Feline Renal Failure in Young Cats

Young Persian cats have a higher incidence of renal failure.

Young Persian cats have a higher incidence of renal failure.

While kidney failure is usually thought of as an old cat's disease, younger cats aren't immune. While older cats generally suffer from chronic renal failure, developing over time, young felines usually have the acute, or sudden onset, version. The good news -- there's a possibility of reversing acute renal failure.

Acute Renal Failure

Acute renal failure in young cats usually occurs because of trauma, blockage or toxic materials ingested by Kitty. For example, your cat's kidneys might fail because he was hit by a vehicle, severely injured in an attack by a dog, or his urethra is blocked and he can't pee. He might have lapped up some antifreeze -- a common reason for acute renal failure in cats -- or some other poisonous substance. While chronic renal failure occurs over time and the early signs are often subtle, that's not true of the acute version. His kidneys are breaking down rapidly, affecting all of the systems in his body. To save Kitty's life, you must get him to the vet as soon as possible.

Polycystic Kidney Disease

Certain breeds, especially Persians, are prone to polycystic kidney disease, an inherited renal issue. In PKD, small cysts develop in Kitty's kidney, enlarging or multiplying as time goes on. The cysts grow to the point where your vet can feel them from the outside when examining Kitty. Even cats as young as 6 months old might have PDK, with the same sort of symptoms that cats with any other type of kidney disease exhibit. Management is also the same as for other types of renal failure. Cats with this condition should not be bred.


If your cat starts drinking a lot more water and flooding his litter box, that's a primary sign that something is wrong with his kidneys. That's also a sign of diabetes, which affects kidney function. So is weight loss, bad breath and a decline in coat quality. If he's suffering from acute kidney failure, Kitty might become disoriented, experience seizures, throw up and become extremely weak. If it results from a blockage, he's been in and out of the litter box, straining to pee. It's obvious that something is very wrong with him.


Management is key to cats diagnosed with chronic renal failure or PDK. Your vet will put Kitty on a special diet, low in protein and sodium, that puts less stress on Kitty's kidneys. Kitty may also require intravenous fluids to keep him hydrated. Your vet might also recommend vitamin supplements for Kitty to replace iron and B vitamins lost in urine, along with blood pressure medication if Kitty has hypertension. Acute renal failure is a medical emergency. If Kitty is blocked, the vet might be able to remove the blockage manually or surgery might be required. If Kitty ate something toxic, whether or not he can be saved depends on the nature of the substance, how much damage has been done and how soon he gets to the vet. However, in a best-case scenario, his kidney function might return to normal over time if he's treated promptly and successfully.

Kidney Transplant

There is another alternative for the young cat suffering kidney failure, if you can afford it. That's a kidney transplant, which is only done at certain large veterinary hospitals. If that's an option you can consider, your vet will determine whether Kitty could benefit from this surgery. A kidney transplant requires a donor -- your cat receives not only a kidney, but a new feline friend, since most veterinary hospitals practicing this surgery require that you adopt the donor cat.

About the Author

Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.

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