nutrition for Cats with Kidney Disease By Robin Downing, DVM, CVPP, CCRP, DAAPM
- My pet has kidney disease – what kind of diet should I feed? at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center
at Tufts University
- Kidney Failure in Cats at WebMD.com
- Renal diets in cats with chronic kidney disease by Rachel Dean and Martin Downes
- Nutritional Management of Chronic Renal Disease at UCDavis Veterinary Medicine
Is Phosphorus good for cats?
Calcium and phosphorus are other nutrients that can have a deleterious effect if fed in excess to cats. Of particular importance is the ratio of calcium to phosphorus in the cat food. Additionally, calcium and phosphorus intake is an important consideration for cats with illnesses like kidney disease.
Is Weruva cat food low in phosphorus?
Generally speaking, their formulas contain low phosphorus due to their bone-free approach. On most pet food labels, ingredients named “chicken” and “fish” are permitted to contain bone content, and bones are largely made of calcium and phosphorus. By removing the bones, they keep these levels low.
What foods are low in phosphorus?
Egg whites and some animal meats tend to have a lower phosphorus to protein ratio, which will help your cat get the high quality protein she needs and can be an excellent source of lean dietary protein content for felines with compromised kidney function or kidney disease.
What is the best food for a cat with kidney disease?
An ideal diet for a cat with renal disease should have a highly digestible, bio-appropriate protein content, such as rabbit and poultry.