Urinary tract issues are common in cats, especially males. In some cases the cause is easy to diagnose, and sometimes there appears to be no cause at all. Urinary cysts that develop can cause inflammation, infection or blockage. Simple diet changes may make a huge difference in preventing them.
Understanding Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease
If your cat is spending a lot of time in the litter box and looks uncomfortable, he might have feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), which is inflammation of the bladder and urinary tract. Many times the inflammation is caused by an infection or an unknown cause. However, it is sometimes caused by uroliths, which are commonly called stones, cysts or crystals, and result in irritation, bleeding, and in severe cases urinary blockage. Male cats are particularly susceptible to urinary inflammation, cysts and blockages, because their urinary tract is longer and narrower than that of female cats. Even though FLUTD can make cats uncomfortable or even cause serious conditions, it can usually be controlled with simple diet changes.
The Importance of Water
Like all mammals, cats need water. But your cat may not drink as much water as he should. Cats are carnivores, and have lived over the centuries eating prey. Their natural diet is 70 to 75 percent moisture, which helps to keep the bladder and urinary tract flushed and healthy. Dry food, on the other hand, has less than 10 percent moisture. Because of the high water content in their natural food, cats have not developed a strong thirst drive. As a result, cats who eat only dry food are often in a perpetual state of mild dehydration, and their urinary tracts are not flushed as often as they should be. The most important addition to your cat's diet to help prevent urinary cysts is water. Try to find a way to encourage him to drink more water by adding a running water bowl or just letting a sink drip. You might also try adding a few drops of tuna juice to your cat's water bowl to make it more enticing.
Canned Food Can Be a Good Solution
Many cats won't drink enough water to keep their urinary tracts healthy, even with the addition of fountains or flavors in the water bowl. So, the next step is to add canned food to his diet. Veterinarian Lisa Pierson recommends transitioning your cat to a canned diet, or at least adding a quality canned food to his diet every day. She recommends choosing a canned food with high protein, low carbohydrate and low phosphorus levels to minimize the risk of urinary cysts. Since canned food is generally 75 percent or more moisture, cats who eat a primarily canned food diet flush their entire urinary tract more often, reducing the risk of mineral accumulation into cysts.
Change the Flavors
Some urinary tract cysts may be caused by food allergies, especially chicken and fish. If you have been feeding your cat primarily chicken or fish for a long time, you might consider changing the protein in your cat's food. Holistic veterinarian Karen Becker recommends choosing a novel protein, such as rabbit, to see if an easy diet change to a new protein will help alleviate urinary cysts. If you are choosing between canned food or a new protein, adding canned food is more important. If you can add cans and change proteins, you may find a good solution for your cat's urinary trouble.
Raw Food Is a Good Choice
If your cat still isn't getting enough water even with canned food, you can try switching him to raw food. According to veterinarian Elisa Katz, replicating a cat's natural diet will help keep the acidity in the urine at normal levels, lowering the risk of cysts. A raw diet also has an appropriate amount of moisture, which helps keep the urinary tract flushed. If you choose to feed your cat a raw diet, talk with a pet nutritionist or holistic veterinarian before making the transition to be sure you are feeding a complete and balanced diet.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease
- WebMD: Uroliths (Bladder Stones) in Cats
- CatInfo: Feline Urinary Tract Health: Cystitis, Urethral Obstruction, Urinary Tract Infection
- Feline Nutrition: Diet, Kidney Disease and the Urinary Tract
- petMD: Urinary Tract Infections in Cats
- Healthy Pets: Is Your Cat Suffering from This Persistent, Painful Bladder Problem?