Urinary issues are a common problem for cats. Many cats will experience signs of lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) at some point, or they may experience problems related to uroliths (bladder stones) or infections. While these issues are treatable, they can be painful. Untreated, they can sometimes be deadly.
Why Cats Are Prone to Urine Crystals and Bladder Stones
Urine crystals and bladder stones form from sediment in the urine, composed of a variety of substances including magnesium, calcium, and/or phosphorus. Special diets that prevent the formation of one kind of crystal can actually cause the other, so it is best to avoid such diets for your cat unless directed by your veterinarian.
A great deal of research has been on-going as to the relationship of diet to urinary tract health, and the thinking has changed over time. Originally it was thought that diets high in magnesium and ash contributed to the problem. Now, more emphasis is being placed on the pH of urine (acidic or alkaline), how dilute the urine is, as well as non-dietary factors.
Foods That Will Help Prevent Urinary Problems
By far the most important "food" for your cat's urinary health is plain water. That's because neither crystals nor bladder stones can form when minerals are sufficiently diluted.
It can be tough to get your cat to drink a great deal of water, as cats are naturally thirst-tolerant animals. Some strategies for increasing your cat's water intake include purchasing a "kitty fountain" or providing plenty of fresh water in multiple bowls. Kitty fountains are particularly effective because many cats prefer drinking running water.
In general, good quality canned cat foods are better for urinary health than dry foods. That said, however, there are some dry foods that have been carefully pH balanced. Even if you choose a high-quality dry food, however, canned food and water remain your cat's most important weapons against urinary crystals or stones.
Foods to Buy
While you may prefer to buy organic or specialty cat foods, it really isn't necessary unless your cat already has urinary issues or your vet suggests a particular type of food. Generally, a good quality commercial food should be fine for your cat.
If you do prefer to serve your cat dry food (as many people do to avoid the smell of canned options!), it's is still a good idea to supplement your cat's dry food diet with a small amount of canned food each day, or consider soaking the kibble in water to moisten in before serving.
Make sure your cat always has plenty of fresh, clean water, and avoid feeding it table scraps. If you find that your cat is not drinking enough, try experimenting with a kitty fountain, changing its water daily, or adding more water bowls to your home.
Watch carefully for any signs of distress, such as straining to urinate or missing the litter box.