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  • Feline Kidney Disease – What Are Some Common Causes and Symptoms?

    Filed under Cat Health
    Nov 6

    Felix: April 11, 1995 to November 4, 2009

    Feline kidney disease is one of the most common cat ailments.  It usually occurs in older cats, but it has been known to happen at almost any age.

    Although not all causes and symptoms of cat kidney failure are well known, veterinarians have been able to identify some of the reasons why the disease occurs, some of the things to watch for, and a few things that can be done to help prevent it in your cat, and help him to live a longer, fuller life.

    Causes of Kidney Disease in Cats

    One of the most frequent contributors to the development of feline kidney disease is lack of enough water in the diet.  Remember that cats originated in Africa, and are genetically evolved to live in a very dry climate.  In such a habitat, most of the water in the diet comes from the prey that the cat hunts and eats.  As a result, cats do not tend to drink enough water.  Many cat owners feed their cats strictly a dry food diet, which can cause them to become dehydrated over time.  This is hard on the kidneys, and if continued can help to cause kidney disease.   And, I’m afraid this was probably one of the causes of Felix’s disease.  If I had been more aware of a cat’s need for moisture in the diet, I would have been feeding canned food as well.  Since becoming better informed I have switched Eric’s diet to include canned food twice a day.

    Another thing that has been linked to disease of the kidneys is when the cat has dental or periodontal problems.  Good hygiene is a very important part of taking care of a cat’s teeth.  If the teeth or gums get swollen with infection, the toxic substances leach into the cat’s bloodstream and eventually get into his kidneys.  Although the kidney’s function is to filter out toxins in the blood, the antibodies produced to fight the infection can accumulate over time, causing disease and lasting damage.

    Finally, there is some indication that the vaccine for feline distemper may be related to development of swelling in the kidneys, which probably contributes to the cause of disease. Keep in mind that your cat does not need distemper shots every year.  Talk about this with your veterinarian to make sure you have the latest information about vaccine recommendations.  In fact, as your vet will probably tell you, if your cat has feline kidney disease, he should not be given any shots whatsoever.

    Symptoms of Kidney Disease in Cats

    It’s a good idea to watch your cat for any signs of kidney trouble. Early detection can be extremely valuable, and would allow you to get a head start on any treatments put in place by your vet.  It is generally recommended to start testing your cat’s blood for signs of kidney disease once he reaches the age of about seven.   In addition, you can do your part at home by observing your cat’s behavior and appearance.

    One of the first and most noticeable symptoms of the disease is an increase in drinking and in urination.  Keep an eye on your cat, especially as he ages.  If you notice him drinking more water than normal, or visiting the litter box to urinate more often, you should talk to your veterinarian.  She will most likely recommend a blood test for your cat, so that any disorder can be positively identified.    There are several conditions that can cause increased drinking and peeing, so it’s important to find out what is going on in your cat’s case!

    Other symptoms that occur as a cat’s kidney disease becomes more serious are lack of interest in eating, weight loss, vomiting, and worsening quality of his coat.  These symptoms normally start to happen only after the disease has progressed significantly, and we did see all of these in Felix during the last few months of his life.   So again, do your best to detect any signs of problems in your cat, and see your veterinarian right away if you notice something wrong.  With feline kidney disease, time truly is of the essence!

    To the health of your cats,


    Related Posts:

    What You Need to Know About Cat Food For Kidney Disease

    How to Get a Cat to Eat when he has Kidney Disease

    Treating a Cat With Kidney Disease Using Subcutaneous Fluids

    Living Day to Day With Feline Kidney Disease


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6 Responses to “Feline Kidney Disease – What Are Some Common Causes and Symptoms?”

  1. Stephanie said on


    Thanks for a very informative article. I have a 5 year old otherwise very health cat who has always had trouble keeping food down. Unfortunately, wet food makes the issue worse. Can that contribute to a cat’s dehydration?

  2. Yes, a lot of vomiting and/or diarrhea can contribute to dehydration. I understand that this can happen if you switch their food abruptly. If possible, can you “phase in” the wet food little by little?

  3. Kim Rawks said on

    Hey – just stumbled across your blog and wanted to share story. My aunt had a cat – a long lanky tabby – who lived to be 23 years old. And even when he passed he didn’t appear to be a senior feline citizen. 🙂 His diet? He loved fruit – especially pineapple and melons. Odd, huh? no dehydration there.

  4. 23, that’s pretty amazing! I’ve heard that cats in the wild eat a little fruit as part of their natural diet though. Felix used to love cantalope too, and we would give him tiny pieces or let him lick the rinds. So maybe that isn’t so strange. Thanks for sharing Kim!

  5. Jennifer Darnell said on

    The family cat had this when I was a little girl. I used to call Calli my best buddy but watched him slowly get weaker until one day he was just gone. Being only 7 I didn’t know the vet bills my parents took on. But he as a part of the family and I would spend the money in a heartbeat to treat a friend. 🙁

  6. Felix’s vet bills went through the roof, and he was worth every penny!