Understanding Kidney Disease in Cats

Kidney disease is a common condition that can affect our feline companions as they age. In fact, it’s one of the leading causes of illness and mortality in older cats. Understanding the signs of kidney disease and seeking prompt veterinary care can make a significant difference in managing the condition and improving your cat’s quality of life.

What Are the Kidneys and What Do They Do?

Before delving into kidney disease, let’s take a moment to appreciate the vital role these organs play in your cat’s overall health. Cats have two bean-shaped kidneys located in their abdomen, and their primary function is to filter waste products from the blood, regulate electrolytes, and maintain proper hydration. In essence, the kidneys function as the body’s natural waste disposal system.

Types of Kidney Disease in Cats

Kidney disease in cats can be broadly categorized into two types: acute kidney disease and chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Acute Kidney Disease occurs suddenly and is often the result of factors like poisoning, infections, or urinary blockages. Cats with acute kidney disease may exhibit symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and lethargy. Prompt veterinary intervention is crucial in these cases to address the underlying cause and provide supportive care.

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is more commonly seen in older cats and is a persistent decrease of kidney function over time. Early stages of CKD may not present any noticeable symptoms, making regular check-ups essential for early detection. As the disease progresses, cats may show signs like increased thirst and urination, weight loss, poor appetite, and lethargy.

Signs to Watch For:

Recognizing the signs of kidney disease in your cat is crucial for timely intervention and improved prognosis. Here are some key indicators to be mindful of:

  • Increased Thirst and Urination: If you notice that your cat is drinking more water than usual and using the litter box frequently, it could be a sign of kidney trouble. Cats with kidney disease often struggle to concentrate their urine, leading to increased fluid intake and urination.
  • Changes in Appetite: Cats with kidney disease may lose interest in food, leading to weight loss and muscle wasting. They may also experience nausea, which can contribute to decreased appetite.
  • Vomiting and Diarrhea: Gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea can occur in cats with kidney disease. These symptoms may be intermittent but should not be ignored.
  • Bad Breath: An unpleasant ammonia-like odor on your cat’s breath can be indicative of kidney disease. This odor results from the buildup of waste products in the bloodstream.
  • Lethargy: Cats with kidney disease often become lethargic and less active than usual. They may spend more time resting and less time playing or exploring.
  • Poor Coat Condition: A cat’s coat may lose its luster and become unkempt due to kidney disease. You might notice matting or a lack of grooming.
  • Mouth Ulcers and Oral Discomfort: Cats with kidney disease can develop mouth ulcers and oral inflammation, which can make eating painful.
  • Changes in Behavior: Some cats with kidney disease may exhibit changes in behavior, such as increased irritability or disorientation.

Early Detection Is Key

Detecting kidney disease in its early stages is crucial for providing the best care and improving your cat’s quality of life. If you notice any of the above signs, it is important to schedule a veterinary visit promptly. Your veterinarian can perform blood and urine tests to assess kidney function and develop a tailored treatment plan.

Managing Kidney Disease

While there is no cure for chronic kidney disease, early diagnosis and proper management can slow its progression and enhance your cat’s well-being. Treatment options may include:

  • Dietary Changes: Specialized kidney diets can help reduce the workload on the kidneys and manage symptoms.
  • Fluid Therapy: In some cases, fluid therapy may be necessary to maintain hydration and support kidney function.
  • Medications: Medications can address specific symptoms and complications associated with kidney disease.
  • Regular Check-ups: Ongoing monitoring and regular veterinary check-ups are essential to track your cat’s condition and make necessary adjustments to their treatment plan.


Kidney disease is a significant health concern for cats, especially as they age. Being attentive and aware of the signs and symptoms can make a substantial difference in your cat’s overall health and longevity. Early detection and proper management are the keys to providing the best possible care for your feline friend. If you suspect that your cat may be showing signs of kidney disease, don’t hesitate to consult with your veterinarian for a thorough evaluation including blood work and guidance on how to support your cat’s kidney health.