Skip to main content

Feline Renal Failure: A Cat Kidney Disease

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Rebecca loves sharing what she knows about alternative medicine, health, frugal living, fun, animals, and how to live a better life!

Feline urogenital system

Feline urogenital system

Renal Failure

So you're the proud, happy, and loving owner of a cat. Maybe you've had lots of cats throughout your life, or 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. Renal failure 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 was 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. It's important that you don't blame yourself for your companion's illness.

This is how it all happened with my beloved Bishop, who was my friend for 15 years. Don't blame or beat yourself up for this. Giving an animal love and care for any amount of time is worth celebrating, and sadly they just don't live as long as we do.

Symptoms of Feline Renal Failure

Your beloved fur baby may have been suffering for years with RF (renal failure) before you noticed symptoms. Again, don't blame yourself for not noticing 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! The sooner you can support the kidneys the longer you can have with your pet.

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.

How You Can Help Your Cat Stay Comfortable

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 animal's 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 saying goodbye. It won't make the loss any easier, but at least you can know your pet is no longer suffering.

The following treatments will help keep your pet comfortable and extend their life for some time. The success of the 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.

Be Prepared to Say 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 four months of more joy before I decided to put him down. Organ failure can be extremely painful, and there were days when he'd have a soft growl if I even touched him. He would wet the bed (and anyone that knows cats, knows 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.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2012 Rebecca


Rebecca (author) from USA on May 22, 2019:

ahh thanks Karen. I know it is so hard. I've had two go in my arms since this kitty from heart disease. It will never be easy to lose them. They are our family. I will keep you and Ashley in my thoughts and prayers. I am certain you gave her a wonderful life and did all you could. Sadly they just have metabolism's that are faster than ours. :(

Karen Wagner Niecgorski on May 16, 2019:

Rebecca, I want to say how sorry I am for you losing your precious kitty. I have lost mine to renal failure on 5-14-2019. I enjoyed reading your post about this disease because I felt as though you were talking just to me. It happened so fast in my Ashley I did not have a choice but to say good bye. She was 11 1/2 yrs. old, I thought I’d have her longer so naturally it hit me hard! I still have her 2 brothers so hopefully they stay with me at least a few more years. All my cats are indoor cats.My heart aches as well as you know. Take care ! Karen

Rebecca (author) from USA on March 10, 2014:

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.

Susi on March 10, 2014:

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.