Cats with kidney problems need special care -- vet visits, extra fluids and dietary finagling. For cat parents drawn to raw foods diets for their cats, certain high-quality types of meats may put less stress on the kidneys while providing the nutrients these carnivores need.
The Mechanics of Kidneys and Kidney Disease
Kidneys are responsible for collecting, processing and eliminating waste materials and excess water through urine. When kidneys develop problems, they can't efficiently process waste materials anymore. This causes wastes to accumulate in the blood, leading to illness and potential death. Causes of kidney disease include genetics, infection, tumors, chronic inflammation and toxic substances. Symptoms of kidney problems include increased thirst and urination, dehydration, lethargy, poor appetite and weight loss. In earlier stages, no symptoms are present.
Raw Food Study vs. Modern Meat Concerns
In the 1930s, Dr. Francis Pottenger Jr. began a study of 900 cats to determine the health effects of feeding raw or cooked foods. Cats consumed either raw milk or raw meat, pasteurized milk or evaporated milk, or a combination. The cats who consumed raw foods remained healthy, while the others developed illnesses as early as the first year of life. Nowadays, however, food-borne illnesses can arise from some raw foods. Dr. Ron Hines, DVM, says there are more risks than benefits to feeding raw.
General Role of Diet in Kidney Issues
Naturally, cats eat fresh, wet meats; when they eat dry kibble, they don't instinctively compensate by drinking more water. As a result, long-term dry-food consumption can foster kidney issues as cats' become chronically dehydrated, stressing the kidneys. Feeding fresh meats can counter this. Further, eliminating processed, chemical-laden foods helps the body detoxify. When considering raw food, only the highest quality will do, considering the risk of food-borne illnesses -- the last thing a cat's already-compromised body needs.
Protein and Phosphorous
Doctors often advise low-protein diets for humans with kidney disease. Excess protein and excess phosphorous, one of protein's components, can stress kidneys during the waste breakdown process. However, since they're naturally carnivorous, cats may reject nonmeat foods, leading to malnourishment and dehydration. Some owners opt for lower-phosphorous meats as a compromise. Offer clean, sushi-grade seafood, along with lean, pasture-raised or organic poultry, lamb, beef and other meats. Lean meats have lower phosphorous content than their fatty counterparts.
Introducing and Incorporating New and Raw Foods
Cats have emotional and habitual attachments to their food. Getting them to try new things can be a challenge -- even more so if they're not feeling well. Start with a spoonful of raw lean beef or a slice of raw chicken, and keep trying until you find options he likes. Increase serving sizes gradually while continuing to offer his existing food. Using attentive vet care as you tweak your cat's diet helps ensure your cat receives the best possible health protocol.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- Mayo Clinic: Low Phosphorous Diet: Best for Kidney Disease?
- WebMD: Kidney Failure (Uremia) Treatment in Cats
- Little Big Cat: Kidney Disease in Cats
- Davita: Handpicked Low-Phosphorus Foods for a Kidney Diet
- WebMD: Your Kidneys and How They Work
- Nutrition Really Works: Pottenger's Cats
- 2ndChance.info: Home Cooked Pet Diets, Homemade Recipes and Pet Nutrition
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.