When Should You Euthanize a Cat With Kidney Failure?


Knowing the symptoms of kidney failure in cats, when to euthanize, and how to care for your pet’s chronic illness early ultimately impacts your cat’s quality of life. Our guide presents vital information to help you spot the symptoms of kidney (renal) failure in a cat, what to expect, and if you should put a cat to sleep. We also included essential steps in preventing this life-threatening condition.

What Causes Kidney Failure in Cats?

There are two types of kidney (renal) failure in cats: acute and chronic. These differ in the cause, treatment, and prognosis of the disease.

Acute Kidney Failure

This condition can occur in cats of any age and, in some cases, can be reversible if caught in time and treated appropriately. Some of the leading causes of acute kidney (renal) failure include:

  • Ingestion of Toxins or Harmful Substances

Cats can consume rat poison, medication, or other harmful substances that cause their kidneys to stop filtering blood and performing other essential tasks.

  • Bacterial Infections

Bacteria in the urinary tract can cause severe infections that lead to kidney failure.

  • Cancer or Other Chronic Conditions

Sometimes heart conditions, dehydration, low blood pressure, and more can lead to acute kidney failure.

  • Blockages

Renal failure in cats can be caused by various blockages, such as kidney stones, leading to other further complications.

  • Pet Medication

Aggressive treatments, such as chemotherapy and certain antibiotics, can cause renal failure.

  • Trauma/Shock

If a cat has had an accident and its pelvis, bladder, or other organs are damaged, it could lead to kidney failure. Renal failure can also occur if a cat goes into shock from dehydration and suffers severe diarrhea, vomiting, or blood loss.

Chronic Renal Failure

This type of renal failure—more common in elderly cats—doesn’t happen quickly; it often develops after months or even years. Some of the causes of chronic renal failure include:

  • Genetics

Genetics and congenital abnormalities could influence the cat’s disposition to kidney disease.

  • Cysts

Polycystic kidneys could cause kidney (renal) failure.

  • Blockages

Kidney or ureteral stones can cause blockages that prevent proper blood flow to the kidneys.

  • Autoimmune Diseases

These diseases cause the immune system to attack and damage the body’s organs.

  • Bacterial/Virus Infection

Certain bacterial or viral infections may not result in acute kidney failure but could affect the kidneys’ function for an extended period, causing deterioration.

Regardless of the cause, it’s essential to recognize the symptoms of kidney failure in your cat and act accordingly. In addition to routine veterinary appointments, take your cat to the vet as soon as you spot symptoms or unusual behavior. Some of the common signs of kidney failure in cats include:

  • Increased urination
  • Dehydration
  • Increased thirst or hunger
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Digestive issues
  • Vomiting or diarrhea—especially with blood
  • Unusual body odor
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Depression

Depending on the type of renal failure, you can also observe characteristic stiffness in your cat’s legs and arched back, indicative of pain due to acute renal failure. Another possible sign of kidney failure is if your cat often urinates or doesn’t at all.

When symptoms appear with chronic renal failure, the disease is typically in an advanced stage, and you may also notice that your cat bruises or bleeds easily.

Not all of the listed symptoms will appear in your cat and may show up in different intensities. Depending on the kidney failure in your cat’s stages, various signs are displayed—the more advanced the kidney disease, the more severe the symptoms. In this case, contemplating euthanasia and renal failure might be in order.

But with appropriate treatment, some cats can have a good quality of life for quite a while after the diagnosis of kidney disease.

DID YOU KNOW? Unfortunately, one in three cats suffers from kidney failure, but it affects less than 10% of cats younger than three years old.

How Long Do Cats Live With Renal Failure?

Renal failure is a life-threatening condition that can be treated but not cured. The highest level of your cat’s care should include regular veterinary appointments with your veterinarian, who will probably put your cat on a kidney disease diet.

With your vet’s help, carefully choose the right cat food for kidney disease that will help reduce waste in your cat’s body and relieve stress from the kidneys. Depending on the stage of your cat’s renal failure, with proper treatment, some cats may face a few years of good, quality life with their owners.

DID YOU KNOW? Some signs indicate that a cat’s kidneys are 65 to 70% damaged, wherein renal failure is often diagnosed. At this final stage, there’s not much one can do for the cat except consider the option of the cat’s euthanasia.

Kidney Failure in Cats: When to Euthanize

The painstaking decision for euthanasia should be an informed one—regardless of whether the decision to euthanize is due to kidney (renal) failure or you’re considering euthanasia for your cat with diabetes or other chronic conditions. Setting clear criteria in advance will help you know when to euthanize your cat.

Cooperation and coordination with your vet are necessary for the treatment stage to ensure that your cat’s quality of life meets specific criteria. Not every cat is the same; each animal with a chronic disease responds to treatment differently.

Don’t be alarmed if, in some moments, you spot signs of near-death in your cat. With the proper treatment, your cat’s condition can get better and significantly prolong and improve your cat’s quality of life.

Unfortunately, there will be a time when your pet’s chronic illness becomes so advanced that treatment will no longer work. This might be the right moment to start making arrangements for your cat’s euthanasia.

It’s vital to recognize the signs of when to put a cat who has kidney failure. Some of the indicators that your cat’s renal disease isn’t responding to medication include:

  • Weight loss and loss of energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hiding
  • Mental confusion
  • Dull eyes
  • Halitosis (bad breath)

In the final stage of renal failure, there could be signs of uremia and other parameters in blood test results. Your vet will inform you about the effectiveness of the treatment and available alternatives.

The decision for euthanasia should include considering all factors of your cat’s life, including the cost of nurturing a sick cat. But ultimately, when you see that your sick cat with chronic renal failure isn’t improving and suffers, euthanasia might be the right decision.

Key Takeaways

Kidney (renal) failure is a chronic illness often seen in elderly cats.
Acute kidney failure in cats can be treated and reversed if spotted in time.
Cat kidney disease stages can be adequately treated if diagnosed in time, extending your cat’s quality of life for a few years.
Carefully observe your cat and take it to regular veterinary appointments and urgent ones as soon as you see unusual symptoms.
Close cooperation with your vet in the event of your pet’s chronic illness will help you decide if and when the decision for euthanasia is appropriate.

Can You Prevent Kidney Disease in Cats?

As noted, various factors contribute to a cat’s kidney problems. If you know what they are and what to look for, you might be able to keep the risk lower. Consider the following tips on how to prevent kidney disease in cats.

  • Provide Quality, Moisture-Rich Diet

Provide food that is rich in easily digestible proteins. A mixture of dry and wet food is advisable, and provide your cat with enough fresh drinking water each day. The age of your cat is also critical when choosing its diet. Keep in mind that food that’s okay for kittens won’t satisfy the needs of full-grown or elderly cats. And be mindful of what human food is appropriate for a cat.

  • Regular Veterinary Appointments

Don’t just take your cat to the vet when there’s something wrong. Regular checkups and advice from your vet can be beneficial in providing appropriate cat care and spotting overlooked or previously undetected symptoms.

  • Ensure Healthy Weight

When feeding a dog or cat, try not to go overboard. Knowing how much food your cat needs will benefit your pet’s life. Obesity can cause numerous health conditions, including diabetes, which can lead to cat kidney failure.

  • Stress-Free Litter Box

Cats can be moody. If they don’t like something, they’ll avoid it—even if it means holding their urine, which is unhealthy. Ensure that your cat’s litter box is accessible and situated in a quiet space.

If your home has more than one story, and you have more than one cat, place a litter box for each cat on each story of the house. Keep the boxes clean and have enough litter for your cat’s care routine, reducing the risk of kidney infection in cats.

DID YOU KNOW? A cat’s instinct is to bury its waste as a strategy to cover its scent from natural enemies, requiring little to no litter box training. Consult your vet if your cat stops or refuses to use its box.


Understanding how crucial it is to recognize chronic conditions in your cat and take it to regular veterinary appointments can make a real difference in your pet’s life. With the information provided in this article, you’ll be able to spot early signs of kidney (renal) failure, give the necessary treatment and possibly prevent this life-threatening condition and improve your cat’s life quality.


What are the symptoms of a cat dying of kidney failure?

As this chronic condition enters its final stage, your cat may no longer respond to treatment. It may have dull and sunken eyes, a foul odor, bad breath, and incontinence, and show signs of confusion and refuse food and drink. It may also experience seizures and an inability to walk.

What are the stages of kidney failure in cats?

Depending on the percentage of the kidney function lost that shows in creatinine levels in cats’ serum, there are four stages of kidney (renal) failure.

  • Stage 1: Approximately 66% of kidney function loss
  • Stage 2: Around 75% loss
  • Stage 3: Between 76 and 90% loss
  • Stage 4: Around 90% loss
Kidney failure in cats: Is it painful?

Unfortunately, kidney failure can be painful. As kidneys lose function, toxins build, leading to nausea, headaches, mouth ulcers, blindness, etc. Knowing the symptoms of kidney failure in cats, when to euthanize, and how to care for your cat is vital.


When she couldn’t decide between being a nurse, a psychotherapist, and a financial genius, Ofelia decided to do all three. Her interests run far and wide, and she loves researching about everything you get to read on our website. Credit cards or top-notch software, she’s here to tell it all like it is.

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