ProActive Cat Care: Reading The Signs

By Garry White


 I’ve said this often enough, but I’m going to repeat myself myself:
Cats will hide the symptoms of a condition until it is far into progression, until the pain or discomfort becomes unbearable.
And this includes one of the deadliest feline ailments of all…renal (kidney) failure, and specifically Chronic Renal Failure (CRF). The following excerpt is taken from (in my opinion) the most authoritative site on the Internet that deals with feline kidney problems.


“Renal failure may be either chronic or acute. Chronic Renal Failure (CRF) is a progressive, irreversible deterioration of kidney function. Because cats hide their illnesses and the very early signs of CRF are subtle, this disease may only be recognized when the patient reaches the 70% deterioration level and more dramatic symptoms are observable. The seemingly sudden onset may appear to be an acute condition but is most often a crisis point of CRF.”


     That said, it’s pretty clear that we cannot afford to take chances with this ugly disease. We need to be on the alert for signs of CRF, and we need to act quickly if we see them. But what are the signs?


  • Excessive thirst. If you have the slightest reason to think your cat is drinking more than normal, try to confirm it quickly by measuring his/her daily consumption. In multi-cat households, this will require isolation for a day or so. A guideline for normal, daily water consumption (an average-weight cat) is about ¾ of an ounce of water per pound of cat. If total consumption is more than 8 ounces, it should be investigated. Remember: If the diet is canned food, water is being ingested with that, as well.
  • Excessive urination. Assuming you use the clumping (scoopable) litter, expect to see two or three golf-ball-size clumps a day. More than that, and you should investigate it. In multi-cat households, you’ll have to isolate the cat for a day or so to be sure.
  • Loss of appetite. If you observe (or suspect) excessive drinking and/or urinating, watch for this. If you observe fussy or poor eating habits, it’s time for a visit to the vet.
  • Weight loss. My opinion is that everyone who owns a cat should have a baby scale, or some means of verifying a cats weight with accuracy…to the ounce.
  • Vomiting and nausea. An occasional hairball will cause this, BUT…coupled with the other symptoms, it’s a red flag warning of possible kidney problems.
  • Poor hair coat. This is generally caused by two conditions that can be related to kidney problems: Dehydration, and lack of desire to maintain their grooming.
  • Emaciation. You know what you’re cat looks like, generally. If he/she seems to be “wasting away”, or has taken on a run-down look…it’s time for the vet; something is wrong.

     You’re in charge. Your baby sees the vet once –maybe twice– a year. When kidneys have reached a certain level of reduced functionality, it’s a race you cannot afford to lose. Which means you have to catch the very first signs and react immediately. Once that threshold is reached, understand that DAYS make the difference.


     Remember also that these symptoms individually may not necessarily mean the onset of CRF: A little extra drinking could merely be from a dry house or hot weather; fussy eating could be that she/he is just tired of that brand of food; occasional vomiting could be from a hairball, minor constipation. So what I’m saying is this: Observation of ONE symptom should have us looking for others. And if we see others, then Kitty gets tested ASAP. An unnecessary test done is a minor inconvenience…a necessary test not done is a death sentence. Left untreated, CRF is a killer of the highest certainty.

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Disclaimer: Kathy Fatheree is not at all a medical expert. Contents of this web site are a collection of Kathy’s assist feeding experiences as well as the experiences of other cat owners who have assist fed their cats. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, Kathy Fatheree or anyone associated with this web site cannot be held responsible for anything that may happen as a result of using the information on this site.