Just about two years ago my whole world seemed to come to a screeching halt. My cat was diagnosed with kidney failure. He complete a week of IV treatment in the hospital with improvement but still in the stages of kidney failure. I will never forget our vet saying that he may live a week to year. A WEEK! My cat was only 3 and a half years old at the time. While the outlook was grim the reality was much different. I really don’t see that share here on the internet. So I am here looking back over the last two years and we now have two CKD cats and letting you in on 10 things you need to know about cats with kidney failure.
Cats with Kidney Failure is Not a Death Sentence
I want to to start by saying don’t be me. I cried and cried convinced this was the end of my cat once he was diagnosed. Here I am two years later sitting on the couch with him spilling my experience with you. While this disease I agree is awful it can be managed plus the earlier you catch it the better the outlook.
Listen to your vet stay on top of therapy and you could get a lot more time and purrs with your cat. We haven’t given up yet. We have Olaf our first cat to get sick. He is Stage III and keeps us on our toes everyday, he is our trouble maker and his kidneys haven’t slowed him one bit. He was hospitalized, had x-rays, ultrasounds, seen a specialist what feels like the works. But what has amazed me the most is from this he has made me more and more cat educated. We have learned what the pain pose is and now when I look at blood work it means something to me instead of a jumbled mess of numbers.
Then I have my ragdoll cat Miss Tinkerbell she was diagnosed 7 months ago. Never did I think I would be battling this disease so quickly after the first. I went into this diagnosis head strong we did it once we could do it again.
I was so mad at the ER doctor looking at me like I was crazy and questioning our want to move forward with treatment. I had a cat walking around (which they said shouldn’t be possible) with end stage IV kidney failure. She had a creatinine of 14.9… basically off the charts. She came home and it was a battle to get her to eat, to figure out the nausea which turned into drool which turned into a severe mouth infection.
We thought she wasn’t going to normal out like Olaf. It got so bad she stopped eating, she no longer did anything other than huddle in pain, we were sure we were going to have to put her down. Then the morning we were going to make the call she turned around and improvements started and now I have a cat that seems more lively than she ever has in her whole life. I feel so guilty we got to that point but so glad we pushed through and made sure to explore all our treatment options.
This is my long winded way of saying we just don’t know where life is going to take us. I am so thankful I still have my two fluffy cats and for all the lessons I have learned along the way. Their stories aren’t over yet. They are both here teaching me lessons so I can turn around and share them here with you.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Water is key without it we would not have life. According to The Spruce Pets a cat’s body consists of 67 percent water. With managing Kidney Disease it’s your job to keep your cat’s body hydrated.
The problem is when a cat has kidney failure they stop being able to concentrate their urine. What the heck does that mean? Basically their body stops processing water and stops letting it get reabsorbed into the body. Instead the water just gets flushed straight out. Which makes for a cat that is going to pee way more than normal.
You can help you cat hydrated in a variety of ways. The first most common thing to start with is to add a water fountain to your house. Good news is for less than $30 you can pick one up off of Amazon.
A certain point in the progression of the disease your cat will be unable to drink enough to do stay hydrated on their own. This is where subQ comes into play. However I will dive into this topic more in a little bit.
Nutrition is Everything
Ever heard the phrase you are what you eat? That’s because what we put into our bodies, human and cats alike is import. With cats with kidney failure there are certain things you want to watch when it comes to their diet.
First off you want to keep their food low is Phosphorus. This tends to be really high in foods that have ground bone in them. Then there is the balance of protein. High protein makes the kidneys work harder but it also is essential for your cat’s survival. I try to blend moderate/moderate high protein for a balance however many vets will tell you to move to a low protein diet which long term isn’t sustainable for cats. We have tons of food recommendations over here.
Food can be a hot topic centered around kidney disease in cats just keep in mind no matter what anyone tells you the most important thing is a cat that is eating. Something even if it’s junk food is better than nothing. I also say go for the highest quality food you can afford to feed. Preferably wet food since it just adds in more water to their system. Look at the ingredients of any food you are considering feeding. You want high quality, ideally human grade meat since there are more restrictions on quality. Watch out for too many additives, fillers, and extras like veggies and carbs that cats don’t even need in their diets
Don’t Be Afraid to Question Things
What do I mean ask questions? I firmly believe your vet should not just help treat your cat but educate you as well. Do your own research, talk to other pet owner who are or have dealt with kidney disease.
Every checkup with bring our kitties in for I go with a hand written list of questions. This is the key to not forgetting. In the moment at the vet it can be overwhelming with everything going on and your cat being stressed out.
Supplements Do Help
If your cat is tolerant of taking medication, whether that means pilling or adding into a tasty treat I highly recommend adding some supplements to your cat’s routine. We have a whole list of natural supplements you can offer your cat that could actually improve your cats kidney values. For more on the options read this. It’s bit of a trial and error but we I believe they have helped our cat so much.
Prepare the Box
Ah the stinky litter box. We have so many interesting challenges with our cats since they have gotten kidney disease but I was not quite ready for the litter box issues.
Since my cat pees so much we have to be extra diligent on cleaning. His clumps get so big they can actually clog up our Litter Robot. Thankfully that doesn’t happen too much but if the box stops selfing cleaning and gets too dirty he will actually pee on the stairs.
Then I have my sweet girl who is even more unique. Interesting twist of events she will still use the regular box to go number #2 (aka poop) but would pee on rugs. Thankfully after some research helped me discover the magic of pee pads for cats.
Also I will take time to mention in this section it’s always a good idea to watch output. Constipation is a really common side effect of CKD and something you want to stay on top of. If you can keep an eye on your cat to make sure they are staying regular.
Watch the Weight
Your cats weight is a good indication of when something is going wrong. If you cat starts to losing weight odds are something is up and it’s time to get some new bloodwork done. The good news is weight is super easy to track and chart at home. Plus it doesn’t have to cost a thing if you already have a scale. If you need help with this you can read our tips for weighing your cat here. If you find yourself needed to help you cat gain weight I also have a whole list of tricks to help your cat with kidney disease gain weight.
You Can subQ
One of the scariest treatments related to kidney disease is subQ. I know I am not alone when I say poking your cat with a needle to pump them full of fluids is scary. I just couldn’t even process it at first.
The reality is my husband was the one who stepped up to the plate on this. He hates needles, it’s bad. Don’t let him know I said this but he nearly passes out when he has to get his annual flu shot. Despite all this he is able to handle the needles and he actually administers the fluids to both of the cats. It’s a dual team effort to keep things running smoothly.
Take a Look Inside the Mouth
Gum disease snuck up on us and it snuck up hard. SO. MUCH. DROOL. Our poor sweet Tinkerbell got dubbed stinker bell from the foul smelling drool that came with her gum disease.
When you look inside you are trying to see if they have red inflammation right along the gum line. We found that in addition to some rather large blisters. Eventually these did actually bleed as well the sooner you can address gum issues in your cat the better. Our biggest tip off to the start of bad gum issues is really bad breath. I mean cat’s breathe isn’t the great to start with but when tooth decay and gum issues starts it gets really stinky.
When these issues appear the vet can help with antibiotics and pain medication. If your cat was in good enough shape then they may even recommend a dental procedure to clean out or remove teeth. Some at home things to keep on hand for mouth issues is Slippery Elm Bark and Colloidal Silver. These two items were essential for getting Tinkerbell’s mouth issues cleared up.
Don’t Grieve Before They are Gone
I really, really struggled with this one. Both kidney disease diagnosis’ were a really hard pill for me to swallow. I felt like I let them down, somehow we had done something to cause it but ultimately we will never know. Despite running thousands of dollars in tests we never really got an answer is this just hereditary, or was this from kidney stones causing years of damage. They really couldn’t be sure.
Since this disease can’t be cured it can only be managed I instantly began to grieve for the lose of my cat even though they were very much alive. All of us have limited time on this earth but hearing this diagnosis just made it so real that I wouldn’t have my cat for much longer. However, the truth, some people have many years with their cat after a diagnosis of Kidney Disease. One lady I heard from had a cat live 5 years in stage IV kidney disease. Well, that news just blew my socks off!
So I implore you to be better than me. Don’t cry about losing your cats with kidney failure until you have actually had to say goodbye to them. Take the time to enjoy their love and purrs while you still have time together.