Preventing Kidney Disease in Cats

Preventing Kidney Disease in Cats

Acute vs. Chronic Kidney Disease

There are two common types of kidney disease, acute and chronic. Acute kidney disease is when there is abrupt damage to the kidney. Abrupt damage is usually caused by a toxin, infection, or shock. Cats usually show signs of vomiting and weakness or lethargy, and in some cases, they will urinate a lot or not at all, depending on the way the kidney was damaged.

Chronic Kidney Disease
Chronic Kidney disease is the persistent loss of kidney function over time. It’s important for your cat’s kidneys to stay healthy because the kidneys are responsible for filtering blood and producing urine. If the kidneys are not healthy they can cause a variety of different diseases in cats, but the most common disease is Chronic Kidney Disease. Due to the kidneys being a waste filtration system, sometimes that waste can build up which can make cats ill.

Symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease

When waste begins to build up in the kidneys it can cause cats to look unkept, lose weight, appear lethargic, and/or seem ill.This build up of waste can also limit their kidneys ability to concentrate urine, which makes them urinate larger amounts and to compensate for the amount of fluid they are losing, your cat will increase their water intake. Often times when cats are experiencing this, you may notice them sitting at the water bowl drinking for long periods of time, or that you are having to fill the water bowl more frequently than before.

Prevention of Chronic Kidney Disease

  1. Protect your cat from toxic substances
    • This seems a simple enough concept, but cats tend to have the uncanny ability to get into places they don’t belong. Make sure that toxic substances like chemicals, such as antifreeze and cleaners, are locked away in a cabinet and messes are cleaned up immediately. Also make sure your cat does not have the ability to access any of your or other pet’s medications. The last thing that is very important are house plants. All sorts of house plants can cause vomiting or diarrhea if your cat chews or eats them, but Lilies are particularly toxic and should be removed immediately so your cat does not have access to them.
  2. Take your cat in for regular checkups
    • Chronic Kidney Disease builds over time, this is why it is important to go to your vet for routine checkups. These routine checkups will increase the likelihood that you will catch any sign of disease and can start treatment early on. As part of this checkup, it is important to do routine blood work even when your cat is healthy. Routine blood work can give the veterinarian a baseline of what is normal when your cat is healthy and then they can monitor changes over time.
  3. Encourage your cat to drink plenty of fluids
    • If your cat can drinks plenty of water on a daily basis it can help prevent the buildup of waste in your cat’s kidneys and keep them stay healthier for longer. Make sure your cat’s water bowl is clean and filled with fresh clean water often. If possible, a water fountain is prefered because it encourages cats to drink. Another way to get your cat to take in fluids is through feeding them wet food.
  4. Make it easy for your cat to go #1
    • It is important that your cat has easy access to the litter box and that it is in a comfortable environment. Most often people place the litter box in the bathroom because it is not a common place for people or other animals to be. It is also important to clean your cat’s litter box often so they don’t get discouraged from urinating.

Kidney Disease is unfortunately very common in cats, but with these prevention measures you may be able to prevent your cat from developing the disease, or be able to catch it early on.  Every cat responds differently to treatment of Kidney Disease whether it is acute or chronic. If your cat does get diagnosed with Kidney Disease, initiating treatment early on will help them maintain a good quality of life. If you feel like your cat may be exhibiting any of the above signs, please call your veterinarian for an appointment.


Kaylin Stinski

Throughout my life I have always been very passionate about animals and have worked in the veterinary medicine field for the last 10 years. Outside of working directly with the animals, I really enjoy educating clients on the overall care of their pets; not only from a medical perspective, but also discussing general concerns such as behavioral interventions and preventative care.

16 thoughts on “Preventing Kidney Disease in Cats

  1. Great post, Marc.
    One of my cats went into hospital for 5 days short time ago.
    Bølle is 14 years old and had kidney disease. Now he is on special diet for the rest of his life.
    We chose to get his brother Hvide at same diet and Hvides health has improved much for that. Both are thriving better now.

    1. Gosh that’s really good to know as my boy is nearly 11 and I keep looking out for signs. As he goes outside its quite difficult to keep a check on his urine although I have managed to watch sometimes and he seems alright just now.

      1. My cats are allowed to stay outside, while I’m home and inside while alone home and in the nights.
        Mine started to go much down in weight, then stopped eating. Just be awake for signs.

  2. Excellent article. Mr.M lived feral for his first few years and had chronic issues with this, but he has been doing great for over a year. 1) he has a water fountain and 2) we put a little Natural Pet Pharmaceuticals by King Bio Urinary Tract Irritations Control for Cat in his water. In fact, since we began this, the only time he has had an issue of that sort was last summer when we forgot to tell the pet sitter to put the preventive meds in his water when they changed it.

  3. I changed my cats over to an all wet food diet because I’m hoping to prevent this. They love the wet food and they even do still drink a little water too.

    1. Nora, your are on the right track by changing your cats to an all wet food diet, as dry food is the cause of several diseases that are common in cats now, when they were rare before the advent of dry food. The lack of moisture in dry food in cats’ food is the issue, as you seem to already know. For anyone else reading this…here is the science behind the negatives of dry food for cats
      ..https://feline-nutrition.org/answers/answers-what-dry-food-does-to-your-cat-s-pee

  4. Marc,

    May I make a few comments about this article. It did not address the most common causes of chronic kidney disease which is stress and diet. I thought it important to suggest to all cat lovers that a 24/7 diet of kibble over time will dehydrate the kitty, stress the kidneys and concentrate the urine which will destroy kidney cells. Yes this takes many years to manifest, but we humans have direct control on kitty’s diet.

    Second is about toxins. I strongly urge folks to understand that their tap water may be the cause of both acute and chronic kidney failure. All water should be filtered and if your fountain has filters to remove things such and chlorine, fluorine, pesticides and heavy metals? Otherwise your kitty my be drinking from a toxic water supply. Reverse osmosis combined with a carbon filter is likely the best available for residential water. The best would be steam distilled but few folks have access to that equipment.

    There was mention of blood panel for your cat and yes one should do a panel while kitty is young, say 4-5 years old then again at “senior” age of 10-12 years of age. Vet can quickly see if there is any chronic condition to kitty’s kidneys and other key organs such as liver and pancreas.

    1. Claudeone is so right about kidney problems in cats being related directly to their diet. After feeding dry food to my cats for many years, I lost some of them directly to diet related illnesses. I did not know then, that diet was the cause. A few years ago. I began to read about cat nutrition and changed what I was feeding the two young cats that live with me now. I raw feed my cats, but the best quality wet food that you can afford is good. Miles better than any dry food, no matter how much you paid for it, because the issue with dry food is the lack of moisture. You can read about this in many places on the internet…..here is one. After reading this link, do your own investigation, for the sake of your cats. u raw feed my cats, but just a decent quality wet food would be miles better than a diet of dry food…
      https://catcentric.org/nutrition-and-food/no-kibble/

  5. Kidney disease is very often caused by a diet of dry food, fed long term. This link is one place to begin to read about that. Cats are obligate carnivores. They can survive on dry food, but cannot thrive. They must have moisture in their food, ie canned or raw food. Kibble fed cats cannot drink enough water to make up for the lack of moisture in thier diets. At the least, read about the subject before you dismiss this post….
    https://catcentric.org/nutrition-and-food/no-kibble/…..

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