6 Best Low Protein Cat Foods Reviewed (2020)

Often times it is recommended for cats with kidney or liver disease to start on low protein diets. However, it is important to know that the issue of protein is very complex when it comes to cats with chronic disease. Additionally, there are many other nutritional concerns when it comes to kidney or liver disease.

Excess dietary protein creates ammonia. This ammonia is converted in the liver to urea. Urea is filtered out by the kidneys. The idea behind a low protein diet is to lower the work that the kidneys or liver must do. However, when a cat is fed too little protein, muscle wasting will occur. This is especially common in kidney disease, as many kidney disease cats have a reduced appetite.

Many studies have been conducted to try to determine the minimum amount of protein that cats require, but this question has turned out to be an extremely complex one. The amount of protein a cat requires is largely dependent on what types of amino acids make up the protein. One study from UC Davis (Taylor et al.) found that kittens could be fed as low as 21% protein using a certain amino acid composition, while kittens needed 28% protein when fed a different amino acid composition. A study conducted by Purina found that adult cats needed 34% protein when fed a diet of typical commercial cat food. Legally, adult cat food must contain 26% protein, but in most cases this is not enough.

The research on protein content of cat food shows that the types and amounts of specific amino acids is critically important. When certain amino acids are not needed, they will be converted by the body to other types of amino acids or be “burned” for energy. These processes create nitrogen waste, which the kidneys and liver must remove. Avoiding this process as much as possible is achieved by feeding a good balance of amino acids.

Choosing a Low Protein Cat Food for Kidney Disease

Limiting phosphorus and increasing hydration are the most important nutritional goals for cats with kidney disease. All of the kidney disease foods on our list have a low phosphorus level. We have also kept an eye out for fish oil in the ingredients, as omega-3s can delay the progression of kidney disease.

It is recommended to feed cats with kidney disease an exclusively wet low protein food diet in order to help keep them hydrated. Dry low protein food should only be fed to cats who absolutely refuse to eat a canned diet.

Considering that muscle wasting is a real concern for cats with kidney disease, it is best to choose a food with protein levels between 30% and 50% dry matter. This protein should come primarily from meat. Meat contains highly usable amino acids, which will reduce the stress on the kidneys.

The amino acid arginine specifically should be limited to the minimum level required in the diet. Arginine is especially high in nitrogen and removing excess arginine creates extra work for the kidneys. The protein in rice, peas and soy is especially high in arginine, so it is wise to avoid these ingredients when searching for a low protein kidney diet.

How We Picked?

Using peer-reviewed research on cat nutrition, we determined that the ideal cat food for kidney disease and the best cat food for liver disease should look like. In order to find this food, pet food companies were contacted to determine the omega-3, copper, zinc, and phosphorus content of their foods. We chose best low protein cat foods that most closely matched the ideal nutrition determined. (Learn more)

Best Low Protein Foods for Kidney Disease

Expert's Pick As

Brand

Texture

Our Rating

Best All Natural Diet

Texture

Pate

Our Rating

4.3

Best Prescription Diet

Texture

Pieces in Gravy

Our Rating

4.5

Best Trusted Brand

Texture

Pieces in Gravy

Our Rating

4.3

Best High Calorie Diet

Texture

Pate

Our Rating

4.5

Best Dry Trusted Brand

Texture

Dry

Our Rating

3.3

Best Dry All-Natural Diet

Texture

Dry

Our Rating

3.7

Best Low Protein All-Natural Brands - Dave’s Restricted Magnesium & Phosphorus

All Natural

Dave'S Restricted Magnesiumdiet, Pork Dinner For Cats, 5.5 Oz Can (Case Of 24 )

Dave’s Restricted Magnesium & Phosphorus

Therapeutic Benefit

5

General Nutrition

4

Food's Palatability

3

Company’s Rating

4

Food's Total Rating

4.3

Dave is on a one-man mission to provide affordable quality pet food to the world. The protein in this food comes from pork, meaning it should be highly digestible. Despite the high meat content, this food is roughly half the price of a similar prescription diet. In line with keeping costs low, this company does not have a large sales team and the food may be difficult to find in brick-and-mortar stores outside of the New England area.

This food has extremely low phosphorus content at 0.57% on a dry matter basis. This is some of the lowest phosphorus available in non-prescription cat food. Potassium citrate and dl-methionine are included in this food to regulate urine pH and prevent crystals, which is a great added benefit. The food also contains salmon oil, so there are definitely omega-3s to help slow kidney disease.

This food is a pate texture, which can be hit or miss with some cats. Finicky cat may prefer the food mashed with a fork, with water added or warmed slightly.

Despite this pet food company being small, they have a good track record of safety and quality. They use the same manufacturing facilities as brands such as Wellness. We think this food is a great choice for cats with kidney disease.

Best Low Protein Prescription Diet - Royal Canin Renal Support D

Prescription

Royal Canin low protein cat food

Royal Canin Renal Support D

Therapeutic Benefit

5

General Nutrition

3

Food's Palatability

5

Company’s Rating

4

Food's Total Rating

4.5

This diet is specially formulated for cats with kidney disease and requires a prescription from a veterinarian. It is a chunks in gravy texture and even picky cats with kidney disease seem to love the flavor.

It has an extremely low phosphorus content of 0.44% on a dry matter basis. The protein in this food is primarily from chicken and pork. Wheat flour is also included, likely for the consistency of the gravy, and does not appear to be a significant contribution to the protein content.

This food is just filled with great ingredients. Fish oil will provide omega-3s to help slow kidney disease. The potassium citrate will regulate urine pH and help prevent urinary stones. Fructooligosaccharides are probiotics that will promote gut health. Marigold extract is included as an antioxidant too.

Royal Canin veterinary diets are backed by significant amounts of research and thus are more on the expensive end of cat food. Royal Canin operates as an independent company within Mars, Inc. They have their own production facilities with a good track record of safety, quality and nutritional innovation.

Best Low Protein Trusted Brand Food - Hill's Science Diet Adult 7+ Tender Chicken

Trusted Brand

Hill's Science Diet Wet Cat Food, Adult 7+ for Senior Cats, Chuncks & Gravy Tender Chicken Recipe, 5oz Cans, 24 Pack

Hill's Science Diet Adult 7+ Tender Chicken

Therapeutic Benefit

4.5

General Nutrition

5

Food's Palatability

5

Company’s Rating

4

Food's Total Rating

4.3

Hill’s Science Diet always seems to do a good job of controlling phosphorus levels and this food is no exception. At 0.57% dry matter phosphorus, this food is sure to help keep your cat’s kidneys healthy.

The protein in this food is primarily sourced from chicken and pork. This food also includes wheat flour and wheat gluten, which are vegetable protein sources, but it is unclear what proportion of the food wheat composes. It is possible that wheat is included in small amounts to help with the chunks and gravy texture of the food. Regardless, wheat is low in arginine content, which is good news for cats with kidney disease.

This food includes fish oil as a source of omega-3s. It also has antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamin C. Overall, this food would be a healthy choice for a cat with kidney disease.

Hill’s Science Diet is an interesting brand in the pet food world. They have some of the highest investment into pet nutrition research of any company. They make all of their own food and does not outsource production in order to keep an extremely close eye on quality control.

Hill’s is owned by Colgate-Palmolive which gives them access to significant production knowledge, but also heavily subjects them to corporate interests. This means that in every formula developed a balance of marketability, cost-effectiveness and health is the goal. In the case of finding a low protein food for cats with kidney disease, this food is a great example of striking this near impossible balance. Meat content and quality is high, while maintaining a reasonable price.

Best Low Protein High Calorie Food - Nature’s Logic Duck & Salmon

High Calorie

Nature'S Logic Feline Duck & Salmon Feast, 24/5.5Oz

Nature’s Logic Duck & Salmon

Therapeutic Benefit

4.5

General Nutrition

5

Food's Palatability

4

Company’s Rating

4.7

Food's Total Rating

4.5

Many times is can be difficult to get a cat with kidney disease to eat enough food. At a whopping 230 calories per a 5.5 oz can, you should have no trouble getting enough calories for kitty. This food is about as popular in flavor as any pate texture. If you cat isn’t a fan of the pate texture, you can try mashing with a fork, adding water and/or warming the food.

But let’s get into the great nutrition!

This food has a phosphorus content of 0.69% on a dry matter basis, very low compared to your average cat food. The protein in this food comes from duck and salmon along with some other animal protein sources. Both the salmon and the herring oil in this food are excellent sources of omega-3s for kidney health.

Nature’s Logic is a very unique pet food company. They formulate all of their foods without using any synthetic vitamins or minerals. All of the nutrition your cat needs comes from whole food ingredients. They are a small company and outsource their manufacturing, but they have never once had a recall. They also make an effort to have a representative present at each manufacturing run of their food.

Best Low Protein Dry Trusted Brand - Hill's Science Diet Adult 11+ Chicken

Dry Trusted Brand

Hill's Science Diet Dry Cat Food, Adult 11+ for Senior Cats, Chicken Recipe, 15.5 lb Bag

Science Diet Adult 11+ Chicken

Therapeutic Benefit

3

General Nutrition

2

Food's Palatability

5

Company’s Rating

4

Food's Total Rating

3.3

Dry food should be fed to cats with kidney disease as an absolute last effort to get them eating. The increased moisture content in wet food is essential for kidney health. However, we do know that cats, especially cats with kidney disease, can be extremely picky. If your cat will not eat wet food we recommend feeding prescription dry food for kidney disease. If you cat will also not eat prescription dry food, we recommend Science Diet Adult 11+ Chicken.

This food has a very low level of phosphorus, 0.69% on a dry matter basis. Protein is also well controlled and comes from chicken, wheat and corn. There is no pea or soy protein, indicating a limited arginine level. The food also has a very high content of omega-3s at 0.8% on a dry matter basis. The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is an excellent 3:1, instead of the typical ratio of 5:1 seen in most quality foods. This high level of omega-3 will greatly promote kidney health and slow the progression of kidney disease.

Cats seem to like the flavor of this food too. It is very clear that Hill’s took into consideration the high rate of kidney disease in senior cats when they formulated this food.

Best Low Protein Dry All-Natural Food For Cats - Merrick Purrfect Bistro Sensitive Stomach

Dry All-Natural

Merrick 38549 Pb Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food, One Size

Merrick Purrfect Bistro Sensitive Stomach

Therapeutic Benefit

3

General Nutrition

4

Food's Palatability

5

Company’s Rating

4

Food's Total Rating

3.7

Again, dry food should only be fed to cats with kidney disease as a last resort. Moisture is extremely important for the health of cats with kidney disease. We do not recommend feeding dry food to cats with kidney disease. However, as far as dry diets go, this is a good option for cats requiring a controlled protein diet for kidney disease.

This food has 0.9% phosphorus content on a dry matter basis. The protein is primarily sourced from chicken and turkey. Overall there appears to be a good amino acid composition of this food, but pea protein is included as an ingredient. However, pea protein is low enough on the ingredient list that it is unlikely to contribute significantly to the amino acid balance of this food.

Omega-3s are considerably high in this diet, with a 0.6% minimum content listed on the guaranteed analysis. The fact that this food is formulated for sensitive stomachs is also beneficial, as many cats with kidney disease easily feel nauseous.

Merrick is operates independently within Nestle Purina since their acquisition in 2015. They have their own production facilities and have a good record of food safety. The company strives to be transparent and readily answers consumer questions.

Merrick has been growing rapidly but maintains that they will not outsource manufacturing. This has caused some issues with consistency in some of the canned food lines. It would have been easy for Merrick to outsource manufacturing but we think that their commitment to the long-term benefits of keeping manufacturing in-house should be applauded.

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