I have rescued and adopted many pets over the years. Keeping my pets healthy and happy is my number one priority.
One of the most common fatal ailments in cats is kidney failure, also known as kidney failure or kidney disease. The disease is progressive and the first symptoms may not be very evident. But as your cat’s failure progresses, she’ll begin to show outward signs of the disease, such as weight loss, heavy drinking, and excessive urination.
This is an owner’s perspective on caring for a cat with kidney disease.
Why early diagnosis is important
When our cat first came to us, he was abandoned on the steps of our apartment building, covered in his own urine from fear and shivering from the cold. Its owners, who had lived below us, had abandoned it when they moved. He was one or two years old at the time.
After bringing the terrified long-haired tabby and taking him to the vet’s office for vaccinations, he became part of the family. Always a bit skittish, he only really began to relax and seek out a lap to feel comfortable and cuddled once he was over 10 years old. Last year, when he was around 14, we noticed that he had started to lose a bit of weight (never a good sign). but an especially ominous one if the cat is older). Some blood work from the vet’s office revealed that he was in the early stages of kidney failure.
Having adopted an older cat a few years ago who also had kidney failure and caring for her for nine months, I realized the slow decline we were facing with our beloved cat.
How can you help
You should work with your vet on an action plan for your cat’s care. Some cats can respond well to treatment, and some tend to drop pretty quickly, regardless of what the owner does.
If your cat is in the early stages of kidney failure, talk to your vet about:
- Types of food
- subcutaneous fluids
Creating a personalized plan for your cat can help keep her feeling better for longer.
Offer high-moisture foods to cats with kidney failure
A cat with kidney failure needs extra moisture, more than it can normally absorb simply by drinking water. One way to help them do this is to give them canned food.
A cat’s body is actually designed to acquire moisture and hydration from the food it eats. There is some evidence that feeding cats only dry food can contribute to urinary and kidney problems. With a cat with kidney failure, getting moisture out of food is even more important.
Until recently, veterinarians recommended a low protein diet for cats with kidney failure. More recent research may be moving away from this in some cases of kidney failure. It’s a balance between getting your cat to eat, which keeps him strong for longer, and trying to avoid eating foods that are hard on the kidneys (which are protein).
Every cat’s situation is unique and it is important to work with your vet to determine the best feeding plan for your cat.
In my situation, the cat with kidney failure was not eating well. We found out that he liked Friskies canned food, but he would stop eating if we gave him the same flavor every day. So we would buy variety packs and give it half a can in the morning and a half at night with water and dry food (Science Diet) out all day.
Subcutaneous fluids and hydration
Another way to get your cat to have more hydration is by giving it fluids at home. While the process may seem intimidating, it’s relatively simple, especially if you have two people. Your vet will demonstrate how to give your cat fluids and will decide how often and how much is needed.
For our cat, fluids every other day was the prescribed course. We would put the cat on the counter on a towel and hang the fluid bag on a hanger on top of the cabinets.
After placing a new needle, we pinch some skin on the back near the base of the neck and insert the needle. Sometimes the cat may be more nervous and you may need to gently hold him by the loose skin near his neck or use another recommended form of restraint without fear. I usually have the person help me when I insert the needle subcutaneously (SQ). We speak to him sweetly.
SQ fluids usually take just a few minutes. This process may leave a pocket under the skin, but the body will absorb and use the fluids, usually within a few minutes to a few hours.
If you are looking for ways to help your cat but are nervous about giving him the fluids, I encourage you to try it with your vet’s instructions. He seems more intimidating than he really is, and your cat will often perk up and start to feel better.
Medications for kidney failure in cats
There may also be medications that will help your cat feel better and slow the progression of kidney failure. Our vet prescribed a very cheap blood pressure medication that we are giving our cat along with his fluids. It’s a once-a-day pill that she believes can help take the pressure off her kidneys and keep her feeling better for longer.
Again, treatments are individualized based on the stage of kidney failure and your cat’s tolerance and particular needs. Working with your vet and letting him know what he wants and is willing to do will help you develop the best plan of action.
Many homeowners feel overwhelmed
When your cat is diagnosed with a serious ailment, it can be a very stressful time for both cat and owner. While none of us want to lose our pets, keep in mind that while your cat will eventually outgrow treatment, some owners have been able to extend their pets’ lives by up to three years. For others, it may only be a few weeks. For many owners, even a little extra time is worth it.
Don’t forget to give them lots of extra love and comfort during this time, and don’t be ashamed of facing your own emotions of worry, fear, and hurt. It’s all a natural part of our bond and a part of the process of caring for a sick or aging cat.
This article is accurate and true to the best knowledge and belief of the author. It is not intended to replace the formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription or advice of a veterinary medical professional. Animals showing signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
questions and answers
Ask: Should you try to get a cat to eat by putting a small amount on its lips?
Reply: In a few cases, I have gotten a cat to eat, but mostly by opening their mouths and cleaning the food off the rough roof of their mouths. You can also dilute the food with water and feed them with a syringe. There are high calorie supplements that are easy to give. I would consult your vet on the best methods in your situation.
© 2013 L. C. David
Ana1Az2 from Orange, Texas on February 2, 2014:
I have had cats for a long time, from 8 to now 4 at a time. When I lose one, even having all the others, it leaves a void. It is important to note that a good vet who knows cats is worth their weight in gold. There are plenty of vets that treat dogs and other pets, but if you can find one that at least knows more about cats or even specializes in them, that’s truly a blessing. Cats are harder to diagnose than dogs because they are so good at hiding their symptoms. It is always helpful if you know your cat or cats very well so that you can tell when they are not acting right.
Good and useful article and I upvoted it.
L. C. David (author) from Florida on December 3, 2013:
There’s nothing like those fellows knowing sometimes even before you do. We lost a cat to another illness and our kitty didn’t leave his side during the months he was declining.
Kidney disease is hard. Right now my 15 year old tabby is still drinking fluids every other day and taking blood pressure medication. I know that the day will come when these measures will no longer work and I am already dreading it.
moon lake of America on December 3, 2013:
We have lost a cat to kidney failure and that was hard, he was very close to me. He was also a senior and it was time to let him go. The morning we found out he had to go back to the vet, we put him to bed on his favorite rug and our dog lay down next to him and laid his head on the cat’s stomach. it was so sad the dog knew that his friend was dying.
Voted in its center.
L. C. David (author) from Florida on September 23, 2013:
Do. I believe that finding a vet that you trust is a very important part of having a pet.
writer fox from the wadi near the small river on September 23, 2013:
Sounds like you have a wonderful vet to help care for your cat and I hope all goes well. voted.
L. C. David (author) from Florida on September 22, 2013:
Thank you very much for now. I think it can be overwhelming trying to figure it out. However, I am very glad I did this as our son perked up and is eating and acting like before.
wounded marie from New Orleans, LA on September 22, 2013:
Upvoted and helpful. It’s hard when our feline friends get old and start to fade. However, we can make you feel more comfortable and come up with a plan to give you the best possible care.