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What treat can I give a cat with kidney problems?

My cat Morgan has recently been diagnosed with kidney problems. I was wondering if you could tell me what she shouldn't eat. I have her...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Nov 2nd 2006

My cat Morgan has recently been diagnosed with kidney problems. I was wondering if you could tell me what she shouldn’t eat. I have her currently eating a prescription of a “low-protein” diet from the vet. Is it still possible for her to occasionally have something that would be
a healthy treat and good for her?

Milwaukee, WI

Morgan is not alone in her situation. Kidney problems are very common in older cats. Modifying the diet is one of the mainstays of helping cats with kidney problems live longer and happier lives.

To understand why your vet recommended a low protein diet for Morgan, it helps to know the basics of what the kidneys do. Simply put, their purpose is to remove waste products from the body.

In the course of each day, the various organs and tissues of the body utilize nutrients to make energy and bodily products. In the process they release waste products (which are toxic) into the blood. The kidneys remove these waste products from the blood and move them into the urine.

When a cat (or dog) develops kidney problems, the waste products build up in its blood. Eventually, when the levels of waste products climb high enough, the animal starts to feel sick.

Many of these waste products are the result of the metabolism of protein. Therefore, animals with kidney problems are fed reduced-protein diets in an effort to lower the levels of waste products in the blood and to make the work of the kidneys easier.

The overall, long-term level of protein that your cat consumes is what is most important. Therefore, an occasional treat is acceptable as long as you exercise moderation. Ideally, the treats should be low-protein, and several companies manufacture such treats. However, on special occasions high-protein treats shouldn’t cause much harm if you don’t give too much.

One final issue to remember is that cats with kidney problems sometimes suffer suppressed appetites and therefore become more finicky. If Morgan won’t eat the prescription low protein diet, contact your vet. The most important thing of all is to keep her eating.

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