Transitioning a Cat to Low Protein

Cats in chronic renal failure usually require a low-protein diet.

Cats in chronic renal failure usually require a low-protein diet.

If you have a senior cat, chances are she’s been diagnosed with chronic renal failure, or CRF. While every cat’s prognosis is different, vets will usually recommend a low-protein diet, regardless of the stage of the renal failure. For many cats, this will require a change in diet, which can be challenging. By understanding what Kitty is going through and learning what her needs are, you will be better equipped to help her make the transition.

Why Feed a Low-Protein Diet?

If your cat has CRF, it’s a good bet you’ve been advised to lower Kitty’s protein intake. On one hand, this may seem odd – after all, cats are carnivores and require the nutrients that meat, which is high in protein, provides. But a high-protein diet can stress the kidneys. When cats eat too much protein, their kidneys have to work harder to process the waste. However, too little protein can lead to other problems, such as excessive weight loss. Because it’s a fine balance, many vets recommend feeding cat food that has been designed especially for cats needing to lower their protein intake.

What to Feed a Cat Requiring a Low-Protein Diet?

If your vet has recommended a low-protein diet for your cat, you have numerous options. Most vets carry a variety of dry and canned food and will make a recommendation based on your cat’s needs. It’s also worth asking for samples to see if Kitty prefers one brand to another. If you find that your cat isn’t on board with the options she’s been given, ask your vet just how much protein your cat will tolerate and look for commercially available food that will meet her needs.

How to Transition to a Low-Protein Diet?

Any time you change your cat’s diet, you should do so gradually, by mixing the new kibble in with the previous brand, adding slightly more new food to the mix every few days. Suddenly replacing the old food with a new one can sometimes mean an upset digestive system for Kitty. It can take as little as a week or as long as a month to switch your cat’s diet, depending on your cat. You may be lucky and find that Kitty takes to her new diet with little or no resistance. However, some cats are pickier than others and will resist a new food. If you find this is happening with your cat, be patient and persistent, and keep your vet posted on your cat’s progress and food intake.

What If My Cat Will Not Eat the New Diet?

Sometimes a cat will simply refuse to eat the new food. If you see this happening, do not starve your cat to get her to eat! You can try different brands or varieties – does Kitty prefer wet food to dry food? Now’s the time to find out -- if you didn’t already know. Give your cat the opportunity to learn what is appetizing. If you’ve tried everything but nothing has worked, it’s time to talk to your vet about other options. One thing to talk about is the quality of protein that your cat is getting. Some animal professionals believe that the amount of protein is not as important as the quality of the protein – if the quality is high, then it should be less waste for Kitty’s kidneys to process. It’s worth noting that some people believe in feeding homemade diets to cats with special needs. If you decide you want to go that route, make sure you consult your vet to learn what Kitty’s most essential needs are. As our pets grow older, we often have to learn how to balance their needs with their quality of life. Quality of life is important and should always be considered, no matter your pet’s condition.

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