Cat Tips

Kidney Disease in Cats

Kidney Failure in Cats

Kidney damage or dysfunction is common in cats and can happen for various reasons, many of which can be prevented. Causes include medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, salt poisoning, too much processed food, and too much protein, specifically synthetic protein. As a pet parent, it is important to know which precautions to take to help decrease the chance that your cat will develop this condition. Let’s dive into this comprehensive guide for understanding kidney disease in cats.

Cats and Kidneys

Just like us, cats have 2 kidneys, one on each side of the abdomen. Their role is to filter out waste from the system. They also help regulate the body’s balance of fluids, minerals, and electrolytes. Apart from that, kidneys help conserve water and protein, maintaining healthy blood pressure, and red blood cell production in a cat’s body.

What is Kidney Disease in Cats?

There are 2 major types of kidney diseases in cats; acute and chronic.

Acute Kidney Disease – It is defined as the sudden loss of kidney function over a period of a few hours or a few days. The causes can include –

  • Viral infections like feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus

  • Parasitic infections like kidney worms

  • Bacterial infections

  • Tick-borne diseases

  • Toxin ingestion, such as the ingestion of antifreeze, lilies, and certain antibiotics

  • Low blood pressure caused by shock and hypotension

  • Obstructive uropathy – a cat being unable to urinate

Chronic Kidney Disease – It is defined as a progressive disease that causes the kidneys to lose their function over time. Causes can include -

  • Immune-mediated diseases

  • High blood pressure caused by stroke-like events or hypertension

  • Clotting disorders

  • Cancer, for example, lymphoma

  • Abnormal protein deposits that lead to kidney damage

  • Development of cysts within a kidney that leads to progressive kidney failure

  • Congenital kidney dysplasia

  • Consequence of acute kidney injury

Symptoms of Kidney Disease in Cats

The symptoms of kidney disease can include –

  • Dehydration, leading to increased thirst and urination

  • Frequent vomiting, frequent diarrhea, and cloudy urine

  • Sores in the mouth

  • Bad breath

  • Weight loss

  • Decreased appetite

  • Fever, lethargy, and decreased activity

  • Discomfort in the lower back area when touched

Some of these symptoms can be minor and can appear similar to the symptoms of multiple other conditions. This is why it's important to consult a vet as soon as start to notice these symptoms in your cat.

Common Causes of Kidney Disease in Cats

While various conditions and scenarios can cause kidney disease, the most common ones are –

  • Bacterial infections

  • Viral infections

  • Toxins such as ethylene glycol (antifreeze) and heavy metals

  • Immune-mediated diseases, when the body's immune system attacks its own tissues

  • Congenital defects

  • Aging

  • Severe trauma

Diagnosing Kidney Disease in Cats

Blood and urine tests are usually performed on the cat to diagnose kidney issues. These may include –

  • Blood Urea Nitrogen – High values can cause kidney failure

  • Creatinine - Checks how well the kidneys can filter waste

  • Phosphorous - High levels indicate kidney damage

  • Electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and chloride – Lower values indicate lack of appetite or vomiting

  • Calcium – High levels sometimes indicate kidney issues

  • Red Blood cell count – Low levels may indicate kidney failure

  • Urine Specific Gravity – To check how diluted or concentrated a cat's urine is

  • Urine sediment – To check for the presence of protein, bacteria, white/red blood cells, and kidney cells in the urine.

  • Kidney Biopsy – Additional test to check for glomerular diseases

Your cat would then be classified into 1 of 4 stages based on the severity of their symptoms.

  • Stage 1 – No clinical signs present

  • Stage 2 – Minor clinical signs

  • Stage 3 – Several signs diagnosed and the cat is sick

  • Stage 4 – Major clinical signs diagnosed and the cat is in crisis

How is Kidney Disease in Cats Treated?

Medications, diet, and hydration are the 3 usual methods for treating kidney problems in cats. These can include –

  • Fluids- Plenty of fluids will be given to help flush out toxins and keep the cat’s blood pressure stable.

  • Diet- The cat will be put on a low protein and phosphorus diet to slow the progression of the disease.

  • Medications- Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and blood pressure medications may be prescribed to help with symptoms.

  • Surgery- Surgery may be needed to correct a congenital defect or to remove a cancerous tumor.

Can Cats recover from kidney damage?

This will depend on the stage of kidney problem that your cat is in. Once the kidney is declared damaged by the vet, it is very difficult to recover. However, with careful management of your cat's diet and medications, the symptoms of a chronic cat disease can be slowed down and a quality life can be assured for the cat for several years.

How to Prevent Kidney Problems in Cats?

As a caring pet parent, you should know all the ways to help prevent kidney problems in your cat. These can include –

  • Limit your pet’s exposure to toxic substances like anti-freeze, human medications, and lilies.

  • Check if your cat’s breed is prone to kidney problems. Abyssinians and Persians usually have a genetic predisposition to kidney problems.

  • Ensure you visit your vet and conduct an overall health check-up for your cat once or twice a year.

  • Read the above-mentioned signs and symptoms of kidney problems in cats and keep an eye out for any signs in your cat.


Kidney problems are quite common in cats, so as a pet parent, it's crucial to take precautionary steps to help decrease your cat's risk. Limit their exposure to toxic substances, check to see if your cat has a genetic predisposition, and talk to your vet about any concerns you may have at your pet's next checkup.

  1. "Kidney Disease in Cats," PetMD,, May 9, 2022.

  2. "4 Must Know Tips for Preventing Kidney Failure in Cats,", accessed Jan. 22, 2024.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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