Objective This study was conducted to investigate the regulation of endoplasmic reticulum stress on Nrf2 signaling pathway in the kidneys of rats. Methods Rats were divided into twelve groups of six animals each. Some groups were pre-administered with bacitracin or tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA), and all of them were treated with 5-20 mu mol/kg cadmium (Cd) for 48 h. The oxidative stress levels were analyzed using kits. The mRNA and protein expression levels of endoplasmic reticulum stress-related factors and Nrf2 signaling pathway-related factors were determined using RT-PCR and western blot. Results Cd exposure resulted in oxidative stress in the kidneys of rats and upregulated the expression of endoplasmic reticulum stress (ERS)-related factors and Nrf2 signaling pathway-related factors, especially at doses of 10 and 20 mu mol/kg Cd, and the expression changes were particularly obvious. Moreover, after pretreatment with bacitracin, Cd upregulated the expression of ERS-related factors to a certain extent and, at higher doses, increased the mRNA expression of Nrf2. After pretreatment with TUDCA, Cd reduced the level of ERS to a certain extent; however, at these doses, there were no significant changes in the expression of Nrf2. Conclusion Cadmium can result in ERS and oxidative stress in the kidneys of rats, activate Nrf2, and upregulate the transcriptional expression of phase II detoxification enzymes under these experimental conditions. ERS has a positive regulation effect on Nrf2 signaling pathway but has little effect on the negative regulation of Nrf2 signaling pathway in cadmium toxicity.