Feline Renal Failure: A Cat Kidney Disease

Updated on April 29, 2017
Feline urogenital system
Feline urogenital system

Your cat, your friend, your companion

So you're the proud owner of a cat. Maybe you've had lots of cats throughout your life, maybe this is the first one. Maybe this cat is young or maybe it is elderly. Regardless of your cat's age or how many you care for, you know that they are an unconditional source of love, friendship, and comfort.

So when you find out that your cat has renal failure, the diagnosis is devastating. Suddenly you realize that regardless of your cat's age, this is a prognosis that is grim. This is terminal and there are only so many things you can do until it's time to say goodbye.

Cats are naturally resilient to showing signs of weakness because in the wild they would be picked off by predators — being domesticated does not change this. You may never even realize how sick your cat is until the disease is in advanced stages. Because of how well cats hide an illness they are often very sick by the time an owner takes them in for medical care. That is how it all happened with my beloved Bishop, who was my friend for 15 years.

Symptoms of Feline Renal Failure

Your beloved fur baby may have been suffering for years with RF (renal failure) before you noticed symptoms. Try not to blame yourself for this.

Typically kidney failure is seen in elderly cats, and symptoms include

  • lack of appetite
  • increased thirst
  • weight loss
  • bad breath
  • mouth ulcers
  • change of mood

If your cat shows these symptoms, have them seen by your vet ASAP!

Bishop, a good friend I had for 15 years. Little kitty having a "not so good" sick day.
Bishop, a good friend I had for 15 years. Little kitty having a "not so good" sick day.

What can you do?

There are a few options to keep your pet comfortable with this disease.

But first, please consider why you want to extend your pet's life. If your pet can eat, sleep, and use the bathroom, while still showing signs of the animal you love, it may be worth treatment. Quality of life is what should be considered first and foremost. It is not fair to extend an animals life while it is in pain or suffering. You have the control to keep your pet happy and comfortable, and sometimes the final act of love is to put the pet down and say goodbye. Luckily we do have the option of ending their suffering, unlike being able to do that with humans.

The following treatments will help keep your pet comfortable and extend their life for some time, the success of treatment will of course depend on how advanced your cat's renal failure is. All treatments below should be followed when financially possible. Remember; the goal of treatment is to keep your animal feeling as healthy as possible.

Treatment options include

  • subcutaneous administration of fluids at home or at the vet-this is extremely important for kidneys that are not functioning at full capacity
  • Change of diet, and special diet food. Low in protein, usually only available through vet prescription
  • Comfort during home care, careful monitoring of kidney function done by regular vet office visits.
  • Lots of love, care, and gentleness to your beloved pet

Organ failure is extremely PAINFUL, and unfortunately we can't always provide them with adequate pain management during the final stages of this disease.

Subcutaneous Fluids

Bishop's medicine bag for home use
Bishop's medicine bag for home use

Saying Goodbye

When your pet no longer acts in a way that justifies extending its life, it may be time to say goodbye. Your vet will walk you through the decision to put your animal to sleep. It's never an easy choice, but is the most selfless thing you can do to a pet that is suffering from an incurable disease. When I found out my cat Bishop was very sick, he was well into renal failure. I kept him comfortable, administered IV fluids at home, and put him on a special diet. He gave me 4 months of more joy, before I decided to put him down. Organ failure can be extremely painful, and there were days where he'd have a soft growl if I even touched him. He would wet the bed (and anyone that knows cats, know that they do not defecate where they sleep), I could no longer justify keeping him because of how much it hurt me to say goodbye. In the end, you will always wonder and question if you did the right thing, could you have done more, but unfortunately our beloved animals just don't live as long as we do. I was thankful to know that I could end his pain and suffering even though I will always remember the endless joy and love he brought to my life. If you have ever had to put an animal down, you know that it is a very painful, heart wrenching decision. But you MUST consider the quality of life for your friend. And give yourself time and self-care as you mourn your loss. But take comfort in knowing your pet is no longer suffering.

Bishop enjoying a sun bath in his final days, and how I will always remember him.  Happy.
Bishop enjoying a sun bath in his final days, and how I will always remember him. Happy.

© 2012 Rebecca


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    • Bishop55 profile image

      Rebecca 4 years ago from USA

      No offense Susi, but if your organs were failing, do you think you'd have no pain?

      My cat was in severe pain, in his own animal way. Not to mention cats are fantastic at hiding pain, because in the wild they'd be picked off by predators. I hope anyone with a cat dying from this, because they all die from it, takes into consideration how badly their animal is suffering, and ends that suffering if need be. We often hold on for our own selfish reasons. As hard as letting go is, sometimes we just need to.

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      Susi 4 years ago

      Folks have talked about pain a lot. Please note that cats with CKD do not necessarily experience pain. They are nauseous and uncomfortable but usually not in pain unless they develop a heart problem.