Eighty cats with chronic renal failure (CRF) were evaluated in a prospective study to investigate the prevalence and aetiopathogenesis of renal secondary hyperparathyroidism (RHPTH), using routine plasma biochemistry and assays of parathyroid hormone (PTH), blood ionised calcium and 1,25 dihydroxycholecalciferol (1,25[OH]2D3). Hyperparathyroidism was a frequent sequela of CRF, affecting 84 per cent of cats with CRF, the severity and prevalence of RHPTH increasing with the degree of renal dysfunction. Compared with an age-matched control population, plasma concentrations of phosphate and PTH were significantly higher and 1,25(OH)2D3 concentrations were significantly lower in the two groups of cats presenting with clinical signs of CRF. Significant ionised hypocalcaemia was present only in cats with end-stage renal failure. However, a number of cats were hyperparathyroid in the absence of abnormalities in the parameters of calcium homeostasis measured in this study. There was a significant correlation between plasma phosphate and PTH concentrations.