It may be emotionally difficult to cope with your cat's kidney failure, but recognising symptoms can enable you to understand your cat's condition and provide comfort and care. Cats experiencing the final stages of kidney failure, also known as chronic renal failure (CRF), do not experience physical pain, but they do feel the discomfort of being ill and require extra attention and aid. Being sensitive to your cat's condition can help you provide the treatment and care they deserve in their last days.
Kidney failure is a result of the kidney's nephrons gradually disappearing. Nephrons regulate electrolytes and process waste, which is essential for your cat's digestive health. This means that when experiencing kidney failure, your cat may have problems eating, drinking, digesting and going to the bathroom. Kidney failure often causes other medical problems such as anaemia, hypertension (extreme high blood pressure), oral ulcers and potassium depletion.
Kidney failure causes your cat to become dehydrated. Your cat's kidneys can no longer concentrate urine, leading to dehydration and subsequent constipation, which may cause your cat discomfort. Signs of extreme dehydration include sticky gums and lack of skin elasticity---if it has got to this point, seek immediate medical attention.
Another common sign of the last stage of kidney failure is vomiting. If your cat experiences this symptom, check for other symptoms, as they often coincide: nausea may make your cat dehydrated and discourage appetite.
In the last stages of kidney failure, your cat may experience extreme weight loss, becoming weak and emaciated. This is because of the stomach irritation caused by kidney failure---eating gives your cat upset stomach, so he stops eating.
There may be a number of causes for your cat's kidney failure, but one of the most common theories is modern diet. Modern cat food may be too dry for your cat's long-term health, because it forces your cat's kidneys to work extra hard to concentrate the urine.
With the recent increase in medical help and the prevalence of indoor cats, a greater proportion of cats are living longer lives now and dying of old-age diseases, including kidney failure. Younger cats may also develop kidney failure, but the majority of sufferers are older felines. In this sense, kidney failure may simply be a common---if unfortunate---sign of old age.
Unfortunately there is no cure for kidney failure in cats, but it can be treated to prolong your cat's life for months or even years. Treatment involves careful management of your cat's diet to reduce the amount of waste being sent through your cat's kidneys---because the kidneys are failing, they can only handle a limited amount. Only your veterinarian can prescribe the diet appropriate for your cat's individual needs, but generally it is recommended that you reduce the salt and phosphorus in your cat's diet. In the later stages of kidney failure, if your cat loses his or her appetite, see your veterinarian to find out if an appetite stimulant will help.
Kidney failure does not cause your cat physical pain, but it does cause discomfort associated with upset stomach, constipation and dehydration. Therefore, treating your cat's illness--rather than prolonging any pain--will actually make your cat feel better. Only in the final few days will your cat experience physical pain; for vast majority of the disease---including the last stages---your cat's condition and quality of life will improve if you make sure he is hydrated and given extra consideration. Increase his or her fluids and see a veterinarian about dietary changes. Other than that, love and attention can help your cat enjoy all of his days.