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Many house cats struggle with a variety of conditions that affect their bladder and/or urethra, broadly known as urinary tract health. This can present as difficulty and pain when urinating, increased frequency of urination and/or blood in the urine. Cats may urinate outside the litter box, in corners, a sink, or a bathtub. While these issues can occur at any age, it is often seen in middle-aged, overweight cats that don’t get enough exercise.
A cat’s diet can contribute to urinary pH imbalance or help improve it. “Diets can vary in how they support urinary tract health, but it’s important to look for restricted amounts of minerals, such as magnesium and phosphorus, which can contribute to the development of urinary crystal and stone formation,” explains Dr. Danielle Bernal, Global Veterinarian with Wellness Natural Pet Food. The crystals cause painful urination and the stones are painful to pass. They may cause urinary tract infections, blockages, or kidney problems.
“Animal nutritionists typically formulate recipes that promote a more acidic pH urine concentration, creating an environment that discourages crystal formation. Additionally, wet diets specifically support urinary health by boosting hydration to help dilute concentration.”
Providing your cat with a high quality diet tailored for urinary tract health is among the most significant ways we can improve their comfort, long-term health, and longevity. In general, look for food that has high moisture and low magnesium content. Think about the type and quality of the ingredients, including if they're organic, local, or if they have other certifications. “Grain-free” foods are generally better for cats with urinary tract issues, so long as it doesn't contain high carbs like potatoes and peas.
Below are a few of the best urinary tract health cat foods available today.
Best Overall: Evanger's EVx Restricted: Urinary Tract
Key Ingredients: Boneless chicken, chicken broth, tomato paste, cranberries, blueberries, Alltech Acid Balance | Calories per Serving: 62 (half can) | Balance: Protein min. 9%, Fat min. 5%, Crude Fiber max. 1%, Moisture max. 82% | Life stages: All | Texture: Chunks of boneless chicken in gravy
Chicken is the first ingredient
Includes digestive support ingredients
No prescription needed
Occasionally on back order
Evanger’s EVx Restricted Diet’s Urinary Tract Recipe is a great option for cats prone to urinary struvite crystals and urinary pH imbalance. Formulated with nutritionists and experts, they ingredients are simple, recognizable and formulated in compliance with AAFCO standards for all life stages.
Manufactured in Markham, Illinois, this food contains just a few main ingredients (boneless chicken, chicken broth, tomato paste, cranberries, and blueberries) and essential vitamins and minerals plus three special components. Alltech Acid Balance lowers urinary pH to prevent bladder stones and struvite crystals. Alltech NVGEN, made from yeast and yucca extracts, meant to feed the gut nutrients called postbiotics that it’s not currently making well on its own. Actogen—a cocktail of yucca, chicory root, and yeast—also promotes healthy digestion.
It is grain- and gluten-free and has added omega-3 and -6 fatty acids to nourish skin and fur. An added bonus is that the steel cans are confirmed bisphenol-A (BPA)-free with labels printed on recycled paper. Although this recipe is not kosher, for those requiring a kosher diet for their cat, Evanger’s offers more than 40 recipes endorsed by the Chicago Rabbinical Council as kosher for cats.
Evanger’s canned pet food has a long history of striving for a healthier diet for pets, and is a family-owned and operated company.
Best Wet: Hill's Prescription Diet c/d Multicare Urinary Care with Chicken Canned Cat Food
Key Ingredients: Pork Liver, Carrots, Chicken, Tuna, Wheat Gluten, Rice, Spinach, Corn Starch, Chicken Liver Flavor, Fish Oil, Chicken Fat | Calories per Serving: 82 (half can) | Balance: Protein min. 6.5%, Fat min. 3.0%, crude fiber max. 2.0% | Life stage: Adult and senior cats | Texture: Rice sized chunks in a light gravy
Shown to dissolve struvite crystals and prevents new ones
Requires a veterinary prescription
Nutritionists and veterinarians developed Hill’s Prescription Diet c/d Multicare Urinary Care wet cat food specifically to support a cat's urinary health. Hill’s claims that c/d Multicare was studied and demonstrated to lower the recurrence of most common urinary signs by 89 percent. They also claim that struvite stones have dissolved in some cats in as little as seven days, and on average 27 days, while also reducing the risk of forming struvite and calcium oxalate stones.
The ingredients are recognizable on the label and in the food. Top ingredients include pork liver, carrots, chicken, tuna, rice, spinach, chicken fat and fish oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids. Also containing important vitamins and minerals, the amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium are controlled to prevent crystal formation. This brand is also available in chicken and vegetable stew flavor.
A bonus is that Hill’s has sustainability in mind by becoming Total Resource Use and Efficiency (TRUE) Certified. For many years they’ve also participated in a number of shelter support programs.
Best Dry: Wysong Uretic Dry Cat Food
Key Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, chicken fat, potato protein, brown rice, peas, flaxseeds, cranberry extract, prebiotics, probiotics | Calories per Serving: 164 (50 grams) | Balance: Crude Protein min. 42%, Crude Fat min. 15%, Crude Fiber max. 5%, Moisture max. 10%, Taurine min. 0.2% | Life stages: All | Texture: Dry x-shaped pieces
No prescription required
Long history developing the formula
Not a fit for some cats with sensitive digestive systems
When you read the packaging of this brand, you can tell they’ve incorporated a lot of science and thought into Wysong’s Uretic dry cat food—a formula they’ve been developing for more than 30 years. Created by a veterinarian, this food’s nutritional makeup takes a holistic approach by considering wellness, immune, and urinary systems. Most recently updated in Fall 2020, the Uretic dry formula contains higher levels of fresh, frozen, and dried meats and organs, protein and fat. The food is made with U.S.-sourced chicken, and has added cranberry extract to help lower urine pH.
Wysong is also conscious of micronutrients/nutraceuticals including prebiotics, probiotics, enzymes, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. They’ve also added methionine that promotes urine acidification. Plus small quantities of fruits and vegetables have been added to mimic what would be in the stomachs of prey.
When feeding all dry foods, be sure there is plenty of water available to your cat at all times. Wysong has also recently released a wet Uretic canned food based on similar ingredients and make up (view on Amazon).
Best Budget: IAMS PROACTIVE HEALTH Adult Urinary Tract Health Dry Cat Food with Chicken
Key ingredients: Chicken, chicken by-product meal, ground whole grain corn, corn grits, brewers rice | Calories per Serving: 182 (50 grams) | Balance: Crude Protein min. 32%, Crude Fat min. 15%, Crude Fiber max. 1.7%, Moisture max. 10%, Magnesium max. 0.1% | Life stage: Adult | Texture: Dry small kibble
Affordable and widely available
Chicken is the first ingredient
No prescription needed
Being on a budget doesn’t mean your cat has to continue to struggle. Although it’s not least expensive on the market, IAMS Proactive Health Adult Urinary Tract Health Dry Cat Food is well rated and widely available and so prices are competitive and reasonably affordable.
Chicken is the first ingredient of this food. That’s not the case for many foods that are cheaper. There’s also added vitamin E for a healthy immune system and omega-3 and -6 fatty acids for healthy skin. This food appeals to most cats, even those considered picky eaters. When feeding all dry foods, be sure there is plenty of water available to your cat at all times.
Best for Senior Cats: Blue Buffalo W+U Weight Management + Urinary Care Wet Food
Key Ingredients: Chicken, chicken broth and liver, pea protein, potatoes, whitefish, carrots, cranberries | Calories per Serving: 68 (half can) | Balance: Crude Protein min. 8.5%, Crude Fat min. 2.5%, Crude Fiber max. 4%, Moisture max. 78% | Life Stage: Adult, senior | Texture: Paté
Manages two problems with one food
Obesity can be a problem for senior kitties who become less active as they age, especially for indoor only cats and those with health problems that sap their energy or reduce their mobility. Since some urinary problems are more common in senior, overweight and/or obese cats, it makes sense to consider a food that provides ideal levels of fat, calories, and fiber to help your cat manage its weight as well as controlled mineral levels to keep urine pH lower to prevent crystal and stone formation.
Blue Buffalo W+U Weight Management and Urinary Care canned wet food is an excellent choice carried by many veterinarians. With chicken as the first ingredient, this food also has added plant fiber in the form of powdered cellulose so your cat will feel fuller despite being a lower calorie food. Levels of magnesium and sodium are controlled to promote balanced urinary pH.
Blue Buffalo reports that its science-based formulas are developed by a team of PhD animal nutritionists, food scientists, and veterinarians.
Be thoughtful when transitioning your cat to a new food. Don’t buy a lot until you’re sure your cat will eat it. Take your time deciding if it’s the right fit. Because all foods differ in caloric content, follow the manufacturer’s directions on what quantity to feed your cat. Your cat may have issues with a new food’s palatability, mouthfeel, or protein source. Some early upsets go away after a day or two into the transition. If your first choice doesn’t fit, transition slowly to another.
Best Variety: Purina Pro Plan Urinary Tract Health Variety Pack Canned Cat Food
Key Ingredients: Varies by flavor | Calories per Serving: 82 to 107 (half can) depending on flavor | Texture: Wet, varies | Balance: Varies but most are Crude Protein min. 10.0%, Crude Fat min. 6.5%, Crude Fiber max 0.5%, Moisture max. 78.0% | Life Stage: Adult
Nutritional and flavor diversity for your cat
No prescription needed
Meat by-products are the first ingredient
If your cat’s digestive system can tolerate more than one type of food, a variety pack is a wonderful way to give them a broader range of flavors and nutrients at the same time.
Purina Pro Plan Focus Classic Urinary Tract Health Formula Adult Wet Cat Food Variety Pack comes as a case of 12, 24, or 36 cans. It can be purchased as four, eight or twelve cans each of three flavors—Ocean Whitefish or Beef & Chicken, Chicken, and Turkey and Giblets—or as twelve cans each of two flavors—Ocean Whitefish and Salmon.
Each recipe has low dietary magnesium and has been designed to reducing urinary pH. Purina products are also manufactured in the U.S. and are widely available and among the more affordable brands on shelves today.
Best Supplement: Under the Weather Urinary Support Soft Chews for Cats
Key Ingredients: N-Acetyl Glucosamine from shrimp and crab, D-mannose, cranberry extract | Calories per Serving: Not listed | Balance: Not listed | Life Stage: Adult | Texture: Soft chews
No prescription required
Incorporates D-mannose ingredient known to decrease urinary tract infections
Several inactive ingredients
Although most urinary health cat foods are designed to offer your cat complete nutrition without supplements, an additional supplement could be used in combination with non-prescription foods to give your cat’s health an extra boost in the right direction.
Under the Weather Urinary Support Soft Chews for Cats is just one of many supplements made by this brand. The ingredients include N-acetyl glucosamine that supports a normal pH balance in the urinary tract as well as D-mannose and cranberry extract that promote normal urinary tract health.
Research in humans and animals has shown that D-mannose, a common sugar, helps prevent bacteria from sticking to bladder and urinary tract, reducing and preventing the reoccurrence of bacterial urinary tract infections.
Made in Vermont, this supplement is veterinarian formulated and free of corn, artificial flavors and dyes. A bonus is that a portion of ever sale is donated to the Ruffy Rescue Fund that supports spay and neutering of pets in overpopulated areas of the U.S. and transportation to Vermont for adoption.
Evanger’s EVx Restricted Diet for Urinary Tract (view at Evanger's) wet food earned our top spot based on a range of characteristics for each food to identify those that can help improve and prevent feline urinary problems. If you're looking for a dry option, consider Wysong Uretic Dry Cat Food (view on Chewy).
What to Consider in a Cat Food for Urinary Tract Health
Plan to carefully read labels when deciding which brand is right for your cat. “First, pet parents should work with their veterinarian on what their cat specifically needs,” says Dr. Bernal. “A veterinarian will be able to provide the key attributes that the cat parent should look for to support their cat’s urinary tract health.”
In the wild, a cat would eat a range of textures and get much of their necessary water through eating fresh meat. Some of their preference may be instinctual biased toward wet and raw foods. But domesticated cats, like humans, also have their own opinions, so be sure to consider your cat’s texture preferences. Some may prefer a soft minced food or chunky bites. Watch your cat eat. Do they lick their food? Do they eat the gravy first? Their habits may give you clues to their texture preferences. Most veterinarians recommend a mixture of wet and dry food throughout the week.
A recent trend in pet foods, raw food is said to be an optimal choice because heat has not degraded proteins and other essential nutrients. However, raw foods also carry an increased risk of salmonella and Listeria bacterial infections that can result in diarrhea, vomiting, and eventually an infection of the nervous system. Be sure to do your research and consult with your vet before trying a fully raw food diet.
If you live in the U.S., make sure your cat food is labeled with “Made in the USA.” Standards for pet food production vary widely by country. Many foods produced in other countries have been tested and found levels of impurities like heavy metals and even plastic fillers that are unsafe for consumption.
As in human food ingredient labels, ingredients are listed in order from most to least based on weight and include the percentages of protein, fat, fiber, and moisture. Look for foods that list a high protein content of a specific meat first and if any grains are included, whole grains are best because of the nutrients they contain.
It’s also important to look at the nutrition, moisture and fat content of your cat’s food. Cats evolved as hunters so their natural diet would be primarily carnivorous. They would consume prey that contains high amounts of protein, moderate amounts of fat, and a nominal amount of carbohydrates. So watch for food with too many carbs that could contribute to obesity. Healthy carbs should come from ingredients like organic pumpkin, sweet potato, or brown rice.
Note that protein and fat content numbers will be higher in dry foods than in wet foods, because wet food percentages are reported on a wet basis and contain a high percentage of water while dry food percentages are reported on a dry basis. You should look for about 8 to 10 percent minimum for protein in wet foods or at least 25 percent in dry food. Fat content should be a minimum of 5 percent in wet food or 20 to 30 percent in dry food. Some cats will turn their nose up at foods with less protein or fat than is recommended.
To prevent spoiling and increase shelf life, manufacturers use natural preservatives in store brands. Non-synthetic preservatives include vitamin C (ascorbic acid) or vitamin E (tocopheryl acetate or tocopherol acetate).
Cats also require more than a dozen other nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids. The amounts of nutrients needed vary in each stage of life—from kitten to adolescent, during pregnancy and nursing, and as a senior cat. If your pet food is well balanced and complete for your cat’s current stage of life, they won’t require any additional supplements.
As you may know, the term “organic” can be used in different ways so you need to read the fine print. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the use of the term “organic” in cat food. By law, the USDA must apply the same standard to cat food that they apply to human food. “Organic" refers to the way a crop or animal is grown or raised and handled. Organic crops must be grown on land free from pesticides for at least three years. The food itself must not contain toxic and persistent pesticides, artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, synthetic growth hormones, antibiotics, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), or have undergone irradiation.
Organic livestock whose meat is used in pet foods must be fed organic feed, not be given antibiotics or hormones, and have access to the outdoors. To become USDA Certified, all of these requirements must be documented and have been confirmed via USDA inspection. Unless you see “USDA Certified Organic” on the label, it’s difficult to be sure the food is truly organic.
When only a portion of the ingredients are from certified organic sources, you’ll also see a percentage on the label, such as “95% USDA Certified Organic.”
Similarly the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) defines and regulates the term "natural" for pet food and animal feed. "Natural" means a feed or ingredient is derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources that have not been produced by a chemically synthetic process. However, some ingredients can be labeled “natural” without actually being good or healthy for your pet.
Cats did not evolve to eat the grains we’ve placed in their domesticated diet. Corn, rice, barley, and wheat have all been associated with allergies and digestive problems. They also promote more alkaline urine (higher pH). Look out for ingredients known as “fillers” that are low-cost and have little nutritional value. They’re added to make your pet feel full with fewer high quality ingredients by weight. Common ones are corn and wheat gluten and grain products, soy, animal by-products and fruit and vegetable pulps.
Many brans are also adding pre-, post- and probiotics that promote a healthy gut and intestinal flora that in turn reduces inflammation, strengthens their immune system and helps keep their urinary tract healthy. Domesticated cats that aren’t eating a natural diet of rodents and other critters aren’t exposed to bacteria they would encounter in the wild. So opt for pre-, post- and probiotics when you have the option, especially if your cat has a sensitive tummy or has recently taken antibiotics or other medications.
What ingredients are different in cat food for urinary tract health compared to regular cat food?
Cat food specific to urinary health restrict the amounts of minerals including magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium that can contribute to urinary crystal and stone formation by increasing your cat’s urinary pH. The foods are formulated to make your cat’s urine slightly acidic (low pH) since crystals form more readily when urine pH is higher.
Do you need a prescription from the veterinarian for the best urinary tract health cat foods?
“Urinary tract issues can be a complex condition, so it’s essential to work with your veterinarian to determine the best suited treatment and nutritional recommendation. While your veterinarian can prescribe a specific diet, it’s a common recommendation to feed more wet food for cats to support urinary tract health by boosting hydration,” explains Dr. Bernal. “Premium wet cat recipes such as Wellness Natural Cat Wet Foods are a great place to start when it comes to boosting hydration, and these diets are available from most pet retailers.”
Why do some foods require a prescription and others don't?
“Prescription diets are therapeutic nutritional recipes that support an acute or chronic medical condition,” adds Dr. Bernal. “Prescription diets ensure that the pet is under veterinary care with food that targets nutrition and supports underlying health issues for the appropriate period. Other diets are targeted toward healthy pets, therefore do not require a prescription.”
Why Trust The Spruce?
This piece was written by Lorraine Wilde who has had at least two cat companions in her home for the past 35 years including some special needs kitties. Two of her cats lived happy and healthily into their early 20s. Her current feline companions have been challenged by digestive and urinary tract health issues. When researching these brands, Lorraine evaluated the type and quality of the ingredients, the company’s research and development of the food, and their business ethics.
Because she has only the highest of standards for what she feeds her pets, Lorraine recently switched to Evanger’s EVx Restricted Diet Urinary Tract and Evanger Organics Turkey and Butternut Squash canned food to help improve her older cats' health issues. Lorraine’s family will consider adding the supplement Under the Weather Urinary Support Soft Chews for the benefits imparted by D-mannose.
Dr. Danielle Bernal is a Global Veterinarian with Wellness Natural Pet Food. She holds a Bachelor’s of Veterinary Science from University of Sydney and is a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in the U.K. She has more than 15 years experience in veterinary care, animal nutrition and related communications. She travels across the United States and other countries to educate pet parents on the role that premium, natural nutrition plays in pets’ health and longevity.
Lorraine holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in environmental science. She is a firm believer that consumers can make healthy, informed, and environmentally-conscious choices to protect their pets and our planet.