What Pet Owners Need to Know About a Kidney Infection in Cats

Kidney infection in cats is a problem that can occur to any cat at any age. The term “kidney infection”, also known by the medical term “Pyelonephritis”, is sometimes mistakenly used to indicate any infection that involves the urinary tract. This means that some people use it to indicate an infection of the bladder, also known as cystitis. Below we will provide links to other types of urinary tract infections in cats that are more common than kidney infections.

Common Diseases of the Feline Urinary Tract

There are several types of urinary tract diseases that can affect cats. This article will focus on infections of the kidneys. Other types of urinary tract problems in cats include:

The cat’s urinary tract is a system made up of the kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder and urethra. These organs work together to produce, transport, store and excrete urine. The urinary tract also rids the body of many fluid waste materials and products and has other vitally important functions, including controlling the volume and composition of the body fluids.

The kidneys are paired, bean-shaped organs. The indentation of the “bean” is called the hilus, which is the area where the blood vessels, nerves and ureters enter and leave the kidney. The structural and functional unit of the kidney is the nephron. There are hundreds of these microscopic filtering units, and each has the ability to form urine by itself. Each nephron consists of a circular ball-shaped cluster of small blood vessels called a glomerulus, and a small tube called a renal tubule. Nephrons are responsible for removing urea, which is combined with water and other waste products to produce urine.

Pyelonephritis is an inflammation of the kidney. We generally refer to pyelonephritis as a bacterial infection of upper urinary tract including any part of the kidney.

How Kidney Infections Happen

There are two ways cats can get a kidney infection. The first and most common way is from having a lower urinary tract infection (such as an infection of the bladder) that ascends to the kidneys. The other way is from an infection which is spread through the blood.

Signs of a Kidney Infection in Cats

Signs of a kidney infection in cats can vary from cat to cat. Signs may include:

  • Abdominal pain which can sometimes refer to the back or appear as back pain
  • Abnormal odor to the urine (foul odor)
  • Blood in the urine
  • Crying during urination (painful urination)
  • Decreased or loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination (can be more frequent urination or increased volume)
  • Lethargy or sleeping more
  • Straining to urinate
  • Vomiting

Infection of the kidneys can be life-threatening and lead to kidney failure. Prompt and thorough treatment is critical.

How Pet Insurance Helps Cover Serious Issues

How much will treatment cost for a cat with a kidney infection? The answer is that it depends on how sick your cat is, any co-existing conditions, the diagnostics and treatments that are recommended for your cat, and potentially your area in the country.

Very minor infections in cats could be treated with antibiotics on an outpatient basis. More severe infections may be treated in the hospital with intravenous fluids, intravenous antibiotics, and medications to treat vomiting and other digestive issues.

This can range from $200 for simple outpatient care at your regular veterinarian to over $5,000 depending on if they do radiographs (X-rays), blood tests, urinalysis, urine cultures, hospitalize your cat with fluids, or more depending on the underlying cause and severity of your cat’s condition.

Pet insurance can help pay for these costs if you have a policy. Depending on your policy, they can pay 80%, 90%, or even 100% after the deductible. Have you looked into pet insurance yet? If you have not done so, take a minute now to see if pet insurance is right for you and your cat.

Pets Best pet insurance has been offering affordable, comprehensive pet health insurance to dogs and cats, and it gives you the protection you need to help keep your pet healthy. Check out Pets Best today and see if pet insurance is right for you and your family.

Reference Articles about Kidney Infections in Cats

Kidney Failure in Cats

Kidney failure in cats can be categorized into acute kidney failure and chronic kidney failure. Acute kidney failure is defined as an abrupt decline in kidney function and chronic kidney failure describes the gradual loss of kidney function. The term “renal: and “kidney” are used interchangeably. Some writers use acute kidney failure (AKF) while others write acute renal failure (ARF).

There is an important and sometimes a difficult differentiation between acute kidney failure and chronic. A new diagnosis can be mistaken for acute kidney failure because it is a new diagnosis when the disease has been present for some time.

Normally functioning kidneys filter excess fluids and wastes from the blood, which are excreted in your cat’s urine. As the kidney disease progresses and reaches an advanced stage, dangerous levels of electrolytes, wastes, and fluids can build up in your cat’s body. Changes that result from kidney failure can affect almost every system. Even with intensive treatment, renal failure in cats can be fatal.

We will address Acute Kidney Failure in cats in this article. For more information about chronic kidney disease, go to Chronic Renal (Kidney) Failure in Cats.

What Causes Acute Kidney Failure in Cats?

There are multiple causes for acute kidney failure. The most common cause is from a urinary obstruction.

  • Urinary obstruction – Urinary obstruction is a type of reversible acute kidney failure that is treated by relieving the obstruction. This is one of the most common causes of acute kidney failure in cats. Learn more about Feline Urinary Obstruction.
  • Toxic injury to the kidneys – There are several toxins that can damage the kidneys.
  • Easter Lily ingestion is an important cause of acute kidney failure in cats. Prevent all access to this dangerous plant.
  • A very important toxin that can cause acute kidney failure in cats is ethylene glycol, which is the active ingredient of antifreeze. Antifreeze generally is sweet and tastes good. Very small amounts can be fatal.
  • Some antibiotics, such as a class of drugs known as aminoglycosides, can cause damage to the tubules of the kidney. Examples of aminoglycoside antibiotics are Amikacin and Gentamycin.
  • Other toxic causes of acute kidney failure in cats include toxicity heavy metals (such as lead or arsenic), contrast dyes used for certain X-ray procedures, and some anesthetics.
  • Decreased blood flow and oxygen delivery to the kidneys.
  • Low blood flow to the kidneys may occur during anesthesia and surgery, which can damage the kidneys.
  • Some drugs such as the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents like ibuprofen may also cause ARF by reducing blood flow to certain parts of the kidneys.
  • Other causes of reduced blood flow to the kidneys include severe dehydration, shock, poor heart function, heat stroke, and overwhelming infection (sepsis).
  • Infections- Acute bacterial infection of the kidneys (called pyelonephritis) can cause acute kidney failure. What Pet Owners Need to Know About a Kidney Infection in Cats.
  • Uncommon causes – Uncommon causes of AKF in cats include:
  • Glomerulonephritis – acute inflammation of the microscopic filtering devices of the kidney called glomeruli.
  • Glomerular amyloidosis – deposition of an insoluble type of protein in the kidney.
  • Obstruction by blood clots of the arteries going to the kidneys.
  • Hemolytic-uremic syndrome – liver and kidney failure caused by a specific E. coli strain of bacteria.

Signs of Acute Kidney Failure in Cats

Cats are very good at hiding their illness, just by the nature of survival. Sometimes disease can be quite advanced by the time of diagnosis. Signs of acute kidney failure can vary from cat to cat and are often not specific. For example, decreased appetite, vomiting and weight loss are common symptoms associated with many different diseases including kidney failure.
Common signs of acute kidney failure in cats include:

  • Decreased appetite or loss of appetite
  • Disorientation
  • Incoordination
  • Increased or decreased thirst
  • Increased or decreased urinations – most often decreased urine production
  • Less engaged with family
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sleeping more
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss

What it Means For Your Cat if They Are Diagnosed With Acute Kidney Failure

If your cat is diagnosed with acute kidney failure, the most important thing to try to understand is why. Causes such as from a urinary obstruction or infection can be successfully treated. Causes such as toxins and blood flow or oxygen delivery abnormalities can be more difficult to treat and may be fatal even with the best care.

The most common causes of death during treatment of ARF are high blood potassium concentration, acid-base disturbances, very high concentrations of waste products in the blood that do not improve with fluid therapy and excessive administration of fluids with fluid accumulation in the lungs. If your cat is admitted to the veterinary hospital for treatment, they will address the above issues as part of their treatment.

Who’s At Risk for Acute Kidney Failure?

There is no specific breed predilection but older animals are thought to be at greater risk for acute kidney failure. Acute kidney failure in cats is also more common in cats that are outdoor or go outdoors due to their exposure to toxins including antifreeze. There is also an increase incidence of acute kidney failure in the fall and winter due to pet exposure to antifreeze that contains ethylene glycol.

Average Life Expectancy of Cats With Kidney Failure

The life expectancy of a cat with acute kidney failure will vary depending on the cause and response to treatment. For example cats that get acute kidney failure from a urinary obstruction can have a normal life expectancy with proper treatment.

Chronic Kidney Disease in Cats

Chronic kidney disease is the gradual loss of kidney function and is one of the most common diseases in cats that affects senior cats. It can affect all ages and breeds and is most common in cats over the age of 9 years and in Abyssinian and Persian breeds.
The term “renal” and “kidney” are used interchangeably. Some writers use the term chronic kidney failure (CKF) while others write chronic renal failure (CRF).

We will address Chronic Kidney Failure in cats in this article. For more information about acute kidney disease, go to Acute Renal (Kidney) Failure in Cats.

What Chronic Kidney Disease Is

The cat’s urinary tract is a system made up of the kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder and urethra. A cat has two kidneys that sit in the abdomen. They are bean-shaped organs that contain hundreds of nephrons that are microscopic filtering units. These units have the ability to form urine.

When the kidneys function normally, they filter excess fluids and wastes from the blood. These wastes are then excreted in the cat’s urine. As the kidney disease progresses and reaches an advanced stage, dangerous levels of electrolytes, wastes, and fluids can build up in your cat’s body. Changes that result from kidney failure can affect almost every system.

How To Identify Symptoms In Your Cat

Signs of chronic kidney failure can vary from cat to cat and are often vague and can mimic the signs of other diseases. Common signs of chronic kidney failure in cats include:

  • Decreased appetite or loss of appetite
  • Increased or decreased thirst
  • Increased or decreased urination – most often decreased urine production
  • Less engaged with family
  • Lethargy or sleeping more
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness and incoordination
  • Weight loss

Tests to Evaluate Kidney Function

Diagnostic tests to evaluate kidney function may include:

  • A complete blood count (CBC) may be within normal limits, but an elevated white blood cell count may be present if there is also secondary infection.
  • A biochemical profile may reveal elevations in kidney enzymes or electrolyte abnormalities.
  • A urinalysis may reveal diluted urine, blood, white blood cells, protein or bacteria in the urine.
  • Symmetric Dimethylarginine (SMDA) Blood Testing (INSERT LINK) is a test used to help diagnose early stages of renal failure.
  • A bacterial urine culture is performed to confirm a urinary tract infection.
  • Abdominal radiographs (X-rays) are an important part of any baseline work-up. Although they may be within normal limits, they may reveal changes in kidney size, urinary calculi, or help to rule out other diseases and causes of the cat’s clinical signs.
  • Abdominal ultrasound is recommended in most cases suspect of having kidney disease. It is helpful in evaluating the kidney and potentially differentiating between upper and lower urinary tract infection. It is a noninvasive procedure that often necessitates the expertise of a specialist and/or referral hospital.
  • Blood pressure is recommended for all cats with kidney disease.

How Pet Insurance Can Help You Cover Treatment

Treatment for chronic kidney disease focuses on slowing the progression of kidney damage, usually by controlling the underlying cause. Chronic kidney disease can progress to end-stage kidney failure, which is fatal without artificial filtering (dialysis) or a kidney transplant which are uncommon treatments in cats.

The cost of care can vary depending on the severity of the disease in your cat. Some cats that show severe symptoms of illness will require hospitalization with intravenous fluids, medications to control nausea and vomiting, medications to stimulate the appetite, and other symptomatic treatment as needed.

Cost of care can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Because this condition is chronic, it requires ongoing care and monitoring. Some cats will have their bloodwork rechecked periodically and other symptomatic care such as subcutaneous (SQ) fluid therapy. Some cat owners routinely give SQ fluid therapy at home. For more information about the diagnosis and treatment, go to Chronic Renal (Kidney) Failure in Cats.

Reference Articles about Chronic Kidney Disease in Cats

Kidney Disease in Cats: Everything Pet Owners Need to Know

Kidney disease in cats is one of the most common diseases that affect cats. The kidneys are part of the urinary tract. The cat’s urinary tract is a system made up of the kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder and urethra. These organs work together to produce, transport, store, and excrete urine. The main job of the urinary tract is to rid the cat’s body of waste materials and to control the volume and composition of the body fluids products. The term “renal” is another word for “kidney”.

A disease can strike any part of the urinary tract. For example, cancer can develop in the kidney, ureter, bladder or urethra. Some people mistake diseases of other parts of the urinary tract for kidney disease and vise versa. The symptoms of diseases of the kidney can be similar to other parts of the urinary tract. It is also possible to have more than one problem in the urinary tract such as an infection in both the bladder and kidneys. Below we will specifically focus on symptoms of kidney disease.

Signs of Kidney Disease in Cats

The signs of kidney disease in cats can vary depending on the type of disease affecting the kidney. Signs may include:

  • Abdominal distension
  • Abdominal pain
  • Anemia
  • Back pain
  • Blood in the urine
  • Decreased urine production
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive drinking
  • Excessive urination
  • Frequent urination
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Malodorous urinations
  • Nausea/Drooling
  • Oral ulcerations
  • Painful urination
  • Recurrent urinary tract infections
  • Straining to urinate
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Different Types of Kidney Disease in Cats

The kidneys can develop several different problems that include:

  • Kidney Cancer – Renal neoplasia is a relatively uncommon cancer located in the kidney. Renal neoplasia can originate in the kidney (primary) or spread to the kidney from another site (secondary). Most renal tumors are seen in middle-aged to older cats. Renal lymphoma is a type of cancer more common in cats that are feline leukemia virus positive. Generally, there are no specific causes for kidney cancer.
  • Kidney Stones – One function of the urinary system is the removal of body wastes in liquid form. Some mineral wastes are only slightly soluble and may form crystals. If the transit time of crystal movement through the urinary system is prolonged, crystals may interact and grow into stones. Several types of stones can affect cats. Each type of stone is often associated with its own specific cause. Nephrolithiasis, also known as renal calculi or kidney stones, can develop in cats.
  • Pyelonephritis – Pyelonephritis is an inflammation of the kidney. We generally refer to pyelonephritis as a bacterial infection of the upper urinary tract including any part of the kidney.
  • Polycystic Kidney Diseases – This disease is caused by abnormal cyst formation in young cats. It is a slowly progressive, irreversible, inherited kidney disease. It is characterized by development of cysts in the kidney and sometimes also the pancreas, liver and/or uterus. Ultimately, PKD can result in renal failure, with clinical signs similar to those of cats with naturally occurring kidney failure.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease in Cats – Chronic renal failure, commonly referred to also as chronic kidney failure and abbreviated as CRF, is a common problem in cats. The digestion of food produces waste products, which are carried by blood to the kidneys to be filtered and excreted in the form of urine. When the kidneys fail, they are no longer able to remove these waste products, and toxins build up in the blood producing clinical signs of kidney disease. All breeds of any age can be affected. However, older cats are commonly affected as the prevalence increases with age.
  • Acute Kidney Failure in Cats – Acute kidney failure (acute renal failure or ARF) is characterized by an abrupt decline in kidney function that leads to changes in the chemistry of the body including alterations in fluid and mineral balance. The changes that arise as a result of ARF affect almost every body system. It can be caused by a urinary obstruction and various toxins including antifreeze.
  • Kidney Parasites– Renal parasites are worms that invade the urinary tract and cause disease. Some affected cats have no clinical signs, especially with Capillaria species. Some cats may be extremely ill if they have associated kidney failure or severe infection.
  • Renal (Kidney) Amyloidosis – This is a disease that results from the abnormal deposition of amyloid protein throughout the body. Amyloid results from the body’s inability to break down certain proteins in the body. This results in accumulation of amyloid outside body cells which builds up and injures normal cells.
  • Glomerulonephritis – This is a kidney disorder caused by inflammation of glomerulus which is the microscopic part of the kidney that filters the blood. It is usually caused by immune complexes (clusters of antibodies and antigens) that get deposited onto the glomeruli, causing them to malfunction. The immune complexes develop secondary to some other disease process that is going on in the cat’s body.
  • Untreated, glomerulonephritis can lead to chronic kidney failure.
  • Chronic obstructive uropathy (hydronephrosis) – This is a disease caused by obstruction (blockage) of the ureter (the tiny tubular structure that allows the passage of urine from the kidney to the urinary bladder) that results in distension (enlargement) of the pelvis (inside) of the kidney with urine. This can lead to renal failure.

Diagnosis of Kidney Disease in Cats

Diagnostic tests may be recommended on a case-by-case basis. Diagnosis of kidney disease in cats is often made by the following diagnostic tests:

  • Complete medical history
  • Complete physical examination
  • A biochemistry analysis (biochemical profile tests), such as serum creatinine and BUN concentrations are typically elevated with CRF.
  • Serum phosphorus and potassium concentrations may also be increased.
  • Complete blood count (Hemogram; CBC) may be performed to evaluate for signs of infection, inflammation, anemia or platelet abnormalities.
  • Urinalysis tests may show a low specific gravity, which is common with CRF, signs of infection, abnormal urine protein or sediment may indicate infection or glomerular disease or parasites.
  • Urine culture should be performed to evaluate for the presence of upper or lower urinary tract infection.
  • Abdominal radiographs (X-rays) may show small kidney size, which is common with CRF, but normal renal size does not rule out CRF.
  • Some chronic kidney diseases in cats can be associated with enlarged kidneys (e.g. polycystic renal disease, renal lymphoma).
  • Renal ultrasonography – can provide additional information about the kidneys. Kidneys with chronic disease are typically small and sometimes irregularly shaped. Large kidneys may indicate polycystic renal disease, cancer or an acute kidney disease. Some cats can have a normal ultrasound with CRF.
  • Urine protein/creatinine ratio – this is useful to evaluate urinary protein loss in cats suspected to have glomerular disease.
  • Arterial blood pressure may be needed to determine the presence of complicating hypertension (high blood pressure).
  • Excretory urography may be useful in the evaluation of abnormalities in renal size, shape or location. It may also be valuable in the detection of obstruction, cancer or stones.
  • Blood gas analysis will allow evaluation of acid-base levels.
  • Leptospira antibody serologic tests may be needed to diagnose this infection.
  • A fine needle aspiration (biopsy) of the kidney may be useful in some cats with renal diseases (e.g. kidney lymphoma, granulomatous interstitial nephritis due to FIP).
  • Endogenous or exogenous creatinine clearance can be used to measure glomerular filtration rate in CATS with normal blood work who are suspected to have renal disease.
  • Fractional excretion of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride, and phosphorus) may be useful in evaluation of animals with suspected renal tubular disorders.
  • Radioisotope clearances may be used to determine kidney filtration and blood flow.
  • Symmetric Dimethylarginine (SMDA) Blood Testing – SMDA is a test to look for a blood protein that is known to increase as kidney function declines. It will start to increase before the blood creatinine.

Reference Articles about Kidney Disease in Cats:

Symmetric Dimethylarginine (SMDA) Blood Testing in Cats

Understanding the SMDA Blood Testing in Cats

Kidney failure, often referred to as renal failure, is a common medical condition in cats. Up to 30% of cats over 15 years old are affected by chronic kidney disease (CKD) which is often the precursor to renal failure.

There are many causes of renal failure and chronic kidney disease over time. Some common causes of CKD and renal failure can include toxins, infections, inflammation of the kidney, kidney or ureter stones (calculi), amyloidosis, neoplasia, hypercalcemia (elevated calcium), various inherited conditions of the kidney, and Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). More information can be found in the PetPlace.com library in these articles: Chronic kidney failure in cats and Acute kidney failure in cats.

Chronic kidney disease is a common progressive condition in cats. Early diagnosis and treatment can slow the progression and improve patient quality of life. Early stages of renal disease can be difficult to detect, as your cat may not show any signs until a significant amount of kidney function is lost. Often one of the earliest signs will be increased urination (polyuria) and increased thirst (polydipsia). Dogs will tend to show these signs earlier than cats.

Traditionally, creatinine has been the blood marker that is used in the clinic to monitor renal function. Creatinine does not increase on bloodwork until 75% of renal function is lost! It can also be affected by decreased muscle mass, dehydration, low blood pressure or other causes of decreased cardiac function, and muscle trauma or inflammation.

There is now a new test that will allow your veterinarian to monitor renal function changes much earlier than previously detected. This blood test is called the SDMA (symmetric dimethylarginine assay). This article will explain what we can learn from SDMA monitoring and how this test is run.

What Does SMDA Blood Test Reveal in Cats?

SDMA is made as the body processes protein. It is excreted from the bloodstream through the kidneys if the kidneys aren’t able to filter as well as they should (like in chronic kidney disease or renal failure) the SDMA will increase in the blood. The SDMA value will start to increase when the kidneys have lost 40% of their filtering ability. If you remember from above, creatinine does not increase until 75% of this function is lost. This will now allow veterinarians to recognize chronic kidney disease much earlier in cats and begin to institute treatment and monitoring recommendations based on this information.

Besides early detection, SDMA also has the benefit that it is not affected by lean muscle mass. In aging cats, their muscle mass will decrease and can cause the creatinine to be lowered and difficult to interpret. SDMA is also not affected by some factors that can alter lab machines’ ability to read certain values like lipemia, hemolysis or icterus. It is less affected by dehydration than a BUN, another value on bloodwork that is used to monitor kidney function.

SDMA is not meant to be used as a sole test- the results need to be evaluated in combination with other blood values (BUN, creatinine, and others), urinalysis (especially urine specific gravity and protein level), blood pressure and potentially other tests depending on your cat’s history and clinical picture.

What are the potential uses of SDMA?

An early indicator of renal disease in patients with otherwise normal kidney values (BUN and creatinine)
Better assessment of renal function in patients with severely decreased muscle mass (cachexia)
Aid in differentiating renal versus non-renal causes of elevations in BUN and creatinine
Monitoring during rehydration therapy for patients with elevated BUN and creatinine
Monitoring response to therapy for renal disease over time

How Is SMDA Blood Test Done in Cats?

Your veterinarian and their technical staff will use a needle to obtain a blood sample from your cat, they will usually need 3cc or less (about 1/2 teaspoon) to run the SDMA and other associated tests to evaluate your cat’s kidney function. They will put the sample into specific blood tubes and send it into the laboratory. Depending on the lab used and when it is delivered to them from your veterinarian, you should have the results in 1-2 days.

Is SMDA Blood Test Painful to Cats?

Any pain involved is associated with the collection of the blood sample, since a needle is used to pierce the skin and enter a blood vessel to draw the sample. As with people, the pain experienced from a needle will vary from cat to cat. Often cats resist being held still for the blood draw as much or more than the actual collection itself!

Is Sedation Needed for SMDA Blood Testing?

Neither sedation nor anesthesia is needed in most cats; however, some cats resent needle sticks and may need tranquilization or ultrashort anesthesia.

Can Cats Be Vegan?

Are Felines Able to Adapt to Different Dietary Lifestyles Like Humans?

It’s no secret that cat lovers want to share everything with their favorite felines, so why not share in the choices they make in the way that they live their lives as well? On top of that, you just want the best for your cats, and if you’re a vegan, you know how the benefits of veganism are positive to your life, won’t they be just as positive for your cat as well? If you’re wondering if cats can be vegan, we’ll explore that and more in this article.

People choose to be vegan for many reasons. Some decide to make the change with ethical motives of protecting the earth and the animals that inhabit it, others make the switch to improve their health. The results for humans are clear, but for cats — the short answer is that they can’t handle it.

The key thing that you need to know is that cats are obligate carnivores. This means that they physically need meat in their diets to live a healthy and fulfilling life. Unfortunately, cats are unable to sustain a vegan diet because they lose several of the important nutrients that they receive from eating animal products. Feeding a cat a vegan diet is basically like feeding a cow a carnivore diet. Cats have evolved over centuries to specifically digest meat, so their digestive systems aren’t able to manage a vegan diet.

The Dietary Requirements for Felines Helps Determine if Cats Can Be Vegan

There are also several vitamins, nutrients, and minerals that cats need from animal products, that they aren’t able to receive in sufficient quantities from plant-based foods. Let’s dive into what they are.

This is the big one. Taurine is an amino acid that is essential for healthy cats. It occurs naturally in animal products such as meat and milk. Humans and dogs are able to create it naturally within their bodies, but cats aren’t, so they have to get it from an outside source. Without taurine, cats can become taurine-deficient, which can cause dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and blindness. DCM is the more serious of the two because if it’s not caught early it has a high mortality rate.

Vitamins A, B12, and D
Each of these vitamins are found in animal products and are required to keep your cat healthy. Cats aren’t able to create any of these within their body, so it’s essential that they exist in their diet. Without them, they can also cause a slew of health issues if your cat becomes deficient.

While this is one that a lot of vegans argue is easy to find in their diets anyway, cats need a diet that’s heavy and rich in protein, and they’re unable to get enough from plants.

There are supplements available that you can add to your cat’s vegan diet, but they make it easier for your cat to receive too much, and toxicity in one of these nutrients is just as bad as being deficient. The easiest way for a cat to hit the balance of what they need for a healthy lifestyle is to eat what they were designed to eat — meat.

The other big problem with feeding your cat a vegan diet is that typically the vegan diet is rich in carbohydrates. This is bad for cats because their bodies literally aren’t equipped to digest them. As cats evolved their bodies cut out for the need for carbohydrates, and today’s housecat requires calorie-dense options rather than carbs to receive energy.

On top of all the science behind what your cat should and shouldn’t eat, there’s also the fact that many cats won’t be keen on eating a vegan diet. Cats are finicky creatures, and the last thing any cat owner wants is for their cat to simply refuse to eat altogether.

What Can Vegans Do?

If you’re a vegan, unfortunately including your cat in your dietary lifestyle probably isn’t the best idea. It can be done, but cats that eat a vegan diet need to be regularly monitored by their vet to make sure they aren’t falling susceptible to any health issues or other complications. Not only is this time consuming, but it’s also expensive to have tests constantly performed.

If you’re not willing to do those things, you’re putting your cat at serious risk. So what can vegans do? It’s understandable that you wouldn’t be comfortable feeding your cat meat or animal products, but it’s important to remember that this is your personal decision, not your cat’s. What you can do is purchase cat foods that are locally-sourced, or look for companies that are doing their part to care about the environment and the food that they put out, they do exist! Care for all animals includes making sure they live their best lives, and for cats, that’s a diet that’s rich in animal products.

Is Vegan Cat Food Safe for Your Pet?

Having Your Cat Eat the Same Diet as You Might Not Be as Good as You Think

Many cat owners who have chosen to eat a vegan or vegetarian diet wonder if feeding their cats the vegan cat food is a safe choice. It’s completely understandable that you’d want to share your values with your pet — you think of them as part of your family! It might also be uncomfortable for someone who follows veganism or vegetarianism to purchase animal products for their cats. However, it’s important to be fully educated about the feline diet and what your cat needs to be healthy before you choose to make such a dramatic shift in their diet.

Here’s something you’ll want to think about. Is a cat able to eat a vegan diet in the first place? Unfortunately, many vets say no. Cats are genetically designed to be carnivores or meat-eaters. While dogs might not have as difficult a time adjusting to a different style of diet, cats are obligate carnivores. Which means that they literally need meat in their diet to receive the nutrients and vitamins required to keep their bodies functioning the way they’re supposed to.

So, if you want to feed your cat vegan cat food — is it safe? Let’s take a look at the differences between food options and the essential nutrients that your cat needs.

Does Vegan Cat Food Have Everything Cats Need to Be Healthy?

Everyone has heard of cats who bring their owners dead animals like birds or mice. You might have even had it happen to you! This isn’t just our cats trying to mess with us, it’s part of a cat’s natural instincts to hunt, kill, and eat animals. Cats are skilled hunters. However, in the event that a cat is unable to eat meat, they are able to adjust to a plant-based diet. The catch is that it’s not meant to be long term.

If you have an outdoor cat, you’ve probably noticed these hunting skills. Think about the things that she’s gone after. There’s a key reason why your cat isn’t going after vegetables and grains. You may have noticed that your cat enjoyed munching on grass or other plants, but this is more for a form of dietary aid than a sufficient meal.

Cats meet their nutritional needs by getting specific key nutrients — namely vitamin A, D, B12, taurine, and arachidonic acid — from meat. Each of these nutrients, even if they are included in a vegan cat food option, are sufficiently supplied to keep your cat healthy.

So what happens if your cat doesn’t receive these key nutrients? Essentially their body is put at serious risk. Your cat can become deficient in important vitamins and minerals and if it’s continued for a long time, these deficiencies turn into serious health risks. Taurine specifically causes the most common problems. Without it, a cat could develop cardiomyopathy, which is a condition where an enlarged heart leads to markedly reduced contractions.

The main problem with vegetarian or vegan cat food is that it’s typically missing amino acids and has too many carbohydrates. Why are carbohydrates bad for cats? Their bodies have evolved over time to not need them, which means that they’re unable to digest them.

No matter what diet you eat, everyone wants the very best for their cats. It can be difficult for a vegan or vegetarian to feed their cat meat, but it’s important to remember that the choice you’re making is for yourself, not your cat. Your cat is unable to understand the ethical or health values that drove you to change your diet, and it’s not worth putting your cat at serious risk.

That being said, the cat foods like dry kibble or wet food that you commonly find at the store aren’t often made from factory-farmed animals. For vegans and vegetarians wanting to make a compassionate choice for their pet, consider looking for locally-sourced options where you can find humanely-raised meats to feed your cat. There are also refrigerated foods that mention “free-range” or “pasture-raised” to help you recognize an option that’s better for the environment. It’s also a good idea to talk to your vet to get their opinion on good options as well.

The true focus of being a vegan or even a vegetarian is that you want to cause as little suffering to animals as possible. While it’s not recommended that you feed your cat vegan cat food, there are still options that allow you to feel like you’re still making a positive impact on the planet and keeping your cat healthy at the same time.

How to Acclimate a Cat to a New Home

Do you know how to acclimate a cat to a new home? Adjusting to a new home can be very difficult for a cat, especially when it is a stray who has gotten used to living outdoors. During the initial adjustment period, you will need patience and understanding to help your new cat feel more at home.

Start by thinking about your cat’s previous experiences. If you have a kitten, it may have recently been separated from its mother and litter mates. The cat may have had to deal with the transition of a shelter, or the stress of being spayed or neutered. An adult cat may have been separated from a familiar home and has been forced to break his bond with his human companions or other household pets. In every case, the cat will need to adjust again to totally new surroundings.

How do you acclimate a cat to a new home? It may take several weeks for your cat to adjust to his new living situation. Here’s what you should do during the adjustment period. Keep the cat indoors. The cat needs to get used to you as his new provider of love, food, and shelter. It is not uncommon for cats to display behavior problems during this adjustment period, but these problems should disappear in time. Your cat may hide under the furniture. If he does, just sit and talk quietly to the cat. Make sure that there are food, water, and a litter box nearby.

When you take your cat out of the carrier, immediately show him the location of the litter box. Provide a bowl of water but don’t feed him immediately. Don’t overwhelm the cat with attention. Allow him to acclimate to his new surroundings on his own terms.

It is best to introduce your cat to his new home gradually. Begin by restricting him to one room. During this time, isolate other animals from your new cat and supervise your children when they interact with the cat. Try to spend a few hours with your cat as he settles into his new home. You may want to place a cozy cat bed in a quiet corner of the room.

If you have other animals in the home you will need to introduce them gradually. Remember, the cat is being introduced to a territory already claimed by your resident pet, so you need to take both of their feelings into account. The ability of animals to get along together in the same household depends on their individual personalities. There will be one animal who dominates. It will take a week or two for a successful transition. It may be a little hectic but be patient. Things will most likely work out in time.

Here’s how you can introduce your new cat to other animals in the home according to Dr. Monique Chretien.

Cat-to-Cat Introductions

You should put your new cat in a private room during his first week in his new home. Your resident cat should not be allowed to enter this room or to stay at the door hissing.

  • After a week has passed, allow your resident cat to explore outside the door of the room where the new cat is residing.
  • Only when all signs of aggression (hissing, growling) are absent, open the door a crack. Use a doorstop or hook to secure the door. Wait for the hissing and growling, if any, to disappear.
  • If you have a large carrier or crate, place the new cat in it. Then bring it into your main living area. Try simultaneously feeding both cats treats or delicious food so that they associate each other’s presence with a pleasurable experience.
  • Once the cats are comfortable in this situation, allow them to interact under your supervision. If there are any signs of aggression, you might have to limit their exposure to 5 or 10 minutes, or perhaps go back to the separation phase.
  • Gradually increase the time the cats spend together as long as they are not aggressive to each other.
  • Remember cat play can be pretty rough.

Your cats will be more likely to get along if they are happy in their environment. Make sure there are plenty of hiding places for your cats. Place the food, water and litter boxes out in the open so the cats will not feel trapped when they eat, drink or use the litter box. Make sure that you have one litter box per cat, plus one extra litter box. (So if you have two cats in your home, you should have three litter boxes.)

Cat-to-Dog Introductions

Follow the above guidelines when introducing a cat to a resident dog. At the time of the first introduction, apply a leash to the dog and occupy it with some obedience exercises (sit – stay) with food treats as a reward for calm responding.

  • Don’t ever let the dog rush toward the cat, even if only in play.
  • Provide your cat with a variety of escape routes and high hiding places that are easily accessible at all times. Your cat must be able to get away from the dog whenever necessary.
  • Slowly allow the dog and cat to spend more time together but always supervise them until you are absolutely sure there is no threat of danger to either of them.

Cat-to Bird or Small Mammal Introductions

Cats are natural predators, so keep your small furry friends safe by housing them in an enclosure that cannot be opened by an agile paw. Keep them in a room that is off limits to your feline family member when not supervised. Follow the same protocol with your feathered friends but be careful where you choose to keep them. Birds have some restrictions on where they can be kept for health reasons (not in direct sun or draft).

Should You Try Taking in a Stray Cat?

If you are thinking about taking in a stray cat, there are several things you should keep in mind. First of all, you must determine if the cat is stray or feral. A stray cat is a cat that is lost or separated from its owner, or it has been given up by its owner. A stray cat is socialized to human companionship. A feral cat is a cat that lives outdoors in a colony of feral cats. These cats will hide from humans and avoid human contact. These cats cannot be domesticated. (You should never try to pick up a feral cat.)

Taking in a stray cat is a big decision. It’s not as easy as simply opening your door and your heart to the new cat. Here are a few things to consider.

  • Since the cat has been living outdoors, it most likely has fleas, ticks and other pests that they’ve picked up while roaming in the wild.
  • The cat may be overdue for worming medication and vaccinations.
  • If the stray is a tom cat, you will want to have him neutered before bringing him into your home or allowing him to continue roaming your property.
  • If the cat has been living outdoors for some time, it may be necessary to re-introduce him to life as a pet. You will need to teach him to use the litter box, and not to scratch with his claws.
  • If you are taking in a stray cat, start with a trip to the vet.
  • You will also have to socialize the cat with any other cats, pets or people in the home.

A stray cat is a cat that has been socialized to people at some point in their life, but has left or lost their domestic home – and human contact. While living outdoors, a stray cat is more likely to live alone than in a colony of other cats. In many cases, a stray cat can become a pet cat once again. Stray cats that are re-introduced to a home environment after living outdoors may require a period of time to re-acclimate. They may be frightened and wary after spending time outside away from humans, but they can re-adjust to living with humans and can be adopted as companions.

On the other hand, a feral cat is a cat who has never had any contact with humans – or their contact with humans has diminished over time. A feral cat is most likely to live in a colony of cats. A feral cat is fearful of people and survives on its own outdoors. It is very unlikely that a feral cat will ever become domesticated, and it cannot be adopted. However, kittens born to feral cats can be socialized at an early age and adopted into homes.

If you are thinking about taking in a stray cat, the first step is to trap it. Evaluate the cat’s behavior to determine if it is a stray or if it is a feral cat. A feral cat cannot be touched, even by a caretaker. He will likely move as far back in the cage as possible and will appear tense. When trapped, a feral cat will likely ignore all people, toys, and possibly even food.

If you determine that the cat is feral, you should contact a local organization for Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). They will spay or neuter the cat, vaccinate it, and return it to its outdoor home. To learn more about this process, go to What Is a Feral Cat?

If the cat is a stray, you should start with a visit to your veterinarian. First, have the cat scanned for a microchip. It could be that he has a family that is looking for him and wants him to come home. If you can’t find the owner, you may choose to adopt the cat. Have the veterinarian give him any necessary treatments or vaccinations before bringing him into your home. If you already have a cat or other pets, the new cat will have to be acclimated to the home. To learn more about this, go to How to Acclimate a Cat to a New Home.

For more information about adopting stray cats, go to How to Turn a Stray Cat into a Pet.

To learn more about stray cats, read the article Surprise Visitors: What to Do With a Stray Cat.

What Is a Feral Cat?

What is a feral cat? A feral cat is a cat that has had little to no contact with humans. They are usually unapproachable by people. These cats have been born into or adapted to outdoor life without human contact, living together in loose families organized as colonies. They hunt wildlife as food, including mice, birds, and lizards. These cats are not socialized enough to be handled by humans, and for that reason, they cannot easily be placed into a traditional pet home – if at all.

If you are wondering what is a feral cat, you should know that these cats cannot become loving companions – and most will never relish human companionship. They tend to stay away from humans. They hide during the day. Feral cats will find it difficult or impossible to adapt to living as pets in close contact with people. If you adopt a feral cat, you will find that it is very difficult to socialize.

Cats roam outside in most neighborhoods in the United States. Many of these cats are community cats that may be feral. According to the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, it is estimated that there are between 60 million and 100 million feral cats living in the United States. The Humane Society estimates the number of outdoor cats at about 30 to 40 million. These cats are most often the offspring of cats who were lost or abandoned by their owners and they are not socialized to humans.

Community cats typically live in a colony that occupies and defends a specific territory where food and shelter are available. They may live near a restaurant dumpster, under a porch or in an abandoned building. But if these cats are feral, you will rarely see them because they hide from humans.

How to Help a Feral Cat

If you can’t adopt a feral cat, what can you do to help? Many experts believe that the best way to help our feral cat populations is through neutering programs that will reduce their numbers.

A female cat can become pregnant as early as 5 months of age. That one cat can have two or three litters of kittens a year. In seven years time, a single female cat and her kittens can produce 420,000 more cats. And as the feral cat population grows, so do the problems that are associated with it. So the feral cat population in a neighborhood can rapidly increase if cats are not spayed and neutered.

That’s why so many people including the ASPCA and the Humane Society believe that the best way to help feral cat colonies is through Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) efforts. TNR is a nonlethal strategy for reducing the number of community cats and improving the quality of life for cats, wildlife and people. By catching these feral cats and neutering or spaying them, we can help to reduce the number of unwanted cats. Through TNR efforts, these feral cats will be humanely trapped, examined, vaccinated and surgically sterilized by veterinarians. The tip of one ear is surgically removed as a universally recognized sign that the feral cat has been spayed or neutered. Then the cat is returned to its home environment. These cats will no longer reproduce or fight over mates, and their nuisance behaviors are greatly reduced or eliminated.

Afterward, volunteers may provide food and shelter and monitor the health of these cats. Once neutered, these cats tend to gain weight and have fewer health issues. And with fewer females in heat, fewer tom cats are attracted to the area, meaning fewer risky catfights.

While many people advocate for TNR, others believe it is best to relocate feral cats or to put them down. Relocation is not an effective solution. Feral cat colonies are established in areas where resources like food, water, and shelter are available. If you move a feral colony, it won’t be long before another colony moves into this prime real estate and take its place. Also, a relocated cat may try to find its way home, perhaps suffering an accident or death along the way.

If you’re thinking about adopting a feral cat, think again. Feral adult cats are wild animals that simply cannot be tamed. You should never try to handle or pick up a feral cat. However, feral kittens that are under the age of eight weeks old can often be socialized and introduced into a human home.

So, what can we do to help feral cats?

Contact your local Humane Society to see if they have a TNR program. If they don’t, they may know of a local program they can refer you to. A little cash donation to these programs will go a long way toward helping feral cats. Shelters can perform a spay or neuter surgery for under $20. So a small donation on your part can really help. These programs are usually run by volunteers, so get involved and donate your time. There are many ways that you can help.