10 Common Causes of Kidney Disease in Cats

1. Infection of kidney tissues (pyelonephritis)
Infection of kidney tissues with bacteria or, rarely, fungal organisms, is one of the kidney diseases that may have a more favorable outcome, so your veterinarian will be on the lookout for it. Our goal with pyelonephritis is to kill the bacteria that cause the damaging inflammation. This should limit progression of any chronic kidney disease or assist with recovery from an acute kidney injury. A bacterial urine culture and susceptibility can verify the infection and identify which antibiotic might work the best.

2. Kidney stones (nephrolithiasis)
Kidney stones can be the product of chronic bacterial infection, genetics or diseases that alter blood or urine characteristics. Nephro (kidney) liths (stones) don’t seem to cause cats much pain, but this can change if they cause blockage within the kidney or its collecting ducts; it can also change if they contribute to infection (See pyelonephritis).

Learn more about kidney stones in cats.

3. Kidney blockage (ureteral obstruction with hydronephrosis)
Kidney stones can fragment and be carried along with urine into the ureter, the long narrow tube that connects each kidney to the urinary bladder. They are probably painful during their transit, and a significant concern is the consequence to the kidney if they become lodged in the ureter, causing partial or complete blockage. New urine cannot exit the kidney easily and it backs up, causing the kidneys to swell. With enough pressure, the kidneys enlarge (hydronephrosis) and become damaged. If both ureters obstruct at the same time, it can prove disastrous.

4. Toxins
Lots of household items can harm the kidneys, not just antifreeze. The petals, leaves and pollen of true lilies, even the water in their vase, can cause severe kidney injury when cats nibble, lick or chew them. This is one floral delivery you should refuse! Common OTC medications, like aspirin, other nonsteroidals (NSAIDs) or prescribed medications, can all cause kidney disease. Cats that are known for being finicky about food, and almost everything else, will still eat pills they find on the counter or floor, so keep all meds in cat- proof containers. And always discuss the use of ANY medications with your vet.

If you have any reason to believe your cat has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian or an emergency veterinarian right away. You may also contact:

  • ASPCA Poison Control (888) 426-4435
  • Pet Poison Helpline (855) 764-7661

5. Damage to kidney tubules (tubulointerstitial disease)
Inflammation and damage to the kidney tubules and supporting tissues commonly leads to chronic kidney disease. In many cases, there is no identified cause, and thus, no option for specific treatment. This type of kidney disease can only be confirmed by microscopic examination of a kidney biopsy specimen, but biopsies are not usually recommended.

6. Damage to the kidney filters (glomerular disease)
The glomerulus of the kidney (kidney filtration mechanism) can be involved in feline kidney disease. Early on, we expect no signs of illness from this condition, but since glomerular disease may be caused by infections such as FIP/FeLV, or by cancer (amongst other things), time can make the problems worse. Over time, inflammation in the glomerulus of the kidney damages the surrounding kidney tissues, creating chronic kidney disease that makes your cat feel sick.

Learn more about glomerular disease in cats.

7. FIP (feline infectious peritonitis)
The kidneys are a common target for this severe inflammatory disease of domestic and wild cats. Some cats, especially youngsters, develop fever and effusions (fluid buildup) in the chest or abdomen, and decline rapidly. Cats with noneffusive (dry) FIP tend to be older and show more vague signs of illness. Your veterinarian may become concerned about the possibility of FIP when feeling swollen and lumpy, bumpy kidneys (the inflammatory cells may be distorting the outer layers of the kidney).

Learn more about feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).

8. Cancer
Fortunately, kidney cancer is not very common in cats. Unfortunately, treatment options for kidney cancer are rather limited. Solitary tumors, affecting only one kidney, can be removed by surgery with a good outcome, if the cancer is benign or has not spread to other parts of the body (including the opposite kidney). Your cat only needs one good kidney to function normally. If the cancer is more widespread (as usually occurs with lymphosarcoma), surgery will not be an option for a cure. Microscopic analysis of a biopsy or small needle sample is needed for the correct diagnosis of cancer and for an appropriate treatment plan.

Learn the 3 most common cancers in cats.

9. Protein problem (amyloidosis)
Patients with amyloidosis lose function in certain organs, including the kidneys, because protein deposits replace the normal tissue. It is an uncommon consequence of chronic inflammation affecting other parts of the body, or it may be genetically programmed in some breeds, like the Abyssinian, Siamese, or Oriental shorthair. Amyloid deposits cannot be cleared away, and the functional kidney tissue that is lost cannot be replaced, so the prognosis is not good.

Learn more about amyloidosis in cats.

10. Hereditary
Familial kidney disease is well known in the Abyssinian and Persian breeds, and is being found in more fancy breeds. The structural changes it causes are not reversible, but may not cause illness until later in life. Many laboratories offer DNA testing for polycystic kidney disease, so responsible breeders can avoid mating affected cats. Polycystic kidneys develop many small or large grape-like, fluid- filled cysts, beginning early, but the kidneys usually compensate until later age. Cats with amyloidosis (See above.) show signs of kidney disease as young or old cats, so it’s varied in onset.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.


  1. Lulich JP, Osborne CA, O’Brien TD, Polzin DJ. Feline renal failure: questions, answers, questions. Compend Contin Educ Pract Vet. 1992;14(2):127–153.
  2. "Advances in Diagnosing and Staging Chronic Kidney Disease in Dogs and Cats." Laboratories, Inc.. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.

Kidney Disease in Cats: Causes, Signs and Treatment

Chronic kidney disease is one of the most common diseases in older cats. However, it can occur in animals of any age. There are multiple causes of kidney disease and one of the very frustrating things about this disease is that often by the time it is identified, the cause itself is no longer present and is no longer treatable. And by the time there are obvious abnormalities in kidney blood values, which is a common mode of kidney disease detection, you have marked kidney disease.

The best method of early detection is a urinalysis. But usually animals with early renal disease are not showing any signs of illness, or if they are, the signs are minimal. So, unless it’s part of a routine wellness check with astute techs and vets, the disease is often missed.

Kidney Disease in Cats

Acute kidney disease comes on suddenly and is most often brought on by trauma, poisoning or toxicity, or some condition that causes kidney failure. The more common diagnosis is chronic renal failure (CRF), a progressive disease that impacts kidney function over time. CRF is the leading cause of death among older cats.

Chronic renal disease occurs when functional nephrons within the kidneys die off. When this occurs the kidneys cannot effectively filter waste and then toxins build up in the body. Cats are experts at masking signs of disease and discomfort, but there are clues to CRF in cats.

Symptoms of chronic renal failure in cats include:

  • Excessive thirst/urinating more
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Strong ammonia smell to breath
  • Depression
  • Drooling
  • Hunching over water bowl
  • Muscle wasting
  • Dull, unkempt coat

Contact us right away if your pet is experiencing any of these signs.

We have advanced that chronic kidney failure is a silent , slowly progressive disease, whose symptoms usually appear long after the kidney begins to deteriorate.

Undoubtedly, the early detection counts in our favor, so we must be attentive to the symptoms.

The most common early signs are:

  • Excess urine –polyuria–
  • Constant need to drink water -polydipsia-

As the pathology progresses :

  • Lack of appetite
  • Weightloss
  • Decrease in activity –lethargy–
  • Drowsiness
  • Depression
  • Soft spot
  • Halitosis
  • Mouth ulcers

Over time, deterioration occurs, making initial symptoms worse :

  • Dehydration
  • Deteriorated coat
  • Hollow eyes
  • Dryness of the mucous membranes
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Severe nervous disorders

Since the kidney performs various functions, other associated complications may also appear:

  • Low levels of potassium in the blood
  • High concentration of phosphorus
  • Acidosis
  • Hypertension
  • Anemia

In no case should a feline that urinate a lot be deprived of water as it could become dehydrated Remember that the cat must always have clean and fresh water at its disposal in its drinking fountain.

Watch the video: Is Chronic Kidney Disease CKD Reversible with Diet?

Previous Article

Summertime Dehydration and Your Dog

Next Article

False Pregnancy (Pseudocyesis) in Dogs

Video, Sitemap-Video, Sitemap-Videos