If Fluffy has been diagnosed with kidney disease, she's in good company. It's increasingly common for older cats to have the condition. Although kidney disease isn't curable, it can be treated. Fluffy's diet will play an important role in how she copes with it.
Why Low-Protein Food?
If your vet has told you Fluffy has chronic kidney disease (CKD), it means her kidneys aren't processing waste efficiently. CKD can make a cat nauseous and decrease her appetite, as well as make her drink and urinate more. When she eats protein, it's more difficult for her kidneys to process the waste that comes with it, meaning more toxins accumulate in her blood. This will make her feel sicker and less likely to eat.
Your vet has probably told you about commercially available food that will meet Fluffy's nutritional requirements without stressing her kidneys. Several pet food manufacturers make cat food that is available by prescription, including Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Feline Renal LP, Hills Prescription Diet k/d, Iams Veterinary Formula Renal Plus and Purina Veterinary Diets NF Kidney Function Feline Formula. You can talk to your vet about testing different brands and dry versus canned to see if Fluffy has a preference.
More Than Low Protein
Although it's important not to stress Fluffy's kidneys with excess protein, the amount of phosphorus she gets in her diet is important too. As with protein, too much phosphorus can make Fluffy feel sick because her kidneys have a difficult time processing it. The diets mentioned above are formulated with this in mind and contain lower levels of phosphorus.
If Fluffy Won't Eat
It's not unusual for cats to turn their noses up at prescription diets. Because they're lower in protein, they tend to be less palatable. You can try urging Fluffy to eat her new food by mixing it with her previous diet or by slightly warming a canned version of the new diet. If that doesn't work, try focusing more on the lower phosphorus content and opt for a food that has high-quality protein. That means protein that's animal-based, not necessarily protein that's organic or exotic in nature. If Fluffy eats high-quality protein, her kidneys won't have to work as hard to process the waste. Low-quality proteins are plant-based and often contain ingredients such as soy or corn. Cats with CKD are prone to muscle waste and weight loss, so it's important that they eat. If Fluffy continues to protest a change in diet, let her eat as she pleases, making sure she gets plenty of water, and talk to your vet about a phosphorus binder that will help her feel better.