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Polycystic Kidney Disease in Bengal Cats

A Bengal kitten laying on a blanket.
This Bengal kitten is kicking back and loving every minute of it!

Polycystic Kidney Disease is just what it sounds like. Cysts (small, closed, liquid-filled sacs,) develop in the kidneys and interfere with function. This is an inherited disorder that is most frequently found in Persian cats, but can also occur in Bengal cats. These cysts multiply over time and grow in size, eventually taking over the ability of the kidneys to function. 

When polycystic kidney disease develops in a Bengal cat, or any other cat, there can be one cyst that gets larger and larger, or there can be 30 or more small cysts. Your veterinarian will probably not be able to feel them upon ordinary exam of the abdomen, but the kidneys will feel larger. At a more advanced stage of the disease, the cysts may become so large that they can be felt by the veterinarian. 

The cysts in Polycystic Kidney Disease are present at birth and can be diagnosed in kittens as young as six months of age. However, the cysts usually do not cause symptoms until the cat is several years old, the average being 7 years of age. 

Symptoms of Polycystic Kidney Disease in Bengal Cats

The signs of polycystic kidney disease are the same as signs in most any type of kidney disease and include:

  • Increased drinking

  • Increased urination

  • Decreased appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Lethargy


A Bengal kitten sitting and posing perfectly.
Beautiful Bengal kitten posing for a photo.

The cysts in their early stages are so small that they can’t be felt by your vet nor can they be seen on X-rays. Ultrasound of the kidneys is the only way to get a definitive diagnosis. Blood work can help your vet find out if the cysts have caused your cat to go into kidney failure yet. 

It may be thought that cysts could be drained by an ultrasound-guided needle, but there are usually too many, and the cysts would just fill up with fluid again. Therefore, the only approach possible is to manage the condition as long as possible. 

Managing Polycystic Kidney Disease in Bengals

Since the condition cannot be cured, management is the only treatment possible. That includes diet, fluids, and medication. Switching to a raw diet can help you make sure your Bengal is receiving all their necessary nutrient requirements.

Protein Levels

Cats being the carnivores they are means they have to have a certain amount of high-quality protein. With kidney disease, a cat still needs those proteins, but at lower levels. Decreased protein will lower the strain on the kidneys. Prescription diets are lower in protein than regular feline diets. Raw diets mimic a cats natural diet and provides ample amounts of proteins.


Phosphorus levels in the blood stream are another factor that has to be considered. High levels can lead to nausea which affects appetite and vomiting. Prescription diets have carefully controlled phosphorus content, relying on easily digestible forms.

Control of Sodium

Sodium, in moderation, is an important element. It helps with hydration which is so important in kidney disease, but must be properly balanced. High blood pressure can result from too much sodium and that will make the kidneys worse. Raw diets contain less sodium. 

The Potassium Predicament

Potassium is a very important element whether your cat has kidney disease or not. Low potassium is often the case in cat kidney disease. If a cat has low enough potassium, they can get so weak they cannot hold their heads up or walk. Many cats need to be on potassium supplements. However, high potassium can be dangerous. Your vet can only tell what the potassium level is from blood work. Raw diets can be formulated help to maintain a balance. 


Kidney disease tends to make cats dehydrated. That makes the kidneys worse. Raw diets have higher moisture content than store-bought food and that helps the kidneys.

A Bengal kitten rests with the mother cat after nursing.
A Bengal kitten cuddling with momma after nursing!

Alternative Diets and Supplements

Some cats just absolutely won’t eat the new food. Try them all before you give up. Talk to your vet about switching to a different prescription diet or making the food yourself. If you’re feeding a home-cooked diet, you will need a specific recipe so the above ingredients are at the right levels, and you will need to provide supplements. 

Managing Other Aspects of Kidney Disease

Diet is the main thing that can help your cat’s kidneys, but there are other things. Let’s touch on fluids, medications, and additional treatments that can help kidney health.

Encouraging Adequate Fluids

Cats are not big drinkers to begin with although a cat in kidney failure will drink a lot more than usual. Hydration is crucial. You can encourage your cat to drink more by purchasing a water fountain for pets, or you can try flavor enhancers. Feeding your cat wet food can significantly increase their fluid intake.

Medications and Supplements

In addition to diet, your vet may prescribe medications like phosphorus binders, anti-nausea drugs, or appetite stimulants. These address symptoms and optimize your cat’s comfort levels.

Potential Treatments

In advanced cases, treatments such as subcutaneous fluids may be recommended. You can either take your kitty into the hospital every day or every other day or you can learn to give them at home. 


A Bengal kitten laying on a fur like blanket
Glitz and glamour, this Bengal kitten has it all!

Polycystic kidney disease is an unfortunate, inherited disease of cats, particularly Persians, but also Bengal cats. It is progressive and there is no cure. However, you can help your kitty have a longer, healthier, and happier life if you feed a special diet, maintain hydration and give the medications your vet prescribes. 

If you have a cat with polycystic kidney disease, you should have your pet tested to determine if he carries the responsible gene. If it turns out that is the case, the kitty must not be allowed to breed. That is the only preventative measure known at this time. 


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