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Kidney Failure in Cats: Introduction

Jennifer Sellers

The kidneys of a healthy cat are part of an efficient, essential system that filters waste from his bloodstream and sends it out of his body through urine.

black and white cat in a basket


When kidneys fail — sometimes referred to as renal failure — there is nothing in your cat’s body to take over this important job. As a result, waste and toxins begin to build up in his blood.

Types of Kidney Failure

There are two types of kidney failure in cats: chronic (ongoing) and acute (urgent). With chronic kidney failure, a cat’s kidneys fail progressively over time. An acute failure, on the other hand, presents an emergency that must be treated immediately. This doesn’t mean that chronic kidney failure isn’t serious. On the contrary, it’s the leading cause of death in pet cats.

Is Your Cat at Risk?

Chronic and acute kidney failure have different sets of risk factors. Things that can increase a cat’s risk of developing chronic kidney failure include:

  • Old age
  • Poor diet
  • Lifelong diet of dry food only
  • Genetics
  • High blood pressure
  • Dental disease
  • Low potassium levels

Any breed of cat can have chronic kidney failure, but it’s believed that Abyssinians and Persians develop the disease at a slightly higher rate.

Acute kidney failure can be caused by urinary tract blockages, abdominal trauma, infection or poison. Therefore, a major risk factor for this type of kidney failure in cats is living outdoors. To reduce your cat’s likelihood of developing this deadly condition, keep her indoors where you can monitor her diet and safety. Also be sure to keep antifreeze and Easter lilies away from your cat’s living area. These two items are top causes of poisoning-induced acute kidney failure in cats.

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