If you've heard of "low ash" cat food, you may be wondering why your pet's meals have ash in them at all. Ash actually describes the mineral content of the food. While these minerals are vital to your cat's health, too much of them is dangerously unhealthy.
Ash in Cat Food
Pet food manufacturers determine the "ash content" of their products by burning samples of the products and measuring the cinders that remain. Magnesium, calcium and other vital minerals are counted part of the food's ash content; they don't turn into vapor when the food is incinerated. A balanced and healthy feline diet includes small allotments of these minerals. Unfortunately, cats that consistently eat food containing too much of this content are more likely to develop struvite crystals in their bladder that obstruct their urinary tract.
Urinary Tract Obstruction
A urinary tract infection develops when a struvite crystal or other obstruction gets stuck after passing through your cat's bladder. Urinary tract obstructions are painful and potentially deadly. If you wake up to the sound of a yowling cat hunched over in the litter box, there's a good chance he is suffering from an obstruction that is preventing him from using the bathroom. Treat the situation as an emergency; get your pet to the vet or animal hospital immediately. Obstructions are more common in males than females, because girl cats have larger tracts that allow the solid stones to pass through with greater ease.
Benefits of Low Ash Content
Quality cat food may put a bigger dent in your budget than cheap commercial kibble, but it can save you money in the long run by preventing a costly visit to the animal hospital's emergency room. It can also prevent a painful and frightening experience for you and your pet. If your vet determines that your cat is suffering from urinary obstruction, he may recommend a switch to food with lower ash content. Canned wet food contains more moisture and less ash content than dry foods, so wet foods are components of most low-ash-content diets. Urinary obstructions are less common in felines who eat only wet food compared with those who eat dry chow on a regular basis, according to Battery Park Veterinary Hospital.
Appropriate Ash Content
Ask your vet to recommend a diet based on nutrient content according to your cat's size. Your kitty needs his daily allotment of minerals to stay health. A 9-pound adult cat should consume about 25 milligrams of magnesium, 180 milligrams of calcium and 160 milligrams of phosphorus each day, according to The National Academy of Sciences. Confirm your cat's dietary needs with your vet in light of the recent urinary obstruction. Be careful when giving your cat treats. If they contain magnesium and other ash content components, it may throw your cat's mineral balance off track.
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.