It is widely understood that a cat's urine pH can be directly related to the health of its urinary tract. Is your cat in danger of developing crystals in its urinary tract, crystals that can lead to the development of stones and a potential urinary blockage? How does its diet affect your cat's urine pH and risk of crystal formation? Here is help in removing the mystery of the desired range of feline urine pH and how these numbers can correlate to a cat's urinary tract health.
The Importance of pH Levels
The pH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity in any liquid. The pH levels in urine—whether human or feline—can mean the difference between health and illness.
Cats are especially vulnerable to pH problems. When pH is too high or too low, crystals can form in a cat's urine. Crystals can combine and with other materials in the urine to form grit and stones that irritate, bleeding, and/or blockage. A cat with a blocked urethra (the tube that drains urine from the body) will die without rapid treatment.
The Normal Urine pH Range for Cats
Cats need acidic urine to maintain urinary tract health. Although the range varies under certain circumstances, the expert consensus seems to be that from around 6.2 to 6.4 is a healthy range. (The lower the pH, the more acidic the urine.) A pH above this range can lead to the growth of struvites (magnesium ammonium phosphate crystals). A pH lower than this range can cause the formation of calcium oxalate crystals.
Other Factors That Affect Feline Urinary Tract Health
- Excess concentration of minerals in urine: Although for years the generic "ash" content of cat food was blamed for many cat urinary problems, ash is merely the mineral-rich residue left after fully burning a food and doesn't really indicate the kinds of minerals, nor the amounts and types of each, that are present. That said, excesses in certain minerals can increase the risk of crystal formation. For example, foods that are extremely high in magnesium and phosphorus should be avoided in cats that are at risk for struvite crystals while high calcium foods can be risky when calcium oxalate stones are a concern.
- Water intake: The urinary tract requires sufficient fluids to keep minerals in solution and prevent them from forming crystals. A cat that takes in adequate water will form less concentrated urine and urinate more frequently. For these reasons, many veterinarians recommend feeding cats that are at risk for urinary crystals only wet food and ensuring that they always have access to fresh water.
Your Cat's Diet and Urinary Tract Health
The relationship between diet and urinary tract health is so important that many of the premium cat food manufacturers now produce foods that are specifically designed to promote urinary health. Prescription diets are available for cats who are at especially high risk for crystal and stone formation. Talk to your veterinarian to determine several good dietary choices based on your cat's particular needs.