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Kidney Failure in Cats: Symptoms and Treatments

In our last post we looked at Our Top Picks for Fighting Feline parasites, today Kidney Failure takes center stage. Cat owners are cat lovers. Cats are loving companions and give us joy as we watch them play with cat toys and with each other. When they are happy with us they may lay purring next to us while “making muffins” on our laps. Our pets become members of our family and we want to do what we can to keep them happy and healthy.

Kidney failure in cats is more common than it is in dogs. It can progress slowly as cats age especially if they don’t get enough daily fluid. It is believed that cats evolved as desert-living animals and therefore didn’t develop the desire to drink water but rather obtained fluids from eating small animals and insects.

It’s important that we offer our cats wet cat food to help them get the moisture and protein they need in their diet. Some cats prefer dry kibble and will not eat moist canned cat food which can contribute to kidney failure in cats. Offer your cat different brands and flavors or add water to a food they do eat to get more fluid into their diet.

In some areas there can be toxins in tap water that can build up in a cat’s system and also add to kidney failure in cats as they age. Give your cats purified water if you have tap water you wouldn’t drink yourself.

If you are lucky your cat may love drinking water. Cats often sit at the sink or in the bath tub waiting for the faucet to be turned on so they can lap at the stream of water. Cats often jump into the shower after we step out to catch the last drops of dripping water. Most cats like their water bowls to be refreshed often and won’t drink stale water.

Pet fountains are designed to keep a steady stream of moving water that encourages cats to drink more. Be thankful your cat asks you to turn the faucet on for them regularly as it may reduce their chance of feline kidney failure as they age.


Kidney failure in cats progresses slowly and you may not know your cat is suffering until symptoms began to appear. Damaged kidneys loose the ability to filter and remove toxins from the blood and to excrete them into the urine. Your cat may begin to show the following signs:

  • Signs of weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Overall lethargic

A cat may start drinking obsessively and urinating in places other than the cat box. Cats with feline kidney failure stop grooming themselves, their coat appears dull and their skin will be dry and flaky. If you observe changes in your pet’s behavior or appearance, it’s time for a trip to the vet.


There is no cure for feline kidney failure but it can be treated and the disease managed to give cats a better quality of life for a few more years. Your cat will be given blood and urinary tests to determine if any other disease is present and what the toxicity levels are so that treatment can begin to make your cat feel better.

If the cat is seriously dehydrated, fluids may need to be administered under their skin. You can be shown how to do this at home as it may have to be done for the rest of the cat’s life while they live with feline kidney failure.

It will be important to help your cat eat and drink to maintain their health. If they will not eat the prescribed diet from your vet, feed them what they will eat. Offer them small feedings throughout the day.

Try small amounts of high quality animal protein such as calf liver or egg. Mix a teaspoon of quality fish oil into their food to help their skin and coat. Feline kidney failure limits the amount of protein waste the kidneys can now excrete. Your cat will need more potassium and B vitamins which is lost in the urine.

Kidney failure in cats can bring on many complications that range from heart and joint problems to eye or dental issues. Regular checkups at your pet clinic will help give your cat the best quality of life.

In our next article we look at Lice and Cat Ear Mites.
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