Kidney Transplants for Cats

Kidney Transplants for Cats: Cost and More

Rags - Soaking Up The Rays 2-10-09An unfortunate cat health problem for pet owners is a higher risk of kidney failure in cats as they age. There are two types of kidney disease that could appear in cats: acute and chronic. Acute is the result of a cat ingesting something dangerous, such as lilies, antifreeze, or anti-inflammatory meds for people, but luckily this kind of damage can be reversible. Chronic, on the other hand, means the buildup of scar tissue in a cat’s kidneys, which is crippling over time.

As with kidney failure in humans, one of the go-to treatments vets recommend is dialysis, which could potentially extend a cat’s life and reduce their pain, but will not cure the condition. However, a few pioneer vets have been dabbling in organ transplants for cats, with promising results for kidney transplants.

The Kidney Transplant Option

Veterinary surgeons report high success rates for kidney transplants: 93% of cats leave the hospital post-operation, 70% are alive and well a year later, and most cats can live three years on average after a transplant – though one vet operated on a kitty who bought another 13 years of life with their new kidney!

Finding a kidney transplant donor for a cat is an easier process than for dogs and humans, because most cats share a blood type (A), and do not need to receive the kidney from a relative (which is the case for a canine kidney transplant). Most donor cats themselves have no long-term complications from the removal of one kidney, and they can live long and healthy lives post-donation, much like humans.

Commitments and Caveats of Kidney Transplants

Committing to a kidney transplant surgery for your cat is a serious decision, with quite a few costs and caveats. Assuming there are no complications, the feline kidney transplant cost is in the range of $15,000-$18,000, with the additional monthly expense of $60-$100 for any necessary post-surgery drugs, including anti-rejection meds. Some pet insurance companies cover this, but be sure to read your plan in detail and be aware of any pre-existing conditions that might limit your coverage.

Your cat will also need ongoing care for the rest of their lives, including more frequent veterinary exams to monitor their progress and results, as well as regular home care, including administering immunosuppressive meds at the same time every day.

Beyond the cat kidney transplant cost, another major commitment involved with the transplant process is the possibility of needing to adopt the donor cat. While pet owners are welcome to find their own donors as long as the cat is young and healthy enough to pass a physical exam, if the donor comes from a shelter, the recipient cat’s owner must commit to adopting the donor cat, even if the surgery is not successful. This is an ethical stipulation outlined by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

However, most pet owners are so grateful of the gift to their kitty that they grow attached to the donor cat very quickly and are more than happy to welcome them into their family.

Opting for a kidney transplant for a cat involves a serious commitment of time and energy, as well as a willingness to potentially open your home to a new cat, but as veterinary surgeons create more options for chronically ill kitties, it is a viable path that many pet owners are happily choosing.

What experiences have you had or stories have you heard about kidney transplants for cats?

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Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

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  1. Teresa Reid says:

    Yeah, I wouldn’t ever do that to my kitty no matter how much I wanted them to be here. With medicine the way it is presently and having worked in ICU for years seeing what humans go through, there is just too much suffering involved. Even if I had the funds (I don’t), it isn’t like the cat goes in, gets the kidney, and does a recovery period, then feels better. They suffer post op and risk possible infection from the surgery and then are more succeptible to infection because of taking immunosuppressants to prevent their body from rejecting the kidney. Those drugs in themselves have side effects that can cause other serious medical conditions as well. I am thankful for every single day that my girls are healthy and love them with all my heart, but if the time comes (as it has 5 times already), and they go into renal failure, then I will do everything to make them as comfortable as possible by giving fluids and benign meds that slow down the process to buy more time (such as in Mari’s case now – she’s pre-renal). Then when it gets to the point that they are feeling sick and suffering, will suck it in as hard as it is and let them go. It is so sad and terrible, but trying to keep them longer doesn’t prolong their quality of life, it prolongs their suffering and subsequent death. Love and respect them way to much for that. Wouldn’t feel right about taking a kidney from another kitty either since they can’t give their consent and could possibly die from complications as well. ♥♥♥♥

    1. right, i would feel guilty about the other kitty – like i was stealing…but then again, i would give them (as you would) a way better quality of life than they would have had originally. i don’t know. guess you can’t make a decision until you’re faced with the situation.

  2. Thank you so much for this very useful and valuable information, Jenny! I really learned A LOT! Wow! I had no idea how expensive a kidney transplant for a kitty could be! A good reason in itself to have some type of pet health insurance, I guess. I know I couldn’t afford that type of surgery and the post-op follow-up on our limited retirement income. I just keep praying that our girl will stay as healthy as possible as she ages based on the good care we give to her with her wet food diet and water.

    Big hugs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3

    1. personally i dont think i would follow through with a transplant ever – not sure how fair it is to the donating cat. but, never say never.

      1. Wayne Robinson says:

        Jenny, I initially felt the same as you. But thinking about it, it’s the same with human donors and I think the fact you are obliged to adopt and care for the donor is a fantastic idea. Imagine how readily you would welcome a kitty into your life if he or she saved the life of your loved one. Having said that, I could never afford it, but it’s one of life’s great comforts knowing that it’s an option.

        1. i have cat health insurance – makes me wonder if it would be covered.

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