Objectives The objective of this study was to identify the renal ultrasonographic (US) findings most strongly associated with azotaemia in cats. Methods US findings in 238 cats with (serum creatinine >180 μmol/l) and 270 cats without azotaemia were compared in a retrospective case-control study. Cats with pre-renal azotaemia or urethral obstruction were excluded. Data extracted from the medical records included age, body weight and body condition score (BCS). Quantitative and subjective US findings were extracted from archived ultrasound images and contemporaneous reports. Results In non-azotaemic cats, mean ± SD renal length was 40.1 ± 5.5 mm. Male cats had larger kidneys than female cats (mean difference 5.2 mm; P = 0.001) and, on average, the right kidney was slightly larger than the left (mean difference 1.6 mm; P = 0.01). Azotaemic cats had significantly lower mean body weight and BCS, and greater mean age and renal pelvic diameter. Renal pelvic diameter was negatively correlated with urine specific gravity (ρ -0.44, P <0.001). Compared with non-azotaemic cats, there was no difference in mean renal length of azotaemic cats because the numbers with enlarged kidneys and small kidneys were similar. Radiologists' subjective assessments of renal size differed markedly between azotaemic and non-azotaemic cats, with azotaemic cats more likely to be recorded falsely as having abnormally small or enlarged kidneys. US findings significantly associated with azotaemia were perinephric fluid (odds ratio [OR] 26.4, 95% confidence interval [CI] 3.4-207.7), small kidneys (OR 8.4, 95% CI 4.0-17.4), hyperechoic renal cortex (OR 4.1, 95% CI 2.2-7.6), loss of corticomedullary differentiation (OR 4.1, 95% CI 1.8-9.6), renal calculi (OR 2.7, 95% CI 1.4-4.9), enlarged kidneys (OR 2.5, 95% CI 1.2-5.5) and dilated renal pelvis (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.3-1.9). Conclusions and relevance Perinephric fluid was the US finding most strongly associated with azotaemia in this study and may merit more emphasis than it has received to date. Bias in radiologists' subjective assessments of renal size suggests that other subjective findings will also be biased.