Feline Chronic Kidney Disease

What You Need to Know About Feline Chronic Kidney Disease

Just like us, our cats can get sick. Some recover quickly, while others have a longer healing process, and others may even not survive. Though there are many illnesses that cats are affected by, one of the most common diseases seen in domestic cats is Feline Chronic Kidney Disease, also known as Feline Kidney Disease or Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD, FKD, or CKD for short). It is most commonly found among middle aged to older cats and, over time, the worsening of the disease becomes more visible to owners as it affects their cat’s daily routine.

This kitty is a bit sleepy, but he doesn’t seem to be feeling too bad yet!

Anatomy of the Kidneys

A cat’s kidneys are found in the abdomen, located around their lower back on both sides of their spine. Be careful when trying to catch your cat: you may squeeze this area too roughly and you can bruise or damage their kidneys. Because blood is filtered through the kidneys to remove anything toxic from the body, the kidneys are constantly functioning without conscious thought or intention. Urine is created by the cat’s kidneys through their filtering process, then it is carried to the cat’s bladder by the ureters and finally released through the cat’s urethra.

They also serve other functions such as producing hormones like Erythropoietin which stimulates the bone marrow to create new red blood cells. The kidneys also remove toxins from the cat’s blood, and they maintain normal blood pressure, water balance, salt balance, and other electrolytes in the body. The kidneys also help maintain the balance of acid in the cat’s body.

A helpful visual showing where the kidneys are located on your cat.

Chronic Kidney Disease

First, it’s important to know that there are two types of Feline Kidney Disease, Acute and Chronic. Acute Kidney Disease is curable if it’s diagnosed in the early stages, whereas Chronic Kidney Disease is not. This article will focus solely on Chronic Kidney Disease. This disease occurs when there is long term and irreversible damage to the kidney(s) that impair the kidney’s ability to properly function by removing waste products from the cat’s blood. FCKD can be caused by a few things, such as Glomerulonephritis, when there is inflammation of the Glomeruli (a cluster of capillaries around the end of a kidney tubule where toxins are filters from the blood); Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), an inherited disease that causes healthy kidney tissue to gradually produce fluid filled cysts; Kidney tumors like lymphoma; bacterial infections, birth defects, trauma, hyperkaliemia or hypokalemia (high levels of calcium in blood or low levels of potassium in blood); harsh toxins such as pesticides, certain house plants, disinfectants, or human drugs can also cause damage to the kidneys resulting in FCKD. Sometimes FCKD can be avoided by keeping medications and chemicals where cats cannot access them, and by remaining careful about the plant selection that you bring into your home.

Your lovely kitty will likely try to get into anything and everything!


The first symptoms of FCKD may not be visible to cat owners because they can be quite subtle. They will become more obvious as the months go on because it’s a progressive disease. Some of the most well-known symptoms are a poor appetite, constipation, diarrhea, lethargy, cloudy or bloody urine, urinating in strange places, pain when urinating, avoidance of their litter box, stumbling when walking, weight loss, and increased urination and thirst.

Some other signs of FCKD is a loss of fur or a dull coat, anemia, high blood pressure, overall weakness, and vomiting. Your cat may start crashing because of a major loss of kidney function. Those symptoms include a strong body odor, unusual hiding, dull eyes, the inability to walk, uncontrollable vomiting, and refusing to drink or eat. Remember that cats are masterminds at hiding their pain or discomfort, so it’s important that you keep a close eye on your cat and pay attention to their behavior before the issues escalate.

This young kitty is less likely to be diagnosed with FCKD than an older cat would be.

The diagnosis of FCKD consists of making two medical tests: Urinalysis and Blood testing. For your cat’s urine test, you’ll have to collect the urine yourself. This can be done by isolating your cat in a room with only water (no food for that day) with an empty litter box. Check on your cat frequently, not only to keep them company, but also to ensure that you get a fresh sample. Once your cat has used the restroom, collect the urine in plastic container that your veterinarian provided you. Write your cat’s name and the date of the fresh urine on the container before placing it in your refrigerator. Take your sample to your veterinarian as soon as possible so they can test the urine and get the most accurate and reliable results for you and your cat. When the urine is tested, the quantity of protein being lost will be determined by the “Protein to Creatinine Ratio”. If your cat is losing protein quickly, it might be an indicator of FCKD. Your cat’s urine will also be tested for the presence of red blood cells, white blood cells, bacteria, and appropriate pH levels.

If your cat is diagnosed with FCKD it’s important to know that there is not yet a cure for the disease. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you what stage your cat’s FCKD is in based on their Creatinine levels. The treatment for FCKD can prolong and improve their life, making it less painful for them. The goals for treating your cat will be to delay the progression of the disease and control the amount of uremia. The treatment will not stop the course of the disease, however.

The main treatment is by using Subcutaneous fluid therapy; the fluids will be injected under the skin near the scruff of the neck or between the shoulder blades. The fluids will help control vomiting, dehydration, and anorexia, and it will flush circulating toxins and waste out of your cat’s system. Your veterinarian will teach you how to give Subcutaneous fluids injections to your cats.

An example of Subcutaneous fluid therapy.

Changing your cat’s diet is another form of treatment, giving them quality protein with low to zero amount of phosphorus and sodium. Some veterinarians will suggest prescription dry food for FCKD, however, I recommend creating a homemade meal for your cat. Purchase chicken, lean turkey, and lean beef for your cat and cook them a meal. Make sure to keep plenty of water bowls throughout the house for your cat. Providing your cat with vitamins and minerals can be helpful, too. Kidney Support Gold is liquid that helps with your cat’s energy levels, immune system, urination, thirst, and their appetite and weight may also improve. If you want to take a more holistic approach towards your cat’s treatment, there is always Chiropractic treatment, reiki, and massage for your cat.

Although treatment only goes so far and provides so much, all of us must be able to let go and say goodbye at some point. I have never experienced this specific loss with a cat of mine, but I know that saying goodbye to a loved one is a wound that never really heals. Even with treatment, your cat’s kidneys will still fail and it is best to take them too your veterinarian right away. Making the decision to put down your cat will be difficult, and it’s important to have a support system for you and your cat. But it is important that you’re with your cat during their final moment. Remember to surround them with love and snuggles in their final moments, and remember to have compassion for yourself as well.

Elanda-Isabella Atencio, our Feline Editor, is on her road to being a “crazy” cat lady. She has three cats; a moody Missus, a wild Baby Kitty, and notorious Fredrick Douglass. She was raised with cats, chickens, dogs, and geese. From cleaning coops, morning dog runs, picking eggs, to growing catnip, Elanda enjoys pampering her pets. Elanda is a student at New Mexico State University, earning her BA in Creative Writing and is Editor-in-Chief of the online arts journal, Independent Noise and reader for Puerto del Sol. She plans to move to Oregon, where she hopes to take her cats on daily walks when it’s overcast and cool. If you’d like to contact Elanda, email her at eincatencio@gmail.com.

How American Troops Saved the Lipizzaner in World War II

The Spanish Riding School of Vienna is the world’s oldest riding school and home to the legendary Lipizzaner Stallions since the 1500s. The school is the only establishment in the world which practices the Renaissance tradition of Haute Ecole, or high school movements, in classical dressage, and it has been considered an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO since 2010.

For over 450 years, this remarkable training has been passed down verbally from rider to rider, producing grace and harmony between horse and rider. The stallions are trained to perform extraordinary movements, including above-the-ground exercises such as the Capriole, Levade, and Courbette.

A gorgeous performing Lipizzaner doing some incredible aerial work.

The Lipizzaner is the oldest cultivated horse breed in Europe, but it could have disappeared forever during World War Two if it wasn’t for the bravery and courage of a combined rescue mission from both the US and German forces.

 The Perfect Equine

Just as the Second World War was coming to an end, General George S. Patton authorized a secret mission called “Operation Cowboy,” resulting in the rescue of nearly twelve hundred horses held by the German army in a village called Hostau in Czechoslovakia.

Adolf Hitler not only wanted to create a pure German human race, but he also wanted the perfect equine for use in the military. In 1942, Nazis captured and stole the best breeding stock across Europe, which included Thoroughbreds and Arabians, but they were mostly interested in Lipizzaners.

He injured more than just humans.

Secret Hideout

The secret hideout of these magnificent horses might have remained undiscovered if it hadn’t been for the capture of Luftwaffe officers on April 26, 1945. They surrendered peacefully to a group of US soldiers from the Third Army, Second Cavalry, led by their commanding officer, Colonel John Hancock Reed.

Among their papers, US soldiers found photos of two beautiful Lipizzaner stallions. A German officer then revealed details of the captured horses, which were cared for by 400 allied prisoners of war along with deserters from The Red Army. The officer asked the Americans to help rescue the horses from the Russian soldiers, who were closing in and would most likely would kill the animals to feed their tired and hungry troops.

Although the Americans and Russians were allies, an agreement made with Stalin at the Yalta conference meant that the Russians had control everywhere from the east side of the German border. Reed requested permission from General Patton, who responded swiftly with the message, “Get them. Make it fast.”

Riding with the Enemy

Reed summoned intelligence officer, Captain Thomas Stewart, from the 2nd Cavalry’s 42nd Reconnaissance Squadron. Stewart, an experienced horseman, was to accompany German Captain Rudolph Lessing, a veterinarian, to request the release of the horses and prisoners.

General Patton and one of the rescued horses.

He would carry a letter, written in both German and English, authorizing him as an envoy under Lessing’s protection to negotiate terms. The pair left on foot into the night and walked half a mile before continuing on a motorbike that Lessing had hidden in bushes. After several miles, they arrived at a barn belonging to a Czech forester and exchanged the bike for two horses. During an interview years later, Stewart explained that he had relished the experience, daunting as it was, riding alone in the company of an enemy soldier.

His mount, a Lipizzaner stallion, once belonged to Peter II, the King of Yugoslavia, and had been his favorite horse. When the pair came across a road block constructed by tree logs and branches that measured three-foot-high and three-foot-wide, Stewart didn’t hesitate to jump. Lessing knew an alternative route and shouted out that his horse couldn’t jump. Too late! The Lipizzaner stallion took off, clearing it with perfection. Stewart revealed that it was the highlight of the trip.

However, they were to face a far bigger obstacle as they approached Hostau.

The stud manager, Lt. Col. Hubert Rudofsky had initially agreed to the plan to release the horses, but he later changed his mind. As he was a Czech national, he thought he could make a better deal with the Russians rather that the Americans, and threatened to shoot Lessing and Stewart as spies.

Lessing, however, managed to negotiate terms with the local army commander, General Schulze, pointing out that their top priority was to save the horses. Schulze assured Stewart a safe passage when he returned with his task force. Stewart informed Reed by radio of the events, and Reed immediately put a plan into action.

Operation Cowboy

The next day, April 28, saw some 70 men from the 42nd Reconnaissance Squadron’s A Troop start their mission. As promised, they received no resistance on their way to the stud farm, and the surrender was peaceful. With the facility now secure, The American Troops went to rescue some of the finest horses in Europe. Among them, they discovered Arabians, thoroughbred racehorses and trotters, Russian Cossack horses, and Lipizzaners.

The Lipizzaners were from breeding farms across Europe as well as from the Yugoslav Royal Stud and the Piper Stud in Austria, which produces horses for the Spanish Riding School of Vienna.

The famous Spanish Riding School of Vienna.

Steps were also taken to free and protect the prisoners of war that had been taking care of the horses. On April 30, the American Troops, along with the surrendered German soldiers and the prisoners of war, fought off an attack by German Troops for five hours .

Afterwards, the American Troops, in cowboy-style, rode and drove the horses back to American lines. The mission saw some soldiers injured and two of the soldiers, Pfc. Raymond E. Manz and Tech 5 Owen W. Sutton sadly lost their lives.

On May 7, 1945, Patton received a call stating that the Germans had surrendered. The war was ending.

Performing Lipizzaners

Col. Alois Podhasky, the then director of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, was searching for a way to secure the facility. The horses and riders had moved to a temporary base in the small town of St. Martin Im Innkreis, in Upper Austria.

A private display of the performing horses and riders was put on especially for General Patton. As a former Olympian, he was a renowned horseman, and had finished fifth in the Pentathlon at the 1912 Olympics. At the end of the performance, Podhajsky, on horseback, stood before Patton, and requested protection of the riding school along with help finding his lost breeding stock. Patton assured him that the Spanish Riding School would receive special protection under the US Army and that he would help find the horses in Czechoslovakia.

A beautiful performing Lipizzaner.

What Podhajsky didn’t realize was that his horses had been rescued several days earlier. He was later flown to Reed’s headquarters to inspect the captured Lipizzaners.

Although the horses were now under the protection of US Troops, they were still in Czechoslovakia and Reed knew they had to move them from the country. Czech and Russian Communists had already shown an interest in the stock after visiting the stud in Hostau several times.

Plans went ahead to move the horses to Mannsbach in central Germany on May 12. They drove some 350 horses in small groups, with vehicles driven before and after them, along with riders on horseback among them. They covered 130 miles, the fastest group reaching the destination in two days. The slower group, which included mares and foals, arrived safely a day later.

On May 25, 1945, 244 Lipizzaners returned to Austria. Over the next few months, Podhajsky organised several performances for troops stationed in the country as a “thank you” for their efforts. The mission had been risky, as they lost two soldiers in the process. So why did they do it? In what was a truly awful war, Reed put it simply, “We wanted to do something beautiful.”

Thanks to the courage of these men, the beauty and grandeur of the performing Lipizzaner stallions continue their tradition at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna today.

To those troops who saved them, we must be truly grateful.

Alison O’Callaghan, our Equine Editor, is a professional horse riding instructor and has owned many types of pets. When she is not riding horses or walking her dog, she loves to write about animals. If you’d like to contact Alison, you can email her at ocallaghan462@gmail.com.