Kidney Transplants for Cats: Cost and More
An 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.