Why Low Protein Cat Food?
Low-Protein diets are not recommended for the vast majority of cats and are only suitable for those with very specific health problems such as kidney and liver disease.
It has been advised for many decades that cats with such health issues may see alleviation or a reduction in the severity of their health issues by consuming a lower-protein diet than they typically would.
Kidney Disease can put a strain on the Kidneys, and depending on their condition, they may not be able to process all of the protein consumed by a cat. By reducing this protein intake, can reduce the strain on this vital organ.
This is similar to the Liver, which is used to remove toxic components of ingredients, especially animal-based ingredients. A reduction in the total consumption of these can make the Liver’s job easier.
However, recent research has suggested that low-residue cat food could be more effective in combating these health issues rather than a low-protein diet. However, many of the larger pet food brands like Purina, Royal Canin, and Hill’s have yet to follow this advice.
You should consider low-protein cat food if you have been given medical advice from veterinary professionals that your cat requires such a diet. Failure to follow medical advice could worsen the condition of your cat or cause additional health issues.
Risks of Low Protein Diet For Cats
Cats are obligate carnivores which means that they thrive best on a diet high in animal or fish-based ingredients which would be the majority of the entirety of their natural diet.
Their digestive systems are purpose-built for digesting and absorbing all the required nutrients from these meat and fish ingredients, and any that are not present can be synthesized by a cat’s body.
Cats do not require a high intake of plant-based material such as grains, vegetables, or fruits, and consuming high proportions of these ingredients can cause adverse health issues for many cats.
You can learn more about the topic of feline nutrition in our Cat Food Guide.
This is where the risks of low protein cat food come in as you can not have a recipe high in animal or fish-based ingredients, but that is also low in protein.
Because of this, many low-protein cat food recipes are only prescribable by a professional veterinarian and can not be bought without advice or consultation.
Best Low Protein Cat Food
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Support Review
Royal Canin is a huge pet food brand one that many cat owners will be very familiar with. Royal Canin recipes are often available from the large pet food stores like PetSmart or Petco but they are also often sold directly from veterinary practices following consultation.
You can learn about the backstory of Royal Canin, its recall history, and its huge range of health-problem-specific recipes in our Royal Canin Brand Review.
The above Renal Support recipe is one of these that could be sold directly by a veterinary professional and request a prescription. However, if your veterinary does not sell Royal Canin, you can purchase it online from sites like Chewy with authorization from your vet.
The recipe has a minimum proportion of protein of 21%, which is extremely low when compared to typical cat food recipes.
This low protein proportion is thanks to a lack of animal-based ingredients, with the only notable ones being a portion of Chicken Fat and a small portion of Chicken By-Product Meal.
Instead of animal-based ingredients, the recipe utilizes a mix of grain ingredients, including Brewers Rice, Corn, Wheat Gluten, Corn Gluten Meal, and Soy Protein Isolate.
These plant-based ingredients provide a mix of plant-based protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. While these may not be an ideal component of an average cat’s diet, there are limited alternatives for cats with renal problems.
Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets NF Kidney Function Advanced Care Review
Purina is another behemouth of the industry and easily compared to Royal Canin. Purina stands apart from other brands by having many sub-brands each with their own specialization.
Purina Pro Plan is one of the most popular of these and produces a mix of premium non-prescription cat food and veterinary diets.
You can see their full range of products in our Purina Pro Plan Review.
The above Kidney Function recipe is custom-built for cats with Kidney issues that may require a low-protein diet. The overall proportion of protein present is 33% which isn’t as low as some others mentioned here but is still far lower than most cats require.
Purina Pro Plan focuses its effort on providing high-quality protein and restricting phosphorous intake rather than further reducing their overall protein levels.
The animal-based ingredients present include a portion of Tuna, Animal Fat, and Animal Liver. Tuna is a common component of cat food recipes, especially wet cat food.
Outside of these ingredients, Purina Pro Plan is similar to Royal Canin and utilizes a mix of Corn Gluten Meal, Barley, Whole Grain Corn, and Soybean Meal.
These grain ingredients make up the bulk of the recipe and provide plant-based protein, carbohydrates, and dietary fiber.
Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet K+M Kidney + Mobility Support Review
Blue Buffalo is probably the largest pet food brand outside of the “big three” and often fills entire aisles of PetSmart or other similar pet food stores in the United States.
While many are familiar with Blue Buffalo’s traditional dog and cat food recipes, many are unaware that they also produce a small range of Veterinary Diet recipes, including the above Kidney + Mobility Support.
You can browse Blue Buffalo’s full product range and learn about some of their recalls in our Blue Buffalo Review.
The minimum protein proportion found in this Blue Buffalo recipe is 26% which is far lower than most of Blue Buffalo’s other dry cat food recipes.
However, in contrast to other recipes here, the bulk of this small proportion of protein is from a large portion of Chicken which is the recipe’s primary ingredient.
Outside of this Chicken, the recipe includes a mix of Peas, Pea Starch, Potato Starch, Pea Protein, and other plant-based ingredients. These provide a large portion of carbohydrates, plant-based protein, and fiber.
This use of legumes and starch ingredients makes this the only grain-free dry cat food recipe mentioned in our list of suggestions.
Hill’s Prescription Diet K/D Kidney Care Review
Hill’s is the last of the “Big Three” to feature here and they are extremely similar to Royal Canin or Purina. Many believe that Hill’s recipes are overpriced or not as impressive as Purina Pro Plan or Royal Canin but they still have thousands of hours of research and development behind them.
Their product range is massive and includes recipes for dogs and cats of all ages, sizes and for many unique health conditions such as renal support.
You can read our detailed discussion of Hill’s Science Diet here.
The Kidney Care recipe from Hill’s Prescription Diet contains a minimum of 26% protein which is extremely low and far lower than most cat food recipes.
This recipe from Hill’s is notable in that it contains virtually no animal-based ingredients that would contain protein. The only notable animal-based ingredient present is Pork Fat which would contain minimal protein.
Instead, Hill’s relies on plant-based ingredients to provide its protein content as well as carbohydrates and fiber. Examples include Brown Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Whole Grain Wheat, Pearled Barley, and more.
The inclusion of Brown Rice as the primary ingredient is a welcome sight to many who prefer it to alternatives like Brewers Rice or White Rice.
Forza10 Nutraceutic Active Kidney Renal Support Diet Review
Forza10 is not a well-known brand in the United States but for those in the know, they do produce a reliable range of recipes for dogs and cats with severe health issues.
The above Renal Active recipe from Forza10 is a prime example of their specialist product range, which also includes recipes for pets with sensitive skin, immune system issues, or those looking for reproductive support.
You can check out more information about Forza10 and their full range in our Forza10 Brand Review.
The Renal Active recipe contains a minimum proportion of 26% protein which is in line with many others mentioned here. The bulk of this protein is sourced from some unusual ingredients in comparison to those used by other brands.
This includes Hydrolyzed Fish Protein, Hydrolyzed Potato Protein, and Anchovy Meal. Hydrolyzed protein ingredients such as these are often found in recipes for pets with severe allergies, but they can serve a different purpose here as a concentrated source of high-quality protein.
Outside of these ingredients, the bulk of the recipe is made up of Rice which acts as a reliable source of carbohydrates, plant-based protein, and fiber.
Dave’s Pet Food Restricted Diet Phosphorus Chicken Liver & Chicken In Juice Pate Review
Dave’s Pet Food may be a brand that many of you are unfamiliar with but they aim to produce pet food that is affordable yet high-quality which is an extremely challenging task.
The vast majority of Dave’s Pet Food recipes, of which there are many, are aimed at typical dogs and cats without severe health issues or dietary requirements.
However, they do produce two Restricted Diet wet cat food recipes that may be appealing to those on the lookout for a low-protein alternative. The above-mentioned Chicken Liver & Chicken recipe is one of these two.
This recipe aims to provide high-quality protein and use low-residue ingredients, which recent research suggests could be advantageous. As a consequence of this, the protein proportion is 5.75% which is somewhat typical of a wet cat food recipe.
Most of this protein and the recipe’s fat content is sourced from a mix of Chicken Liver and Chicken, which are both high-quality sources of animal-based protein.
Outside of this Chicken, there is a small portion of plant-based ingredients, which includes Rice Flour and Pumpkin. Pumpkin often features in recipes for pets with digestive issues and can be a reliable way to stave off issues.
Fussie Cat Super Premium Chicken With Sweet Potato Formula Review
Fussie Cat is a small brand compared to many of the others discussed here but they do produce a reliable range of dry and wet cat food recipes.
You can see this full range as well as the brand’s history on our Fussie Cat Review Page.
Fussie Cat is not a prescription brand which means consumers are free to purchase their recipes as they see fit. However, as we mentioned earlier, we would not recommend purchasing food for cats with specialized health issues without consultation with your vet.
Despite not being specifically designed for that purpose, Fussie Cat’s Chicken with Sweet Potato recipe has a surprisingly low proportion of protein for a wet cat food recipe at 9%.
While this would still be considered high-protein by many, this protein is high-quality, which may align with the more recent research around a low-residue diet and phosphorous levels.
This protein is sourced from a generous proportion of Chicken which is the recipe’s primary ingredient.
Outside of this Chicken, Fussie Cat utilizes a mix of Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Rice, and Tapioca to provide a mix of plant-based protein, carbohydrates, and fiber.