Clinical and laboratory findings at the time of first diagnosis in 80 cats with chronic renal failure (CRF) were examined in a prospective study to determine the survival time of these animals and identify possible factors contributing to the progression of feline CRF. On the basis of clinical presentation, animals were assigned to one of three groups; compensated (n=15), uraemic (n=39) and end-stage (n=26) CRF. Loss of renal concentrating ability was a common finding, even before clinical signs of renal disease were evident. The plasma creatinine concentration at initial presentation was a poor predictor of survival time and the presence of significant anaemia was indicative of a poor prognosis. The study demonstrated the highly variable degree of renal impairment present at the time of diagnosis and the potentially long survival time of many compensated and uraemic cases.