About six months ago the vet did a blood panel on Simba. She had an elevated BUN level. BUN is an acronym for blood urea nitrogen. A BUN test as its name implies, measures amount of urea nitrogen in the blood. Urea nitrogen is a waste product that’s created in the liver when the body breaks down proteins. Normally, the kidneys filter it out, and urinating removes it from the body. When you are having problems with your kidneys or liver BUN levels tend to rise. Everything else looked fine on Simba’s exam so the vet said to bring her back in three months to run another test. When I did tt had gone down to normal levels. The most recent re-check showed it back up, sightly higher than the first high reading. So the vet put Simba on a special diet.
Here’s where we run into difficulties. Cats are obligate carnivores. The definition in the Merriam Webster online dictionary is: 1. Restricted to one particularly characteristic mode of life. 2. Biologically essential for survival. Cats must eat meat, it is an absolute biological necessity. Cats do not have the ability to synthesize many essential vitamins and amino acids, such as niacin, vitamin A, taurine and arginine, all of which are found in meat in quantity. Not only that, but obligate carnivores need h high level of protein in their diet. Cats obtain the glucose fuel to run their bodies by gluconeogenesis. This is a simply a different metabolic pathway that uses protein rather than breaking down carbohydrates to obtain the glucose. Without sufficient protein in the diet a cat’s body will begin to break down it’s own muscle and organs to do it.
The typical feline urinary diet is low in protein. Maintaining sufficient protein for health while protecting the kidneys is a delicate balance. Increased water intake also really helps kidney function, but cats normally get their water from their food. This is hard to do when the food is a dry kibble. The kidney diet prescribed by the vet is dry kibble. So once again I am on an odyssey, navigating the conflicting opinions and theories on the best diet for my cat.
I found that keeping levels of phosphorus low is very beneficial and may be more important than lowering protein. Of course, wading through dozens of studies, many of which conflict, often leaves you with your head spinning. In many cases you can only access the abstract if you are affiliated with a university or pay forty or fifty dollars to an overpriced journal. Then some are based on such limited test samples I refuse to accept their statistical validity. One test sample was four cats. Sorry, but I aced my statistics classes and with millions of cats in the United States alone, a test sample of four doesn’t add up, even if I liked the conclusion. Don’t even try to Google this. All you get is marketing stuff and it will just give you a headache and make you very cynical, like me.
Still I did find some good and detailed information on cat nutrition and cat food contents. This was gathered by people struggling to get it from the manufacturers. Now we are going on another search mission to find suppliers for some nice wet food brands that have sufficient protein and low phosphorus. I am just glad my chemistry professor Dr. Lin was so demanding. I really remember the stuff and understand what I’m reading and looking for. All this work is for someone very special. A wonderful orange cat, my friend and companion, my Simba.