This is the million dollar question, how long can a cat live with kidney failure? I know this is the first thing I sought the answer to upon hearing my little guy with diagnosed with kidney disease. When you google these things of course the answer are grim I mean some places, including my vet said my cat may only live another week or maybe a year at best. But I am letting you take a deep breath out right now because while some cats may not make it very long with kidney disease others have years more to live.
Of course there are so many factors that go into your cats health and how long they will live. I really think a lot of it has to do with genes but I want to share with you some research as well as my first hand experience with kidney disease in cats. Both of my two who have gotten kidney disease have live more than a year let’s dig more into their stories.
What the Research Shows on Life Expectancy of a Cat with Kidney Disease
Thankfully we have some studies we can reflect upon to see just how long cats can live with kidney failure.
- Stage II at the time of diagnosis was 1,151 days (with a range 2 – 3,107 days)
- Survival in stage III the median 778 days (with a range 22 – 2,100 days)
- Stage IV the median was 103 days (with a range 1 – 1,920 days)
These stats were from a 2008 survey of 211 cats you can read the full study here.
How Long My Cat Lived with Stage 3 Kidney Failure
My precious boy Olaf, really the reason you see me write so much about this horrible disease is him. He was my first cat I adopted him along with my brother as soon as I moved out on my own. No roommates could tell me no cats! It broke my heart to see him go and sharing our lesson learned with him has helped me move through my grieving process.
It all started when we noticed he was starting to lose weight and just not be as active as his usual self. We made an appointment to go to the vet but we weren’t fast enough. A few days later we woke up an his head was tucked in and he was walking wobbly.
When we took him to the vet he was treated for a potassium deficiency and we met our lovely veterinarian that has been with us through our entire journey with kidney disease. Testing told us he had all the markers for kidney disease and we immediately started treatment. He went in for 5 days of 24/7 IV treatment at the animal hospital. He had x-rays done and an ultrasound. We ran more tests to confirm it wasn’t cancer and everything came back negative.
When he released he was on the border between stage 3 and stage 4 kidney disease. We took him into a specialist who said he had signs of kidney stones that may be causing a blockage and had previously damaged his other kidney. We were for about a month able to give him subQ fluids and started him on all sorts of supplements, CBD oil, Omega 3, Tripsy, Tumeric and Milk Thistle. We switched his diet to a mix of prescription kidney diet and commercial low phosphorous food. We did frequent checkins and his numbers held stable for about a year.
Then we had to fight the fight of high blood pressure. He started a medication called Sementra which helped his protein spill in his urine and his high blood pressure but it did cause his creatine numbers to worsen. He had a lot of weight fluctuations during this time and it was harder to keep him stable. A little over 2 years to the day of diagnosis we had him in for a checkup and his numbers had gotten so bad he was back for another IV treatment in the animal hospital. This time for 3 days his numbers almost instantly came back down with treatment. It was enough for us to just get one more month with him.
In total we got an extra 2 years and 2 months with our sweet boy Olaf. He was diagnosed on July 16th of 2018 when we first got bloodwork back. We said goodbye to Olaf on September 1, 2020. It was worth every penny the extra days of love and joy we got. He had the biggest personality and house is a much quieter place without him around.
How Long my Cat Lived with Stage 4 Kidney Failure
Okay now it’s time to meet my gal, Tinkerbell. She is my mystery cat I seriously don’t know how she is still with us today given the severity of the progress of her kidney failure. That’s right before you read her story I will say we still don’t know her ending, she is with us more than a year and half later still thriving.
We took a much different approach with Tinkerbell compared to Olaf. Since she was so advanced I always viewed her more as a hospice patient (Tinkerbell has the last laugh with me on that). You can see her above when she was in the hospital on IV treatment. We were able to visit her every day of her 7 day treatment. She had 14.9 creatinine which is basically off the charts. Even after 7 days she was still at 7 for creatinine and still considered stage 4 kidney failure.
Now her path once home from the hospital was shaky at first. She didn’t want to eat her new kidney food or really any food for that matter. Turns out she just needed to eat straight from a can. Then we got her to have a good run with homemade raw food and now she only eats commercial cat food. She differently has gone through phases. She also had a horrible run with gum issues and mouth sores. We were able to give her some pain meds, colloidal silver and slippery elm bark. It took near a mouth to fully heal and clear up. Just in time for the pandemic to hit she was doing really well and getting subQ fluids several times a week.
Then flash forward to almost a year after her diagnosis she won’t tolerate subQ fluids so we go to the vet. Her labs came back and she had dropped to a 5 for creatinine (but still stage 4). She has the beginnings of the protein spill in her urine we saw in Olaf so we are watching her blood pressure for now. But she plays, eats and loves snuggling up on my husbands lap for a work day.
I know this doesn’t give you any concrete conclusion but when we do lose her as I do acknowledge her days with us are most likely shorter than I have with our other cats I will be sure to come back and update this article.
How to Help your Cat with Kidney Disease Live Longer
Therapeutic treatments really go a long way with kidney disease. To start if you want to focus all in solid nutrition. If you can only do one thing for your cat THIS is it! These cat’s need protein to survive but of course protein can cause a lot of excess waste in the system so it’s a balance act. We break more down of food and options all over here. Key take aways on food, is to get a high quality protein (preferably human grade meat if you can afford) and if your cat is not already on a wet food diet now is the time to transition them.
Hydration is so key. When a cat’s kidneys are not working up to par they will pee more frequently. You may hear they can’t concentrate their urine, this means the fluids just sorta run right through them and they aren’t absorbing their fluid intake like before. For this reason the more water you can get into your cat the better. This is why we recommend wet food, a bubbling water fountain, and if advanced subQ fluids.
Lastly, there are the extra mile treatments, we have tons of supplement options broken down that you can review with your cat’s veterinarian. Plus some have seen success with having acupuncture done on their cat as well.
Conclusion on Kidney Disease Cats Life Expectancy
To wrap up this article up I would like to remind us of this humbling thought that we just don’t know what life holds for us in the future. We all have to just do the best we can and take it day by day. By following the advice of my cat’s doctors and also doing research on my own, plus some trial and error we were able to get extra years with our babies. It was touch and go at some point and some days were blissfully better than other but I wouldn’t go back and change it.
We hope that our stories have given you some additional insight on how long can a cat live with Kidney Failure. If you have a story of your own please share it in the comments below for others to see that kidney disease may be terminal but cats can still get extra happy years while managing the disease.