Fifty cats with naturally occurring stable chronic renal failure (CRF) were entered into a prospective study on the effect of feeding a veterinary diet restricted in phosphorus and protein with or without an intestinal phosphate binding agent on their survival from initial diagnosis. Twenty-nine cats accepted the veterinary diet, whereas compliance (due to limited intake by the cats or owner resistance to diet change) was not achieved in the remaining 21. At diagnosis, both groups of cats were matched in terms of age, bodyweight, plasma creatinine, phosphate, potassium and parathyroid hormone (PTH) concentrations, packed cell volume and urine specific gravity. Feeding the veterinary diet was associated with a reduction in plasma phosphate and urea concentrations and prevented the increase in plasma PTH concentrations seen in cats not receiving the diet. Cats fed the veterinary diet survived for longer when compared with those that were not (median survival times of 633 versus 264 days). These data suggest that feeding a diet specifically formulated to meet the needs of cats with CRF, together with phosphate binding drugs if required, controls hyperphosphataemia and secondary renal hyperparathyroidism, and is associated with an increased survival time.