I can’t tell you how many times over the last decade I have had conversations about cats with urinary issues. The fact is, most cats will suffer renal failure and that will be the cause of their death.
So - that leads me to ask (for the millionth time) WHY?
The answer can be summed up in one word…and then we will look into the deeper reasons.
But first…what are common urinary issues in cats? 1. Urinary tract infections, crystals and kidney issues are all common ailments that plague the average house cat. When talking about crystals and UTIs, often we have to look at both together. If crystals form in the urine, they can scrape the walls of the bladder and urethra and that scraping can cause secondary urinary infections. If those crystals are left untreated, the problem can deepen and the inflammation that arises can actually cause your cat to become “blocked” or unable to pee - that is life threatening and should NOT be taken lightly!
2. Spraying - going to the bathroom in places other than their litter box. Cats are smart…sometimes too much so! If they go pee in their litter box and it hurts, they can associate the pain with the litter box. They then move on to other places in your home in an attempt to get away from the pain.
3. Kidney disease. Bacterial infections or urinary obstructions are just two of the possible causes of kidney disease in cats. These are two factors that we can exercise some control over, so it is worth eliminating those as a root cause of deeper disease down the line!
Ok, so we have identified some of the things that can arise as feline urinary issues. Let’s take a bit of a deeper look into why it happens and what we can do about it….
Cats are not physically able to take in a ton of water from a water bowl. It’s just the way they are built. For those who need a visual on that and on how they differ from dogs when they drink, here you go: https://youtu.be/295bNJiTA20
Now, in my opinion, nature isn’t stupid. They made cats this way for a reason…and the reason is that cats are made to EAT FRESH MEAT and therefore they get their moisture from the tissue and blood of the animals they consume. My apologies if that makes you squeamish - but I kind of think that cats get squeamish when we put a bowl of dried hard franken-nuggets in front of them and expect them to get excited. So really, who offended who?
In the wild, cats get their moisture from their prey and from moving water.
Get a fountain style feeder, Feed a raw, species appropriate diet or, if that just isn’t possible, feed a high percentage of HIGH quality wet/canned food. Add bone broth or raw, unpasteurized Goat’s Milk to their grain free dry food.
Problem: Cats are often neutered very early to avoid unwanted breeding. This can mean that the urinary system did not have a chance to develop and the urethra can be very narrow. That makes it even easier for crystals to cause inflammation that leads to blockage. Solution: While we can’t “undo” the surgical procedure, we can supplement using herbs and homeopathy to help to make sure it doesn’t develop into an issue BEFORE we see symptoms of urinary issues. We can feed appropriately and make sure moisture is always present. We can also eliminate inflammatory foods such as corn, grains, wheat, and other carbohydrates. Knowledge is power, and if we are equipped to avoid urinary issues by making sure crystals don’t form - we are far ahead of the game, so don’t worry!
Cats who get their nutrition from 100% dry food (kibble) are the most prone to crystal formation because they are chronically dehydrated. In order to digest the food, their body must leech moisture from internal organs and tissues (to help to break down the kibble for digestion). Solution: Change to a species appropriate raw diet or, if that isn’t possible, add a high percentage of HIGH quality wet food, bone broth, raw unpasteurized goat’s milk…there are many options to increase real food nutrition and add the missing moisture.
Problem: We often keep our kitties inside all day and night for safety reasons. This makes complete sense on many levels, however, it does compromise their exercise and their ability to seek food sources (mice, birds etc) that provide the lacking moisture in their diet. Again, if we recognize this and offer solutions, this doesn’t have to lead to health concerns in the form of bladder issues.
Interaction, toys, tools that instigate play and movement are all options to get kitty fit. You could always get another animal if that is appropriate as that would certainly encourage activity. Again, food should be changed to add the element of moisture to mimic ancestral diet.
Why veterinarian prescription diets are not the be-all-end-all solution…. Now, don’t get me wrong - if your cat is blocked, you need veterinary attention right away. The Urinary SO food may be something that you have to put him on for short term resolution in order for inflammation to go down. Let’s take a look at the actual ingredient panel from a bag of Royal Canin Urinary SO.
Chicken by-product meal, brewers rice, corn gluten meal, corn, powdered cellulose, wheat gluten, chicken fat, natural flavors, salt, potassium chloride, fish oil, calcium sulfate, monocalcium phosphate, egg product, sodium bisulfate, vegetable oil, DL-methionine, fructooligosaccharides, choline chloride, vitamins [DL-alpha tocopherol acetate (source of vitamin E), biotin, niacin supplement, D-calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), riboflavin supplement, vitamin A acetate, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), folic acid, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin D3 supplement], glucoasamine hydrochloride, taurine, trace minerals [zinc proteinate, zinc oxide, ferrous sulfate, manganous oxide, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, copper proteinate, sodium selenite], L-carnitine, marigold extract (Tagetes erecta L.), rosemary extract, preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid.
Now, I started highlighting in bold the ingredients I had an issue with - I stopped at wheat gluten because I just couldn’t take it anymore. If you aren’t sure why I am not happy with the corn, by-product and more - you can send me a message, google it or think like a cat and see if you feel that is something they should be eating. Honestly, it makes my heart cringe. Anyway, the salt is of concern….that’s really why the food “works” to dissolve crystals. The salt makes your cat thirsty, they drink more water and the crystals dissipate. Then we have to ask if salt is good for heart health in cats…. that’s another conversation! Using a poor quality dry food to “solve” the underlying issue of dehydration just seems counterintuitive to me.
Here are the ingredients of the food that I suggest people feed to their cats: Nature’s Premium raw food for cats (and dogs) Farm Raised Beef, Ground Beef Bone, Beef Heart and Liver, Elk Velvet Antler
Hormone and Antibiotic Free
So the main solution is to HYDRATE YOUR CAT! Trial and error, find what works for him or her and go with it. Bone broth and Raw Goat’s Milk along with high quality canned food are all available at your local boutique pet food store (NOT a big box store or grocery store!!!!)
We put restrictions on our feline companions now that are affecting their health - we ask them to eat cereal because we have been told that it is “balanced nutrition”, we make them stay safe inside and away from predators and we neuter them so very early so that we don’t add to the overpopulation of unwanted kitties. Recognizing that those risk factors could contribute to feline urinary issues and following some of the above suggestions, we can now make changes or add in elements that can mitigate those risks and avoid getting peed off! Now, go to your local pet specialty store and get some wet food for your cat!