Low Sodium Cat Food; How important is it?

Sodium, which can be found in meat, is an essential part of a cat’s diet. A healthy cat doesn’t need low sodium cat food unless they have serious health issues.

Introduction Low sodium cat food

While humans are becoming more concerned about their consumption of sodium, it is not necessarily the same for cats. In the wild, cats do not consume sodium in the form of salt as they get sodium from the meat that they eat. If your cat eats human food, it may be ingesting too much sodium, but in general, you have nothing to worry about if you are feeding your cat good quality cat food. A cat with chronic kidney disease, heart disease or other serious health issues may need a change of diet. Cats should only be put on a low sodium diet when their vet suggests it. If your cat is healthy, a low sodium diet is probably not necessary.

How much sodium should a cat have?

Like it is for all animals, sodium is necessary for the health of your cat. Cats are obligate carnivores and that means that in the wild they can expect to get about 70% of their diet from animal protein. Some sodium can be found in chicken, meat, fish, and eggs. Consequently, a cat in the wild will get all the sodium it needs from eating its prey. Cats in the wild do not require large amounts of sodium and it is believed that an average size adult cat needs less than half a teaspoon (21 mg) of salt per day. Dry food should contain a minimum of 0.2% of sodium according to the AAFCO  (Association of American Feed Control Officials). They do not give any recommendations for the maximum amount. For wet or canned cat food, it is to be expected that there is 0.5 grams per 1,000 kcal.

low sodium cat food
Healthy cats don’t require a reduced-sodium diet, so make sure you talk to your vet before you make any sudden diet changes

Is most cat food high in sodium?

Commercial dry food may be high in sodium because sodium may stimulate thirst and ensure a higher water consumption. In the wild, cats get much of their water through the food they eat. Feeding your cat dry food may cause problems since many cats do not like drinking water and this can lead to dehydration. By adding sodium to the dry food, cats are more likely to get thirsty and drink the water they need.

Like humans, cats enjoy a little salt with their food, so manufacturers may add salt to their wet cat food to make it more palatable. There is no real way of knowing whether a commercial cat food is too high in sodium because the AAFCO does not have a recommendation for the maximum amount of salt that can be added to food, so it is hard to know whether cat food is high in sodium or not. If the food is too salty, cats will not eat it.

low sodium cat food
If your cat has severe kidney disease or heart problems, they may need a low sodium diet

What is the danger of a cat consuming too much sodium?

If your cat has too much sodium in its diet, the effects can cause harm and it might even cause the death of your cat. It is important to remember that most processed human food contain sodium levels that are too high for cats. If your cat seems to be more thirsty than usual and is drinking a lot of water, it could be a result of too much sodium. Other more serious symptoms of too much sodium are disorientation and confusion, vomiting, and seizures. If too much sodium builds up in your cat’s body, your cat may become very sick, it could affect your cat’s kidney health and could be fatal for your cat. If your cat has any symptoms that could be related to excess sodium, it is important to take it to the vet immediately. Your vet will be able to take a blood test that will detect the sodium level.

For more information about what could happen if your cat has too much or too little sodium in its body, read the articles in Pet MD.

“Hypernatremia is the term used to denote abnormally high levels of sodium in blood….If not treated quickly, hypernatremia can lead to severe consequences for the health of your cat.”

PETMD.com – Hypernatremia in Cats

Why does cat food have salt?

Cat food contains salt for a number of reasons. Although cats can get the amount of sodium they need from eating a meat-based diet, the easiest and cheapest way for commercial cat food manufacturers to increase the sodium level of food is by adding table salt. Salt acts as a preservative and that means that will improve the shelf life of the cat food. Salt improves the taste of food even for cats. The canning process involves very high temperatures and high pressure which can destroy some of the taste of the food. The flavor of the cat food which has been reduced by processing can be enhanced by the addition of salt.

Is low sodium cat food important for all cats?

You shouldn’t give a healthy adult cat a low sodium diet because it isn’t necessary and may even do harm. If your cat has renal disease or is at risk of kidney failure then the amount of sodium in its diet may need to be reduced. It is very important to consult with your vet before you do so. Never change your cat’s diet without advice. Your vet might also recommend a low sodium diet for cats who show signs of having too much body fluid. To see more about a build-up of fluid in your cat’s body, see this fact sheet.

Another reason for having a low sodium diet is if your cat is suffering from heart or liver problems. Since it is possible for a cat to have sodium deficiency, you should not cut all sodium from your cat’s diet. The best way for you to decrease your cat’s sodium intake is to buy low-sodium cat foods and to avoid giving your cat processed food that is intended for humans. If you like to give your cat treats, don’t forget that they also contain sodium, so you should pick up low sodium treats when you buy your low sodium cat food.

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low sodium cat food
Cats in the wild eat mostly protein and will gain the sodium they require from these meats.

Which cat foods have the least sodium?

 The cat foods with the least sodium are usually available as a special diet for cats with ill health. These days, a lot of manufacturers produce both wet and dry cat food that have low sodium options. Here are three companies that make good quality low sodium cat food.

  1. Hills Prescription Diet Kidney Care range has low sodium wet and dry cat foods.
  2. Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet has a number of sodium-controlled wet and dry food products in their Kidney and Mobility Support cat food range.
  3. Purina Pro Plan wet and dry foods also have low sodium food.

If you choose to make homemade cat food for your cat, just ensure it contains high-quality protein and make sure you check with your vet regarding other ingredients.

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“Healthy cats of all ages don’t normally require a low- or reduced-sodium diet, so be sure to talk to your vet about any sodium concerns you may have before making a change.”

iams.com – how sodium is used in our cat foods

Where can I find low-sodium cat food?

 Some supermarkets may stock low sodium cat food, but you will have more products to choose from if you order it online. Amazon stocks most brands of low sodium cat food at very good prices. You can order commercial cat food brands at Petco which offers same-day delivery in some areas. Pet Smart stocks most brands of low sodium cat food. If you need a fresh food delivery service for your cat, you can find a number of services at All About Cats. You may also find that your local vet stocks some brands of food for cats with special dietary requirements.

low sodium cat food
Always ask your vet about what food is the most appropriate for your cat, based on their individual health needs
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Conclusion Low sodium cat food

All cats require some sodium in their diet. In the wild, they will get all the sodium they need by eating a mainly meat diet. Regular cat food is more likely to have sodium in the form of salt. Although a healthy cat does not require sodium restriction, a vet may recommend that you put your cat on a low sodium cat food if your cat has kidney issues or other serious health problems. These days there are a number of cat food manufacturers who are producing food for cats with special dietary requirements, such as renal support, and so specialist diet foods are much more accessible.

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