Kidney Support Homemade Cat Food




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UPDATE: My dear Tony passed away in January 2015. In the last few months of his life, he suffered from diabetes and progressive liver failure. He lived a good long life, and I tried to manage his conditions with diet, but it reached a point when I just needed to feed him anything he would eat. I hope your cat lives well and healthy. I am updating this recipe with a few things I learned in the last couple of years.

My 15-year-old cat (Update 8/2014: Tony has just turned 18 years old!) has had kidney issues for a few years now. Over the last couple of years, I have managed it well by giving him homemade low-protein cat food made from recipes by established veterinary nutritionists, and under my vet's supervision. I choose not to buy the prescription canned food because of the numerous recalls that have plagued pet food in recent years, plus even though the food I make is expensive, it still costs less in the end than canned food, and I control the ingredients.

The process is time and labor intensive, but I use all parts of what I cook. I hope this is useful for you if you have an ailing cat as well. It may also be useful to you if you want to learn how to slow-cook chicken and use up all the parts of it.

DISCLAIMER: This is not meant to substitute for veterinary medical advice. It is a guide to how I prepare a recipe my vet recommended, along with other holistic wisdom I picked up along the way. Your mileage may vary, but please only proceed under medical supervision.

Step 1: Ingredients & Supplies

To make the food, you will need:

- Cooked chicken
- Brown rice (careful of the source, try not to get from Southern US)
- Salt
- Salt substitute (potassium chloride)
- Calcium carbonate supplements
- Taurine
- Bone meal
- Multivitamins - I use these: Nu-Cat Senior
- Vitamin K
- A good blender
- Mortar & pestle

Optional but recommended:
Renal Essentials - Kidney Support for Cats

For an explanation of the recipe as well as others for both kidney issues and many others, you can read the book Home-Prepared Dog and Cat Diets, which is the top-recommended resource for this knowledge. My vet originally provided me with recipes from the previous edition, but I bought this edition and have been using it as my guide with my vet's approval.

Step 2: Prepare the Chicken Meat

I use chicken legs instead of chicken breasts because the dark meat has more nutrition, plus my cat was losing too much weight on the breasts; he needs more fat. I buy organic chicken legs from Trader Joe's, which makes them pretty affordable.

My method of cooking is to place the chicken legs in a steamer in a crock pot and cook on low heat. I've found that this tends to keep more of the nutrients in the food. The strainer lets the fat drip down too.

Once the legs are cooked and cooled somewhat, I peel the skin and remove the meat and gristle from the bones. I don't throw anything away. The meat gets put in a bowl. Some might be used today, the rest saved for another day.

If I drop anything, my clean-up crew is right there taking care of it for me!

Since I live so far from Trader Joe's, I only make a trip about once a month. So I buy several packages at once. I may use one package fresh and freeze the rest. I freeze them by wrapping each one in plastic wrap and storing them in a freezer zipper bag.

Step 3: Prepare Other Ingredients

Once the chicken has been taken out of the strainer, I pour the fat into a container to use in the recipe.

The peeled skin gets dehydrated for a few hours and used later. (The dehydrated gristle makes good dog treats if used sparingly.) I dehydrate them to make them keep longer.

I put the bones back in the crock pot with the remains of the drippings, add water, and let cook for several hours to make a broth, also for the recipe.

Brown rice* should be cooked somewhere along the way. I like to cook mine in my rice cooker, often with broth left from the previous chicken batch.

Once the broth is complete, I take the bones out and dehydrate them. When they are dry, I use a mortar and pestle to pound them into smaller pieces, then use a blender to make bone meal. I am also saving other bones to burn and then use in my garden as a source of phosphorus.

Step 4: Mixing: First Steps

I have found that unless I really blend the rice thoroughly with the food, my cat will find a way to leave lots of bits of rice over. One way to make this happen, if you don't have a Vitamix blender is to let the rice soak for a while (especially if you have cooked and refrigerated it) and then blend it in liquid, either broth or water, until it makes a nice blended mush.

Since I am making a double batch this time, I use 1-1/3 cup of cooked rice. The recipe calls for 2/3 cup per batch.

Warning: If you are going to take this on, you will need a good blender. My affordable workhorse, after I burned through a Magic Bullet and a Cuisinart blender, is a Ninja Master Prep blender set. It works well, though I still long for a Vitamix.*

Next I crush up the crushable supplements in my mortar and pestle.

Update 3/2012: I picked up a refurbished Blendtec last fall - you know, the kind that Starbucks uses to make their blended drinks. Best $180 I've spent in ages. Now I don't bother with the mortar and pestle, but pulse a few times with the Blendtec to grind the supplements, and then let it blend for a while. The result is smooth, creamy, and totally edible, according to Tony. He has gained weight and improved health-wise in the last few months; his latest test results showed some kidney function improvement. Yay!

I picked up this old postal scale at a yard sale for $5. Great investment. This allows me to see how many ounces I am measuring for the recipe. This recipe calls for 3 oz of chicken per batch, and I'm making a double batch, so 6 oz.

The first scale photo shows that I zero the scale with the empty container on it first.

Step 5: Mixing: Next Steps

Once the chicken and rice are blended, I add:

- 5 tsp of fat per batch. The recipe suggests canola oil, but cats digest animal fat more easily, so I use my chicken fat, unless I run out. To help my cat retain weight, I also throw some extra pieces of fatty dehydrated skin in there. In response to certain commenters who suggest corn oil, by all means do your own research and work with nutritionists. I have heard from a number of people that cats don't digest vegetable oil well, and I have concerns about rapeseed (canola) oil and won't use it myself.
- 1/4 tsp potassium chloride salt substitute per batch
- 1/8 tsp salt per batch
- 1/4 tsp bone meal powder per batch
- 1/8 tsp calcium carbonate/baking soda per batch
- Vitamins & renal supplements according to bottle directions per batch*
- Taurine, 1000 mg per 1/4 tsp: 1/4 tsp per batch
- Vitamin K, 100 mcg per tablet: 1 tablet per batch

*One portion makes about two meals for my cat; your mileage may vary.

Why is the final blended food greenish? For a while I tried adding Very Green to his food, and I thought I saw some improvement in energy, eye clarity, and a reduction in urination. His tests improved, too. Then at the last checkup, his kidney values were worse again, so I took this addition out. I may add it back in again, though, since he seems to be getting worse since I stopped it (more urination, more fur loss, throwing up some).

Food-making time is an exciting event for the furry members of my home. It always draws an audience.

Step 6: Experimental Additive

Since my cat was losing weight, I observed him carefully, and I noticed that he would go two to three days without pooping. In that time, as he became more constipated, he would eat less; then as soon as he eliminated, he would eat a lot. So I decided to try an additive: chia seeds. These amazing little seeds are a super food that contains lots of Omega 3's (also recommended by my vet) and tons of fiber, as well as helping with hydration, which my cat really needs. I gave him maybe 1/2 tsp per food bowl. (I drink a teaspoon of these every morning myself in orange juice, along with a teaspoon of Very Green.)

Sure enough, before too long, he started becoming more regular and having a better appetite. He did not lose weight in the last six months, which is amazing given the extent of his kidney failure. I haven't been able to find any research on the use of chia in cats, but I told my vet, and he okayed it.

Update: I have since stopped the chia seeds and added Slippery Elm powder, okayed by my vet, to help remedy constipation. This really helps too.

I used to add a few pieces of holistic kibble on top or mixed in. The reason for this is that my cat lived on kibble his whole life prior to this kidney failure. I did not know that cats are desert animals accustomed to getting most of their liquid from their food, and that I was damaging his health by feeding him kibble. Therefore, he became conditioned to thinking "food" means "kibble," so it wasn't really feeding time for him unless he heard the sound of the kibble box. Then he happily devoured his whole meal. Now he happily consumes his kibble-free meals.

Feel free to ask questions, and I will modify this article if I've left anything out.



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    34 Discussions


    Question 4 weeks ago on Step 6

    Do you have the link for where you get these ingredient?

    - Salt substitute (potassium chloride)
    - Calcium carbonate supplements
    - Taurine
    - Bone meal ( can you buy this or you recommend making it fresh?)
    - Vitamin K

    Thank you!


    Question 7 weeks ago on Step 5

    My Vino just got diagnosed with CKD 2 days ago with a creatinine reading of 4mg/dL...and I was sent home with a bag of commercial renal kibble. I was horrified to read all the junk in the ingredients list....after advoctaing a grain free mainly wet diet for so long. I just don't like the idea of pushing my already poorly baby to eat this rubbish which is virtually made out of cardboard! How can he keep hydrated if he is strictly on this kibble diet?So any ideas / pointers would be greatly appreciated as I am at a loss as to what to do here. These are several things about this recipe that confuses me. ...
    -Wouldn't the addition of bone meal up the phosphorus content of the food? I thought CKD cats have to keep protein and phosphorus levels low.....isn't it better to add crushed egg shells instead?
    -And why dehydrate the chicken skin then add it to the mix again? Can i just use the whole cooked chicken leg, ie meat and skin together? What about leaving out the skin and adding salmon oil instead?
    -Any idea what is the protein and phosphorus content of this home cooked chicken meal per portion?


    Question 5 months ago

    My 15 yr old kitty Belle isn't quite in kidney failure yet, however her creatinine is slightly elevated. My vet thinks it would be a good idea to get her on a Kidney Diet now to help prevent further issues and to have a longer quality of life.
    I found your recipe to make her, but was wondering how to modify it to prevent weight loss, since she is at her ideal body weight. Also, does Brand of supplements matter? Like they do with us humans? Since some aren't very good and don't digest or dissolve well in the system. What Brand do you reccomend?
    Thank you.

    Michael Shurack

    Question 6 months ago on Introduction

    Hi, my 15 year old cat was just diagnosed with 2nd stage kidney disease. I would like to use your kidney disease diet recipe but was wondering if I could substitute chicken thighs for chicken legs? The reason for this is that I already make a homemade cat food recipe for my 2 other healthy cats that calls for chicken thighs. The diet was formulated by Dr. Lisa Pierson from the website of I tried to get a consultation with Dr. Pierson for her professional opinion but unfortunately there is a notification on her website that states; Attention: Dr. Pierson is taking a break from her consulting service for an undetermined period of time. Any input that you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    Mike S


    Question 11 months ago on Step 6

    Why is salt also added for the home made food for cats with kidney failure?
    I read abt crf oil as a remedy. Is it advisable? My cat is only slightly over 2kg now ok for me to feed minced pork woth carrot only?


    1 year ago

    My only concern with this recipe is the added salts. My fur baby also has hypothyroidism. No salt. Can i still make this minus the salt?
    Thank you . Carol


    2 years ago

    Hello, I understand that this post is quite old and no recent comments. But thought I'd try my luck anyway. My boy, Franklin T has been diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease and was wondering if the above would be applicable to him as well. My vet has recommended the Royal Canin SO wet food and hasn't been much help in regards to a more natural diet. I'm loathe to keep Frank on this long term ( finishing the pack up that he'd been given whilst under observation at the vets with uti). Unfortunately where I am, most vets aren't versed in alternative methods for cats and they're next to clueless when it comes to homemade, filler free diets and it is infuriating! Any info is much appreciated.


    2 years ago

    Thanks for spamming her post with this we all appreciate that.


    3 years ago

    I just took a cat from a
    animals foster. What food is the best for him? I have no idea, this is the
    first cat for me. I just want him to be happy, healthy and full of energy.
    Internet is full of advice, i’m confused.


    3 years ago

    Baking soda should never be used in pet food! It is sodium bicarbonate and will spike the sodium levels in the food dangerously high. An Amazon review of the second edition of the book Home-Prepared Dog and Cat Diets, points out this error all through the book of stating that baking soda is calcium carbonate. It is not! Also for cats with chronic kidney disease (CKD), the preferred phosphorous binder is aluminum hydroxide so as not to elevate their often already too high blood calcium levels. If the CKD is not too advanced and your cat's calcium a good level, well in the normal range, then calcium carbonate can be safely used. You can get calcium carbonate in bulk, likely through a pharmacy.

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    Yes, we know. This has been addressed many times.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I appreciate your tutorial, but I have several questions and comments.

    I did not see a weight or measure for the chicken so it would be helpful to how what the quantity is (lbs/ounces) per batch.

    It would be helpful to know how many servings one batch makes (assuming an average 8 lb cat).

    I also agree with the comment below that baking soda is NOT the same as calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate would be used to add calcium to the food. The only reason I can think of to add baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to the food would be to help counteract an acidic condition in the cat since baking soda is alkaline. 1/8 tsp of baking soda contains 160 mg sodium and 1/8 tsp salt contains 250 mg sodium. Chicken also contains some naturally occurring sodium so it's hard to tell how much sodium would be in each serving. If calcium isn't added to the batch then it seems like it would be lacking in calcium (it also helps helps counteract phosphorus). I would caution anyone thinking of using this recipe to ask their vet about the use of baking soda in it instead of calcium carbonate before they try it on their cat(s).

    You said that your recipe called for canola oil, but instead you are using chicken fat. UC Davis' Veterinary Medicine Nutritional Support Service, uses corn oil in their prescription diet recipes because it is rich in the essential fatty acid, linoleic acid. They say; "Other fat sources (canola oil, butter, etc.) are lower in linoleic acid, and larger amounts are needed to meet this requirement. These fat sources are sometimes used in diet formulations with higher fat levels, but ingredients are not directly interchangeable due to the variation in fatty acid content." Unless canola or corn oil are organic they are gmo, so I wouldn't use them. Safflower oil is higher in linoleic acid than corn oil, so I might use organic cold pressed safflower oil. But I'd also want to use Nordic Naturals Omega-3 for pets to insure adequate omega 3 fatty acids.

    Because I am not comfortable with the ingredients in my cat's commercial prescription diet food I am interested in making the food myself, but I don't want to cause more harm to my cat than good. For additional guidance I found the BalanceIT website which was founded by a board certified veterinary nutritionist. You can play around with their free 'Autobalancer' tool to add ingredients that you want in your cat's food and then you can print out a balanced recipe that uses their complete vitamin/mineral supplement (UC Davis uses it too). If you want use their 'Free Recipe Generator' which will generate a renal diet for your cat based on age, weight, health conditions, etc., they will contact your vet for permission to do so and then their veterinary nutritionist will help you with that. Their renal diet uses their BalanceIT Feline K vitamin/mineral supplement which is low in phosphorous and sodium and higher in potassium and other nutrients CKD kitties need.

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    I tried BalanceIT and even paid for a premium recipe when Tony's health started declining, but because he had so many conflicting conditions, they refunded my money and told me they couldn't help. It's a great resource, though. I ended up feeding him whatever he would eat.


    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    Also, I will have to look up the measures for the chicken and the grains. I can't recall right now.

    Lois AnneS

    3 years ago on Step 5

    Just wanted to let your readers know that baking soda is NOT calcium carbonate, it is sodium bicarbonate. There is a baking soda substitute that has calcium carbonate in it but it is not a fool proof choice as a source. Better to order from a natural food supplement supplier. I order mine from NOW Foods (not an endorsement, folks!). My 15 yo kitty is recovering from a very recent bout of acute renal failure. I am making her food rather than using a "prescription" diet. The last time she was prescribed such a diet for her diabetes (dry food caused), her diabetes got worse. I began making her a high protein, low carb diet and her BS are now completely normal, she is no longer needing insulin and her neuropathy has completely reversed itself. We still don't know the cause of her renal failure (there are many) but her vet is receptive to homecooked diets, even providing me with one for her kidney issue.

    1 reply
    susanrmLois AnneS

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    I responded to several of these comments, but you are also right. I don't know why the recipe my vet gave me mentioned baking soda. I don't use that and haven't for a long time. I have synthesized the recipes I was given into the best recipe I can, but some of the info was obviously bad.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Baking soda is NOT calcium carbonate! Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. It's a salt and nothing at all like calcium carbonate. I have no idea how this affects a cat, but I would NOT give it to mine, especially if you already have regular salt (sodium chloride) as well as lite salt (potassium chloride) in the recipe.

    The only places I've seen in regular stores to find calcium carbonate is in the vitamin section in the form of calcium pills or powder for people. However, even there it is hard to find the pure stuff without the added vitamin D, and I also do not know how extra vitamin D in this form affects a cat's system. I would recommend more research if one were to go this route, or to simply buy a bottle of pure calcium carbonate powder from some place like amazon.

    I love that you do this for your cat, but I felt strongly that I should mention this. Thank you for the instructable.

    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    I have the same concern about baking soda being listed. I think the author meant calcium carbonate but one of the photos shows a box of baking soda. The author said; "Feel free to ask questions, and I will modify this article if I've left anything out". Unfortunately the recipe hasn't been changed and the author has not responded to your comment which is now a year old. I hope that no cats have been harmed by people using baking soda in the recipe instead of calcium carbonate!


    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    You are right. I don't know why the recipe my vet gave me mentioned baking soda. I don't use that and haven't for a long time. I have synthesized the recipes I was given into the best recipe I can, but some of the info was obviously bad. Haven't been on Instructables for ages, so I apologize again for the delay.