Living with Feline Kidney Disease

Unfortunately, kidney failure sickens and kills more older cats than any other condition. Since our pets are now living longer than ever before, this disease is becoming one that many cat owners find themselves having to deal with. Although the disease is ultimately fatal, it is possible to prolong the life of your cat for months or even years. With the advice and assistance of your veterinarian, there are many things you can do to help your cat live a comfortable life before their kidneys fail.

My veterinarian explained that the kidney’s function is to filter toxins from the blood. As the kidneys begin to deteriorate, it takes more water for them to sufficiently flush toxins from the body. Cats may have symptoms of excessive thirst, increased urine output, constipation, decreased appetite, and lethargy. With the assistance of subcutaneous fluids and a modified diet, my veterinarian explained that Sammy may be able to live for several months, if not longer. The next day, I decided to bring Sammy back to the vet to set up a plan and proceed with his treatment.

After checking in at the front desk and a short wait in a procedure room, it was time to get Sammy out of his cage so the veterinary technician could give him his first fluid treatment. I was not looking forward to this at all. Sammy was previously a very feral, muscle-bound cat that wouldn’t let anyone touch him except me. I was afraid he would end up biting and clawing his way to veterinary eviction. But, to my surprise, he was the PERFECT patient! The vet tech showed me how the bag of fluids should be hung and instructed me how the tubing and the needles should be assembled. The tech gently pulled up the scruff of skin on the back of his neck and inserted the needle just under the skin. Sammy didn’t flinch. (She explained that this is the same spot where mother cats grab their kittens, so it is a relatively painless spot for such procedures.) It only took a few minutes for the fluid to drip in under his skin. When the tech asked me if I would be comfortable doing this for him at home, I was skeptical, but willing to try. The only other option would be to take him to the vet every other day to have them do it. I knew we would both be happier if I could give him his treatments at home. I packed up Sammy, his canned prescription food, and a bag of Lactated Ringers (fluid) and headed home.

I decided that the best place to give Sammy his fluid treatments was on top of the dryer in the laundry room. Since I have cabinets above the dryer, I tried hanging the fluid bag on a clothes hanger and looping the tip of the hanger over the cabinet’s edge. It worked quite well. I then folded an old towel in half to lay on top of the dryer for a little added cushion. Perfect! Now all I needed was a willing cat and the courage to try this on my own.

Sammy, of course, was not NEARLY as impressed with the dryer set-up as I was. When I first set him on top of the dryer, he was seriously opposed to the whole thing UNTIL he spotted the little pile of cat treats I had placed on the corner of the towel. All of his fears seemed to melt away as he vigorously consumed my cat-bribery bait. While he was distracted, I gently pulled up on the scruff of his neck and reluctantly inserted the needle. Sammy didn’t even seem to notice. I watched the fluids drip down through the tubing and clipped off the flow when I had reached the prescribed amount. Thankfully, it was incredibly easy.

It has been almost 4 years now since Sammy was first diagnosed with kidney failure. I have had to increase his fluid treatments to every day instead of every other day as his disease has progressed. He has readily adjusted to his treatments as part of our daily routine and is still the perfect, willing patient. Sammy is a fighter in every way – he always has been. But sadly, his kidney disease will ultimately win the battle. In the end, he will go out with a fight and I will be there, fighting by his side. ©