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Do Prescription Cat Food Diets Really Work? | Catster


Is it important for cats' health to stay on them? Such diets exist for kidney disease, diabetes, intestinal problems, and urinary problems.

 |  Jun 18th 2013  |   9 Contributions


Lots of special diets exist for cats. These diets may be recommended by veterinarians or pet store staff based upon life stage, lifestyle, breed, or known medical problems. How useful are they? How strict must one be when feeding the diets to cats?

This article will focus primarily on the diets designed to treat medical problems. These diets are known as prescription diets because they most often are used on the recommendation of a veterinarian. In the past these diets were only available through veterinarians; in the Internet age, it is now possible to purchase most of them online and often from pet stores.

But before we delve into the prescription diets, I want to touch briefly upon the life stage, lifestyle, and breed-based diets mentioned above. Special diets exist for kittens, elderly cats, indoor cats, outdoor cats, Persians, Siameses, and many other cats who can be shoehorned into some category or other. These diets have been tweaked to "fit" the age, lifestyle, or breed of the targeted individual (for instance, kitten diets contain more calories than adult maintenance diets). However, it is my opinion that most of them, and especially the breed-based ones, are more marketing ploys than good-faith efforts to better serve cats and their owners. I'm generally not a fan of them.


Cat licking her chops by Shutterstock.

What about prescription diets? These diets are manufactured by a few different companies. Hills, Purina, and Royal Canin are the market leaders. These diets are produced to address issues such as obesity, pregnancy, diabetes, urinary problems, skin problems, kidney disease, thyroid disease, intestinal problems, and pregnancy. Some of them seem to work better than others. A discussion of all of them is beyond the scope of this article, so I will focus on four of the most commonly used classes of prescription diets: those used to treat kidney disease, diabetes, intestinal problems, and urinary problems.

The ordering of the four classes that I just listed is not a coincidence. I have listed the diets in order of, in my opinion, increasing importance and efficacy.

Prescription diets for kidney disease

It may surprise many people to learn that I am not terribly impressed with prescription diets designed to treat kidney disease. Since kidney disease is one of the most common medical conditions in cats, kidney formulas (such as Hills k/d, Purina NF, and Royal Canin Veterinary Renal LP) are very commonly used.

The logic behind their use goes like this: It is the job of the kidneys to remove waste products from the bloodstream. The primary waste products they remove are the result of protein metabolism. Protein contains significant quantities of nitrogen and phosphorus, and the waste products that build up in the body with kidney disease are high in nitrogen and phosphorus. These waste products cause cats to feel sick. Therefore, kidney formula diets are low in protein to reduce the levels of these products and also to reduce the "workload" of the kidneys.

That sounds good in theory, but it appears there may be a flaw in the logic. Namely, cats' bodies have very little control over their protein metabolism. This means that their bodies may be prone to metabolizing a similar amount of protein no matter how much of it they eat. Some experts therefore believe that kidney formula diets do not significantly reduce the workload of the kidneys, nor do they delay the progression of kidney disease.


To make matters worse, cats find protein palatable. Cats with kidney disease often have poor appetites, and they may be picky about foods that are low in protein. Also, increased consumption of protein is linked to a higher lean body mass, which in turn is linked to greater longevity. Many experts believe that older cats -- the type of cats that usually have kidney disease -- generally need more protein than their younger counterparts. Since cats don't have much control over their protein metabolism, cats fed low protein diets may still break down as much protein as those fed high protein diets. That protein will come from their muscles, reducing their lean body mass. And, since protein is palatable, cats may eat less of the low protein diets, leading to even great reductions in lean body mass and therefore shorter life expectancy.

However, owners should remember that kidney diets do tend to affect blood phosphorus levels in a good way, and phosphorus appears to be linked to clinical symptoms.

By now your head may be spinning, so let's cut to the chase. Here are my recommendation for cats with kidney disease. The most important thing is to maintain lean body mass. Therefore, the most important thing is that your cat actually eat the food on offer, and that his weight be maintained at a healthy level to the geatest extent possible. If your cat is enthusiastic about a kidney diet, then so be it -- the decreased phosphorus may make him feel better. However, if your cat won't eat the kidney diet, then find something that he likes. The most important thing is to keep him eating, and to monitor his weight and kidney values; if these parameters are unsatisfactory then an adjustment may be necessary.

This also means that occasional deviances from kidney diets aren't likely to cause harm. A treat of some Thanksgiving turkey will not significantly affect the outcome in a cat with kidney disease.

Prescription diets for diabetes


Diabetes is one of the more common health concerns in humans and cats. The type of diabetes that is most common in cats is physiologically similar to the most common type (adult onset, or type 2) of diabetes in people. Dietary modification is a mainstay of type 2 human diabetes treatment in people. Shouldn't it therefore also be so in cats?

Yes and no. Diabetes is a disease characterized by high blood sugar. Current feline prescription diets designed to treat diabetes (such as Hills m/d, Purina DM, and Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Diabetic Formula) contain high protein levels and low carbohydrate levels because it is easier for the body to metabolize carbs into sugar. In my opinion the logic behind these diets is sound. But there is a rub.

Human diabetics often have blood sugars in the range of 200 mg/dL. Veterinarians don't bat an eye, nor do we stat treatment (in 2013 -- things may be different in 2025) when we see such a reading. Cats with diabetes often have blood sugar readings in the range of 400 to 600 mg/dL. (Seeing such a reading would probably cause a human physician's eyes to pop.)

Dietary modification most likely will help cats with diabetes. But it rarely is enough on its own. The overwhelming majority of cats with diabetes also require insulin. I therefore recommend that diabetic cats be switched to a diet designed for diabetes, but I warn clients not to expect a miracle. It is best to try to stick to diabetic diets exclusively, although an occasional deviance is not likely to be catastrophic. Fortunately, most diabetic cats are not picky eaters, so these diets are accepted by most of them.

Prescription diets for intestinal problems

Cats with infiltrative/inflammatory bowel disease or food intolerances may exhibit chronic intermittent diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, poor appetite, or any combination thereof. The most basic way to treat these problems is with dietary modification. Some cats may respond to over-the-counter sensitive stomach diets. For others, prescription diets (such as Hills i/d, Purina EN, or Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal) that are easily digestible, or limited-ingredient diets (such as Hills z/d or d/d, Purina HA, or Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Limited Ingredient) may be effective.


Cat eating kibble by Shutterstock.

It often is necessary to experiment with a few diets in order to find one that works for cats with IBD or food intolerance. But if you can find one that works, I recommend that you stick with it and avoid treats or other dalliances. These syndromes are often treated with medications such as prednisone; if possible it is better in my opinion to try to manage the problems with diet alone.

Prescription diets for urinary problems

Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC), also known as Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) and Feline Urological Syndrome (FUS) is a common condition that causes bladder pain, house soiling, and in male cats a life-threatening catastrophe called urinary obstruction. Although the causes of the condition are controversial, most experts believe that diet plays a role. I am not an expert (I do not have advanced certification in veterinary internal medicine), but as an emergency vet I have seen more than my share of urinary obstruction, and I firmly believe that diet plays a role.

Diets designed to prevent FIC (such as Hills c/d, Purina UR, and Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Urinary SO) appear, in my experience, to be very effective at reducing crises associated with FIC. I recommend their exclusive use for cats with the condition.

What about raw?

Improperly prepared raw diets are nightmares full of Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter, and malnutrition. Those first three items on the list are bacteria that can spread to people in the house. Bad, bad, bad!

However, at the risk of being labeled a veterinary apostate, I am obliged to note that properly prepared raw diets may actually have some potential to treat each of the four syndromes addressed in this article. That said, I have yet to see sufficient evidence to enable me to recommend them.

As a side note, I am aware that many people believe that the major pet food companies are big and evil. I should point out that I have not seen any evidence to date that convinces me that commercial raw manufacturers are any less greedy (although they certainly are smaller). If said companies wish to provide me with evidence, I suggest that they fund (but not interfere with) some well-run studies on the effects of feeding raw diets to cats suffering from any of the above conditions.

Other stories by Dr. Eric Barchas:

Got a question for Dr. Barchas? Ask our vet in the comments below and your topic might be featured in an upcoming column. (Note that if you have an emergency situation, please see your own vet immediately

Ways to keep pets cool during the ‘dog’ days of summer - The Marshall News Messenger: Pets

Laverne Hughey

It is definitely summertime, with temperatures already reaching the 90s and sure to go even higher. “Summertime and the livin’ is easy” is not always true for many dogs and cats.

Dogs and cats can suffer from the same problems in hot, humid weather just as humans do, such as overheating, dehydration and even sunburn. By being aware of possible problems and taking simple precautions, our companion animals can be comfortably cool and avoid serious weather-related problems.

Small dogs that stay inside the home will not have problems; nor will the cats that live indoors. Outside pets can easily get into trouble on a hot, humid day. No matter what a pet is accustomed to, it should never, ever be left in a vehicle during this hot weather, nor should a dog be left in the back of a pickup truck. Even with car windows open slightly, temperatures that seem pleasant to people will rise dangerously high in a vehicle, often reaching higher than 100 degrees.

Pets can quickly suffer heatstroke. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, heatstroke is “a serious failure of the body’s heat-regulation mechanisms resulting from excessive exposure to intense heat and characterized by high fever, dry skin, collapse and sometimes convulsions or coma.”

According to the ASPCA, the right time for playtime is in the cool of the early morning or evening, but never after a meal of when the weather is hot and humid. Even though your dog may be accustomed to taking a walk or run with you, please consider that asphalt and concrete become extremely hot. The dog’s body can heat up rapidly and sensitive paw pads can burn. Walk your canine pal as early in the day as possible before the street or sidewalk has had time to heat up or wait until the pavement has cooled in the evening.

We should be especially thoughtful of pets that have reached their senior years, as well as overweight animals during the hot weather. If they absolutely cannot come inside to stay cool, be sure there is a shady spot in the yard for them. Dogs also enjoy wading in a child’s shallow pool which will help keep them cool if the pool is kept in the shade.

Pets with heart or lung diseases should be indoors in air conditioned comfort as much as possible, especially mid-day. This also applied to snub-nose dogs, such as Pekingese, Boston Terriers, bulldogs, Shih Tzus and Lhasa apsos.

Naturally, plenty of fresh, cool water should be available at all times for all outside pets. Food bowls should be removed as soon as outdoor pets have finished eating as ants and other insects find the food almost immediately. If the dog or cat comes back for a second helping, it will have a very painful surprise with the first bite.

Fleas and ticks are sure to be plentiful this year, so consult with a veterinarian as to the best way to prevent them attaching your dog or cat. Mosquitoes are already plentiful, and if your dog or cat is not on heartworm preventive medication, take Sam or Sweetie to the vet for a blood test to be sure he or she is not infected with heartworms, and get your pal on the preventive. Heartworm treatment is very expensive; therefore, prevention is definitely the way to go.

Thinking of shaving the dog or cat? Not a good idea as the pet can easily suffer sunburn. Experts advise shaving or clipping no closer than one inch of hair. That way, the pet will be protected from the sun as well as insect bites. A hairless dog or cat is at the mercy of hungry, biting insects. The animal will no doubt be more miserable than if it had long hair. If in doubt, ask the veterinarian, always.


Keep your cat indoors as their life may depend on it

On my way in to work on a recent Sunday morning, I met with a chilling sight. Two of the biggest coyotes I have ever seen were walking leisurely out of a residential neighbourhood, and both were carrying a cat. One black and white, one orange tabby ... both helpless small animals who died unnecessarily in terror and pain.

At the Niagara Falls Humane Society, we ask all adopters to keep their cats indoors. We do not adopt to anyone who intends to let their cat roam free. We hear it all the time: “But he wants to go outside.”  “We live on a very quiet street.”  “It’s cruel to keep her in.” Although cats may enjoy being outside, it’s a myth that going outside is a requirement for feline happiness. Daily playtime with your cat easily keeps your pet stimulated and provides the exercise needed for them to stay healthy and happy. Kittens who are kept indoors usually show no desire to venture outside when they grow up.

Do the work to ensure a happy cat. Feline needs include the need to hunt, the option to retreat and hide, the pleasure of climbing and, in general, the need for a cat to have a sense that it is in control of its own activities.

Bring the outdoors in by planting cat grass in indoor pots so your cat can graze. Make sure the litter box is kept clean. Cats love to scratch and doing so enables them to remove broken claws, stretch muscles, and mark “territory.” The best way to save your furniture is to provide lots of “approved” places to scratch. Cat trees and posts, cardboard scratching boxes, and those ingenious “cat tracks” (a ball in a circular, partially open plastic tunnel surrounding a cardboard scratching pad) are big hits. Sprinkle catnip on them weekly to keep cats interested and be sure to replace cardboard inserts when they get worn out. Provide a room with a view. Windows can be a cat “TV” — a birdbath or feeder placed near a window can provide hours of entertainment. Toys can be important. Choose toys that your cat likes to chase and play with. Try a range of toys — small furry ones that squeak and move rapidly are popular. Or feathered toys at the end of a wand-like rod that you can flick back and forwards. You could also consider a “cat activity centre” that allows a cat to climb up and down, with a few dangly toys attached, and perhaps a scratching post, too (essential if you do not want your cat to shred your furniture and wallpaper). Cats like to be “high up” in a room — it makes them feel secure — so make sure that you provide cat-accessible elevated sleeping spots around the house.

Sharon Richardson, who manages our Cat Adoption Centre at Niagara Square, comments: “I keep my cats indoors as it’s much safer for them. I don’t have to worry about them getting sick from other animals or from something poisonous they got into or worrying if they are ok when they don’t come home. They are happy looking out the window. At the AC we see so many cats with sad stories because they were outside-like the FIV+ cats. They would have never become infected if they had been indoor cats, and now they have a harder time finding their forever homes.”

Co-op student Alexis has a soft spot for the senior cats who have had a tough life. She says “I feel as if my cats are my family. Having them outside all hours of the night would worry me too much to even consider having them on their own without me. It is like leaving a child outside all day and night not even having a clue where they are and if they are OK. I prefer to know that my family is at all times somewhere safe. And the safest place is inside my home.”

Your cat depends on you. You are all they’ve got. Keep them safe.

For more information on events and about the shelter, please visit our website, and like us on Facebook.

Cathy Fugler is Communications Director for the Niagara Falls Humane Society. Contact her at

Catit Senses- This is a great deal!

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A full line of fun for your cat!

The Catit Senses Line was designed to incorporate all of your cat’s senses while he or she plays. The products in the Senses Line include the Catit Senses Massage Center, Scratch Pad Center, Play Circuit, Speed Circuit, Food & Treat Center and Grass Garden Center. The products have the ability to be used alone or interconnect to build your cat a compact play center or an entire entertainment playground. The possibilities are endless; add as many Play Circuits or Speed Tracks to connect as many or as few Senses Centers as you wish. The Catit Senses toys are easy to assemble and disassemble allowing you to create a variety of play areas for your cat.

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Each of the toys targets different senses of your cat, but when combined it becomes a collection of innovative cat products designed to enrich a cat's life by stimulating all of his or her senses. Building your cat a complete Catit Senses entertainment center is even a great way to help occupy your cat when you might be away on a trip for a day or two!

The Catit Senses Circuits are the key components of any play set design. Add as many Circuits as you wish wrapping them around each of the play centers. Each play center comes with a nonskid mat that provides stability. As you design your Senses playground try wrapping the play centers with Circuits, this provides additional stability for those times of rough play.

The Catit Senses Line works together to form the ultimate play experience for your cat. Whether used alone or all together, with the Catit Senses Line you are helping your cat develop physically and mentally. We use all of our senses every day and it is important for your cat to do the same. Exploring their senses will provide them with the ability to reach their full potential and live a long and healthy life. The Catit Senses Products are each backed by a limited warranty.

Catit Senses Play Circuit

The Catit Design Senses Play Circuit incorporates sight, sound and touch and is specially designed to entice, engage and entertain a cat while appealing to his natural hunting instincts. Designed with a curved and Peek-a-Boo track design, the Play Circuit allows your cat to see, chase and swat the ball. The gray and green swirled ball also entices your cat and helps promote chasing.

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Catit Senses Speed Circuit

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Catit Senses Group




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