Before you embark on a new diet for Mittens, consider why you're making the switch. A food with a low ash content isn't always what the doctor ordered. Conventional wisdom for treating cats with urinary problems in the 1980s has changed over the years, and ash content isn't so important.
Ash is Mineral Content
When the ingredients of Mittens' food are combined and cooked to form kibble, the residue left behind is referred to as ash, mainly comprised of minerals. In the past, veterinarians determined there was a relationship between the ash content of cat food and the tendency for cats to suffer urinary tract infections. As a result, there was a push to feed cats prescription foods low in ash. Later research showed ash wasn't the culprit responsible for, or contributing to, urinary infections.
Low Ash Brands
Not all cat foods list their ash content, so if you're interested in a particular brand of pet food and can't find the information, contact the manufacturer. Commercial cat foods manufactured with urinary tract health in mind tend to have an ash content around seven percent. Cat food in this range includes Young Again Zero Carb, Young Again 50/22, Purina Pro Plan Urinary Tract Health and Iams Veterinary Formula-S Low pH/S.
After decades of research, the prevailing wisdom is that ash content in food isn't all that important to Mittens. If she's been experiencing urinary tract problems, her urine pH is what matters. A high urine pH, often associated with too much magnesium, can lead to struvite crystals, while a more acidic, or low pH can lead to calcium oxalate crystals. According to Long Beach Animal Hospital, more cats are experiencing calcium oxalate crystals, possibly because magnesium levels in food are too low. Cornell University notes struvite crystals are developing in fewer cats, likely because commercial pet foods keep up with research to offer foods with a more balanced approach.
Balance is Healthy
If Mittens is healthy, a balanced diet is her best bet. If you're concerned that Mittens has a tendency to suffer urinary tract problems, take a look at the cat food label to see she's getting the nutrition she requires, including sufficient protein and minerals. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that a healthy nine-pound cat eat 12.5 grams of protein a day; the Academy also recommends 25 mg of magnesium daily and 16 grams of phosphorus. Remember, knowing the ash level won't provide information on individual mineral content. If Mittens has any medical conditions, such as chronic renal failure, her needs will be different, so be sure to discuss a balanced diet with your vet. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet.