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Chronic Kidney Disease in Cats

A Cat by RaquelBatista

The number one killer of geriatric cats is chronic kidney failure. Kidney disease affects 112 of every 1,000 of our feline friends. Among cats 10 years and older, the prevalence of kidney disease climbs to 269 per 1,000 and for those 15 years of age and older a staggering 491 per 1,000, or nearly 1 of every 2 cats will be suffering from kidney failure.

Although chronic kidney disease is irreversible and progressive, most cats with the condition may survive many months to years when their disease is properly managed. One of the most important strategies is to keep your feline patient hydrated. Running water encourages water consumption. Water fountains can be a successfully utilized to create running water and may range from inexpensive to the rather expensive and complex water feature. Canned or semi-moist food is a great source of added moisture as compared to dry kibble.

The most important life-style change for the chronic kidney sufferer is diet. The University of Minnesota compared cats suffering from kidney disease that were placed on a kidney or renal specific diet to those that were fed a routine maintenance diet. This two-year study concluded that cats fed a maintenance diet had a mortality rate of 17.4 percent due to renal failure, while no deaths were observed among the cats that were fed the renal formula.

Renal diets are just not merely low in protein. These diets are formulated to have reduced protein levels while containing a sufficient amount of quality protein with a high biological value to meet the cat’s nutritional needs. Kidneys in chronic failure have a reduced ability to excrete both nitrogenous and non-nitrogenous waste products of protein metabolism. The accumulation of these by-products is one of the major causes of the clinical symptoms associated with kidney failure.

Other renal diet adjustments include: reduced Sodium and Phosphorus levels. Lowered Sodium levels helps prevent hypertension. Lower phosphorus levels slow the progression of kidney disease and prevent anorexia (lack of appetite).

Many kidney diets have incorporated Omega-3 Fatty Acids which help fight renal inflammation as well as antioxidants to protect cells from radical oxidation and promotes a healthy immune system. Incorporating B-Complex vitamins also helps to compensate for vitamin losses due to kidney damage and helps maintain appetite. Buffers fortified in these special diets helps prevent metabolic acidosis as well as muscle wasting.

Special diets formulated for the feline suffering from chronic renal failure include: Hills Prescription k/d® diet, Royal Canin Kidney Function Renal LP™ and Purina’s NF Kidney Function® Feline Formula. All are available in canned as well as dry kibble formulas.


  • Dale, Steve. “Game Changer- Diagnosing Chronic Kidney Disease Earlier. Catster. May/June 2016. Pp. 30 and 77.
  • Luechtefeld, Lori. “Feline Nutrition: In Search of Top Performance.” Veterinary Practice News. November 2007. p. 16.
  • Rishniw M, Bicalho R. “Factors affecting Urine Specific Gravity in apparently healthy Cats presenting to first opinion practice for routine evaluation.” Journal Feline Med Surg. 2015, 17(4).329-337.
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