Kidney failure is quite common in the cat. Most cats (something like 85%) of cats over the age of 12 years have some form of chronic kidney failure, although most owners don't know it until it's too late. It's not all their fault. The most common tests for kidney failure don't demonstrate a problem until 2/3 of the kidneys have been destroyed. Also, the owners are part of the reason for the problem....well, sort of. Well-fed, well-treated cats can live to be 18, 19, 20 or longer. Given that most estimate of cats in the wild are in the 3 year range, it should not be surprising that pets that live 15 years or more past their "wild" lifespan would begin to break down.
Since chronic kidney failure in the cat is a constant worry, veterinarians are always concerned about threats to a cat's kidneys. Whether we are concerned about medications, anesthesia or anti-freeze, how a cat's kidneys will handle the crisis is always a concern.
Which brings us to today's article: Acute intrinsic renal failure in cats: 32 cases (1997-2004), JAVMA, vol 232, No 5 728-732, by S. Worwag and C. E. Langston.
These two researchers studied the records of over 32 cats that presented to a referral hospital for kidney failure that came on suddenly. Most of the cases (18) were due to the ingestion of some toxin. Seventeen of the cats survived (53%), which is on par with humans and dogs. (This seems worrisome to me, the human hospital has way more tools than I have and still only 1/2 survive!) All of the cats that did not survive were not producing urine at the time of admission. And, an increase in potassium usually meant a decreased chance of survival.
This is bothersome to me. First, it means once a cat's kidneys shut down there may be very little I can do to get them working again. Second, at least in my neck of the woods, potassium is very rarely run on a routine blood panel at the veterinarian's office. The lesson here is to keep things that may be toxic to your cat locked away.