If your cat has recently been diagnosed with kidney disease, you are likely to have many questions, from what you can do to help, to how long your cat is likely to live. Blood tests are usually the first step in diagnosis. However, to address your concerns and determine the best way to manage your cat’s kidney disease, your vet is likely to suggest further tests, a process which is termed kidney disease staging.

What is kidney disease staging in cats?

While there is usually no cure for chronic kidney disease in cats, there is a lot that can be done to support kidney function and keep your feline well for as long as possible. Understanding the extent of your cat’s kidney disease, and any other associated problems they may have, is crucial for developing an effective treatment plan. This is where kidney disease staging comes into play.

The most commonly used staging system for feline kidney disease is the IRIS system, which grades kidney disease from stage one (mild) to stage four (severe) based on blood levels of something called creatinine.

So far so good. But what does this mean for you and your cat? Well, in addition to overall staging, your vet may want to break things down a little further by measuring your cat’s blood pressure, and checking for protein in their urine. This is called sub staging and is key to tailoring a kidney disease management plan to your cat’s specific needs.

What can I do to help my cat with kidney disease?

When it comes to helping your cat, you should be guided by your vet. Cats with kidney disease are at an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, so after the initial diagnosis, talk to your vet about:

  1. Booking your cat in for a blood pressure check
  2. Urine testing

High blood pressure in cats is linked to increased risk of damage to other organs, such as the heart and eyes and as blood pressure rises, the risk of damage to other organs increases (Table 1). High blood pressure can also cause a further deterioration in kidney function.

Blood pressure (mmHg)

Risk of organ damage (kidney, heart, eyes)









Table 1. IRIS guidelines: The relationship between blood pressure and organ damage

How is kidney disease in cats treated?

Treating kidney disease in cats involves a comprehensive approach based on the results of blood and urine tests, as well as blood pressure measurements. Looking at this wider picture helps to ensure that your cat can get the best possible care. This may include a renal diet formulated to support kidney function, as well as prescribed blood pressure medication.

Why is it important to diagnose kidney disease early?

Diagnosing kidney disease early is crucial. By the time cats reach stage 4 according to the IRIS kidney disease guidelines, they typically have less than 10 percent of their original nephron population remaining. Nephrons are the part of the kidney that filters the blood and sadly with chronic kidney failure, the damage is almost always irreversible.

Early diagnosis and intervention allows for prompt treatment which can slow down disease progression, as well as improving your cat’s quality of life.