My Cat Has Kidney Failure: When Is It Time to Say Goodbye?

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

kidney failure in cats when to euthanize

Cats have longer lifespans than other house pets. As they say, cats have nine lives. But sometimes, our beloved feline companions develop diseases as they age or come in contact with toxic substances, and it’s a heartbreaking experience to watch them suffer.

One such possibility is cat kidney disease. The disease hampers its body’s ability to filter toxins from the blood. While kidney disease in cats is not instantly fatal, the sooner you catch it, the more chances you have of prolonging your cat’s life.

If the disease is too developed, “kidney failure in cats when to euthanize?” is a difficult question you have to ask.


Two Kinds of Kidney Disease in Cats


There are two kinds of cat kidney diseases.

Acute renal failure is typically caused by infection, organ failure, dehydration, or poisons such as pesticides, toxic plants, human medications, and detergents.


It hits your cat suddenly, within days or weeks of exposure. If spotted quickly, acute renal failure can usually be reversed.

Chronic kidney failure is usually seen in elderly cats 10 years or older. It develops gradually, over many months or even years. It can be caused by cysts in the kidneys, genetics, or as a side effect of other diseases.


Since it develops so subtly, it is also unfortunately, usually caught in its later stages. Chronic kidney failure can lead to total kidney failure or the body’s total loss of its toxin filtering ability.

Stages of Kidney Failure

There are 4 stages of cat kidney failure, generally identifiable through the number of symptoms your feline shows.

Stage 1 typically has no major symptoms. That’s why testing your cat’s blood is vital to find out its sickness soon.

As stages 2 and 3 come along, your pet may exhibit a few other symptoms such as dehydration, vomiting and diarrhea, lack of appetite, frequent drinking, and general weakness.

Hypertension or high blood pressure is another possible symptom. People with the disease often experience headaches, and it’s highly likely cats feel the same, causing cat kidney disease meowing to express their discomfort.

Another specific symptom of kidney disease in cats is a stiff-legged gait or back leg weakness, which is a sign of pain or discomfort in their kidneys.

And finally, there is stage 4. This stage is also known as end stage kidney failure, and as the name suggests, your cat isn’t doing too well at this point.

Aside from the listed symptoms above, your cat may develop:

  • dull and sunken eyes or blindness
  • lose the ability to walk
  • refuse to eat or drink
  • frequently hide
  • have body odor
  • Seizures (whole body and constant back legs twitching)
  • confusion
  • restlessness,
  • lose control of their bladder and bowels

However, remember that as with all diseases, be it on humans or animals, it looks different each and every time. Each cat may present a different set or sequence of symptoms or may show less or more than the next.

These symptoms are also rather common ones, and may be signs of something other than kidney disease.

So, before coming to any conclusions, always consult your vet and run the proper tests on your pet to ensure the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Kidney Failure Treatment Options


Depending on the type and stage, several treatment options may be available for your cat.

Mainly, treating cats with kidney failure is done to manage symptoms and slow down the disease’s development.

Options include dietary therapy, vitamin injections, supplements to correct low potassium and iron levels, management of high blood pressure, and fluid replacement, especially for dehydration.

Though these methods may not completely reverse kidney disease, it can improve your cat’s quality of life and longevity and bring it back to almost normal.

For elderly cats with end-stage kidney failure, however, the best option may simply be to make them as comfortable as possible, keeping them nice and warm with their food, water, and litter box nearby.

All they may crave as the number of their days dwindles is your quiet human presence.

If your cat is visibly suffering and in pain, you may want to discuss the option of euthanasia with your vet.

When to Euthanize a Cat with Kidney Failure

You’ve had your cat diagnosed. You’ve had it treated, but it is not responding well and is still visibly in pain.

Unfortunately, the time has come for you to face the question: when do you euthanize your cat with kidney failure?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. The question of when can only be answered by you, who truly knows your feline companion and how much suffering both s/he and you can take.

At the end of the day, euthanasia is all about limiting and ending a patient’s suffering. In animals, it may sometimes be referred to as “putting the animal down” or “putting the animal to sleep,” to soften the blow of the word.

For cats, the procedure is typically a lethal injection of barbiturate anesthetic (sodium pentobarbital). They do not feel any pain. The cats simply slowly lose consciousness until they enter a sleep they will no longer wake from.

When to put a cat down who has kidney failure? In our opinion, it is when you think it’s finally time for him/her to have some rest, and you are ready to let them go find peace.


The decision to euthanize cat is a personal one – only you know how much more suffering your cat and you yourself can take.

But don’t forget the many possible steps you can take first, hopefully saving you from ever making that decision. Keep toxins such as your detergents and medication out of their reach and bring them in for regular checkups. Should you suspect anything, consult your vet as soon as you can.

We don’t like the idea of ending this article on a low note, so here’s a little cheerful thought: You having taken the time to read this article and learn the symptoms of kidney failure in cats when to euthanize is already definitely counted as one big gesture of care for your feline friend.

Read more: Best time to euthanize a cat with ibd and the cost for cremation

5/5 - (2 votes)