Coping with Chronic Renal Failure in cats

Buttercup By Buttercup, 20th Mar 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Pets>Cats

Has your pet been diagnosed with Chronic Renal Failure? – don’t despair, there’s life in the old dog/cat yet!

Survival into old age

Our cat, Pickle, is past her sell-by date. She was diagnosed with chronic renal failure over 5 years ago. She is 17 years old, a bit stiff & scrawny. She has so many ailments – chronic kidney failure, heart problems, thyroid problems (is it hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism? I forget), a growth on her liver - it seems amazing that she is still here. However she still enjoys life and demands attention, as ever. Her survival must be down to stubbornness, good veterinary care, special renal food and medication. If your pet is diagnosed with chronic renal failure, don’t give up hope. It cannot be cured, but some cats, like Pickle, can carry on with a good quality of life for a number of years.

Diagnosis and dosing the cat

It was hard initially when she was first diagnosed with renal failure. The vet advised that the tablets she was already taking for heart problems, Fortekor, would also help her kidneys, though the dose should be adjusted and she must eat a special renal diet. Giving Pickle tablets is no fun. We had tried many different ways of getting them down her, but always with the same result, stress for both sides (not good when your cat is getting older and has some heart problems) and the tablet going anywhere but down the cat’s throat. I still can’t believe the sneaky feline nature which means a cat will even do a swallowing motion when you stroke the throat and then, when you feel you have won, will deposit a rather soggy tablet on the ground at your feet. So, we gave up the fight. Now we have a dedicated pestle and mortar to grind up the tablet and mix it in her food.

Introducing the renal diet

At first she was very wary. We were having enough problems introducing her new special diet food. We had to gradually introduce it into her ordinary food. Fortunately the manufacturers of the sachets of wet food, Royal Canin do different flavours (chicken, tuna and beef) to tempt a cat’s appetite, and also a dry renal food which I put down as a readily available snack. After many weeks we had increased the renal food so she had half and half renal food and ordinary cat food. Tablet time meant chopped cooked chicken with the ground-up tablet mixed into the chicken bits. She learnt to associate the sound of her tablet being ground up with a treat, so she rushed to come and eat the tablet (with the chicken). It took at least 2 years to get her eating a total renal diet as she does now. The diet was not ideal at first, but it kept her eating as we gradually adjusted it.

Strokes and loss of dignity

She has also had strokes – some minor ones and 2 major ones. Each time we say our goodbyes, take her off to the vets and agree to nurse her for a couple of days and see how she is. Each time she starts to walk again, a drunken stagger at first, but determined to get where she wants to be, even if it isn’t in a perfect straight line. She throws herself at the sofa or window-ledge, then scrabbles up the last bit, determined to sleep where she wants to sleep, or sit and watch the world go by as usual. After a week we start to wonder if we dreamt it all. Now she is back to her old self – well, nearly. There is the residual slight sideways gait and the occasional jumps which again end with a slightly awkward scramble to get to her goal. These we have to pretend not to notice, because like most cats, she is very sensitive to ridicule. Cats seem to have a hyper-sensitivity to laughter. They know full well when you laugh at them and give you the most imperious stare should you dare to mock them. Even when you laugh in a sympathetic way you can still get a black look.

Buttons and Pickle

Pickle came to us with her sister, Buttons, from a local animal sanctuary, Foal Farm in Biggin Hill, Kent. Her mother was a pedigree chinchilla but her father was a ginger tom. Pickle always thinks of herself as a pedigree. She has a lot to say for herself and like so many cats sees us as her servants. The two kittens were beautiful silver spotted cats, but Pickle had the mark of the ginger tom in a few dots of ginger, mostly on her stomach. Buttons was the purest looking silver spotted. She walked delicately like a model and left all the talking to Pickle. Buttons died nearly five years ago and was mourned by Pickle for a full year.

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author avatar Denise O
30th Jan 2012 (#)

Great info. Thank you for sharing.:)

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