Cat Urinary Issues: What to Feed a Cat With Urinary Problems

Cat urinary problems need special diets
Cat urinary problems need special diets

Cat urinary are more common than we might realize, but what can we feed cats to help with UTIs and feline renal issues such as kidney stones?

Bladder and urinary tract infections can develop when bacteria find their way into your feline friend's urinary tract. A proper diet is critical in managing and resolving urinary tract infections because what your cat takes in is what they excrete. So, let’s look at how to feed a cat with urinary problems.

What Are the Signs Of Cat Urinary Issues?

Cats suffering from urinary tract issues exhibit signs of bladder discomfort like frequent urination. Urinary problems are often treatable upon a prompt visit to the vet. However, some infections are life-threatening, especially if you delay the visit to the vet.

There are different infections of the urinary tract system that your cat can contract. Feline urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is one such illness that affects the bladder and urethra. Other urinary problems include bladder stones, urethral obstruction, and kidney disease.

The urinary infections listed above have overlapping symptoms, so veterinary diagnosis is crucial in determining the exact one. Here are 5 signs of a urinary infection to know when your kitty needs medical attention:

Frequent urination with little urine

When your cat's bladder gets inflamed in the course of a urinary infection, it swells and becomes irritated. This irritation results in observing your cat visiting the litter box more frequently than usual. Even if your cat pees strains, they excrete little to no pee.

Frequent urination is the primary sign of the condition overactive bladder (OAB). Although a UTI is the most common cause of frequent urination, other conditions like hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus could be responsible for urinary issues in cats.

If your cat has diabetes, be sure to read our article on feeding the diabetic cat here.

Pink or bloody urine

Blood in the urine (hematuria) is common for cats with urinary issues. The disease-causing microbes infect the urinary tract lining, causing it to bleed. When you can see the blood with the naked eye, the bleeding is referred to as gross hematuria.

Straining or crying while urinating

If the lining of the urinary tract is inflamed and irritated, it will cause pain when passing urine. Your cat will express pain when urinating, and it will be visibly harder for them to pee. Painful urination (dysuria) is a telling sign that something is wrong with your cat's urinary system.

Urinating outside the litter box

Cats are known to be well-disciplined when it comes to using their litterbox. If you notice your cat having more "accidents'' than usual, they may be experiencing urinary incontinence.

Cats suffering from problems in their urinary system can lose bladder control leading to the involuntary passing of urine. Don't dismiss a cat urinating in odd places in the house as bad behavior because it may just be a urinary infection.

Not urinating at all

Not urinating at all is a symptom most prevalent among cats with urethral obstruction. Consult your vet immediately if you notice that your cat has not urinated for 12 - 18 hours because it's a life-threatening emergency. Fatal kidney failure can develop if your cat fails to urinate for a long time.

Other signs and symptoms indicating urinary problems include lethargy, a lack of appetite, and excessive grooming of the genital areas.

What Causes Urinary Issues In Cats?

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is an umbrella term used to describe the disorders and diseases that affect the lower urinary tract in cats. Inflammation, bladder stones, urinary tract infections, and urethral obstruction are the leading causes of urinary issues in cats.

Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) is the most common manifestation of FLUTD in cats. It involves inflammation of the bladder without a known cause—hence the term “idiopathic”. Stress is believed to be part of the blend of causes of lower urinary issues in cats.

Crystals or stones in the urinary tract also harm your cat's urinary health. The two most common types of crystals are calcium oxalate and struvite. Urethral obstruction is more common in male than female cats because the urethra is much narrower.

Environmental stressors

Cats are sensitive to stress in their environment which could lead to inappropriate elimination of urine. A cat living in constant stress and anxiety can develop chronic bladder inflammation.

Environmental changes such as a new roommate or baby can lead to stress that manifests as cats with urinary urinary issues. Provide an escape for your cats like a well-hidden place in your house with food and water.

Dehydration

Dehydration is common reason for cat urinary problems
Dehydration is common reason for cat urinary problems

Inadequate hydration in cats leads to concentrated urine and improper flushing out of bodily toxins. Concentrated urine is likely to form urinary stones (uroliths) and crystals that irritate the urinary tract lining.

Cats have a low thirst drive because they got most of their water from their prey while they were still in the wild. This is why it’s important for pet parent’s feed cats a diet with a high moisture content, as this is where they naturally get most of their hydration. Dry food is a no no for cats with urinary issues. If your cat only eats dry food, it’s best to at least add a cup of water to it.

Ensure your cat always has access to fresh water. A fountain would be an added advantage because cats love drinking running water.

Health status and age

Although cats of any age can contract urinary infections, obese middle-aged cats are at most risk. Cat obesity is turning into a pet pandemic with more cats getting overweight by the day. Physical inactivity and a carb-dense diet are most to blame for the prevalent cat obesity.

If you have an overweight or obese cat, see our article here.

Cats experiencing urinary problems can also suffer from endocrine diseases like hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus. You need to get issues with the urinary system addressed promptly to catch underlying ailments early.

Too much calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium in cat food

It’s a little known fact that most cat food one buys in a store simply has too many minerals, specifically phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium. These minerals bind together and prevent absorption into the bloodstream. They then arrive in the renal tract and make stones in the kidneys, urethra, or bladder.

The extremely high levels of phosphorus in cat foods is a particularly common cause of kidney disease in felines. And the addition of inorganic phosphates in cat food can cause massive cat urinary issues.

Other risk factors for cat urinary issues include:

  • Alkaline urine
  • Urine-protein-excretion properties
  • High chloride content in food and water (consider giving a cat with urinary problems filtered water)
  • Low moisture content in food
  • Food that has low digestibility and is high in calories
  • Too much vitamin D and vitamin C in the diet.

What To Look for in Food For Cats With Urinary Issues?

The good news is that urinary diseases are one of the issues which you can keep at bay with a proper diet and plenty of hydration. There are several things to take note of when picking out food for cats with urinary issues.

  • The food should always have a high water content to help flush out the bad bacteria and reverse the problem of dehydration.
  • Minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium should be tightly controlled. There should be slightly more calcium than phosphorus in the diet.
  • Adding cranberry powder to your cat’s food may help remove the bacteria of a UTI.
  • Arginine in the diet helps your cat create ornithine, which removes the excess ammonia from the renal tract.
  • Not only is the amount of magnesium important, but also the type. Magnesium chloride in the food results in far fewer struvite stones than magnesium oxide.

Acidity in food for cat urinary issues

  • Acidity is a massive factor in cats with urinary issues. Dry foods in particular are bad not only because of the lack of moisture but because they raise the PH of the urine. 78% of cats that eat dry food get struvite stones, while it is much rarer in canned wet food. Dry diets with added ammonium chloride (an acidifying agent) only cause kidney stones in about 9% of cats. The amino acid, DL-methionine and phosphoric acid can also help lower the acidity, so look for this on the ingredients list.
  • Food that lowers the urinary PH to 6.6 or lower can help prevent and dissolve struvite stones. But too much acidification is also dangerous, as it causes metabolic acidification and eventually kidney failure. So acidifier such as ammonium chloride are a bad choice in the long run, Rather, diets that contain animal protein and the acidifier, phosphoric acid, seem much safer for feline urinary health.
  • If cats are fed diets with acidifying agents and low magnesium levels for too long, they are at risk of developing another kind of stone, called calcium oxalates. This is another reason that wet or fresh food is better than dry foods.
  • Diets high in grains rather than meat have lower levels of potassium salts that help regulate acidity. High levels of cereal grains in cat foods also increase the urinary PH. So diets that are too high in grains and starches, as opposed to meat, are not a good choice for cats with urinary issues.

So with that being said, what are the best foods we can give a cat with urinary issues.

What Is The Best Wet Food For Urinary Health?

Wysong Uretic with Organic Chicken Canned Cat Food

Wysong Uretic Feline Diet is the best wet food for cat urinary issues
Wysong Uretic Feline Diet is the best wet food for cat

The Wysong Uretic canned food is high in protein and low carbohydrates, which is ideal for urinary health. It contains DL-methionine as an acidifier and a good range of natural antioxidants. It is also 75% moisture.

Cats with urinary problems are better suited to wet food because of the high moisture content (above 75%). Chronic dehydration in cats can lead to lower tract infections and kidney diseases.

Introducing moisture to your cat's diet ensures that your cat gets adequate hydration. Sufficient water in the system flushes out toxins and mineral wastes that would accumulate to form bladder stones.

Other wet foods for cats urinary health to consider include:

  • Hill's Prescription Diet c/d Multicare Urinary Care with Chicken Canned Cat Food has been shown to dissolve struvite crystals.
  • Evanger's EVx Restricted: Urinary Tract doesn't need a prescription to purchase.
  • Blue Buffalo W+U Weight Management and Urinary Care canned wet food needs a vet prescription but is very good for senior cats with urinary issues.

Note: Be mindful when introducing new food into your cat's diet. Make a slow transition to new cat food over an extended time to keep your cat from getting stomach upsets.

What Is The Best Dry Food For Urinary Health

Feeding dry food to a cat with urinary problems is a delicate process. It is remarkably easy for cats to get dehydrated when on a dry food diet because of the low moisture content. Most dry foods consist of starch, making them carb-dense, yet cats need a protein-dense diet.

Royal Canin S/O is the best dry food for cat urinary issues
Royal Canin S/O is the best dry food for cat urinary issues

If you are sure to add some water to the dry food, some vet urinary diets like Royal Canin Urinary S/O will benefit your cat. Hill's Prescription c/d is a dry food that supports your cat's urinary system.

Purina pro plan veterinary diets UR is a dry food that reduces the risk of urinary stone formation. While all the diets mentioned above are dry, they are specially formulated for cats with urinary issues. Consult your vet to draw up the best meal plan for your feline with urinary issues.

Conclusion

Urinary problems, especially lower urinary tract issues, are common among cats. Feeding your cat a vet urinary diet helps curb the formation of crystals and bladder stones. Provide your cat with an adequate supply of fresh water to ensure they're well hydrated.