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What foods are there for cats with urinary problems?

British Longhair cat with food bowl advice

Urinary infections are more common in older cats

© Shutterstock

It's best to avoid milk and higher calorie food, if you want to solve your cat's urinary problem.

By Dr. Liz Barton MA, VetMB, MRCVS

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Cat's urinary problems have a lot to do with what they eat, so a good way to help them overcome this is to look at their diet. But bear in mind that this may not be enough and you may also need to make a trip to a vet, as you'll see in this article.

Can milk cause urinary problems in cats?

Milk is high in calcium, which can form mineral deposits in the urine and increases the risk of kidney and bladder stones. Many cats are lactose intolerant, so milk is not recommended for cats or kittens above weaning age (around eight weeks old).

What is the best food for cats with urinary problems?

Special urinary diets are restricted in certain minerals to reduce the risk of stone formation. They may also alter the pH of the urine to reduce the risk of stones. Increasing the water content of the diet by feeding wet food, or adding water to the food, also helps to dilute the urine to reduce the risk of stones and make the urine less irritant to the bladder. If your cat is overweight, they will be more prone to urinary problems, so a lower calorie diet may be needed to help with weight loss. Some urinary diets also contain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which may help to reduce inflammation in the bladder. Substances such as L-tryptophan and milk thistle are associated with reduced stress levels – these may sometimes be added to urinary foods to help if stress is a component.

What ingredient in cat food causes urinary problems?

High mineral content increases the risk of mineral deposits in the urinary tract. This can include formation of stones in the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra, and fine grit in the bladder. High protein content can also lead to more concentrated urine, which is more likely to scald and irritate the bladder wall. Yet concentrated urine is less likely to allow growth of bacteria, so a urine infection is less likely. The natural diet of wild cats is mostly protein and fat, so high amounts of carbohydrate may lead to a more alkaline pH of the urine, which is more prone to infection.

Can cats get a UTI from a dirty litter box?

The most common causes of urinary tract infections (UTI) are bacteria commonly found in cat faeces. If a litter tray is dirty, your cat is more likely to transfer bacteria to their paws and fur when using the tray. As they groom, they may then transfer this to the entrance of the urinary tract, increasing the risk of infection. Regular cleaning of the litter tray is advisable to reduce risk of urinary infections, as well as for good general hygiene.

What is the best canned food for cats with urinary problems?

A prescription urinary diet is best to reduce the risk of urinary problems. Foods for older cats will also contain less protein and minerals, so may be a good option.

How do you prevent a UTI in a cat?

Urinary infections are more common in older cats, often as a result of kidney ageing, which leads to production of less concentrated urine. Cats with diabetes may also have glucose in the urine, which increases risk of infection. Stress can also trigger a sterile cystitis and blood in the urine – again this encourages bacteria to grow. Prevention is therefore focused on reducing kidney ageing with a suitable diet, such as a senior food or a renal diet. Reducing stress and treating underlying conditions such as diabetes is important. Keeping your cat’s litter tray clean will reduce risk of transfer of bacteria.

Can I naturally treat my cat's UTI?

Many cats will have waxing and waning urinary infections, especially in older age. Increasing water intake can help to flush the bladder through. Reducing the mineral content of the diet will reduce risk of bladder stones forming, which can harbour bacteria. For an established bacterial infection, prolonged courses of antibiotics may be needed, as the bacteria can spread into and colonise the wall of the bladder. Natural treatments are not suitable for treating established infections.

When should I see a vet?

If your cat is straining in the litter tray and not producing urine, it is important to see a vet urgently. Blocked bladder is a common consequence of both bladder stones and infection, as plugs of material can become stuck in the urethra, especially in male cats. Blood in the urine is most commonly due to stress cystitis, which is often sterile. This is a common condition and often self-limiting, and resolves once the stress levels reduce. If blood is present in the urine for more than a few days, or if your cat is straining at all, then it’s important to have your cat checked by a vet.

What should I ask a vet about the best diet for a cat with a UTI?

If your cat has a urinary infection or even a sterile urinary problem, it is a good idea to ask a vet what changes to your cat’s diet may help. This could include increasing water content by feeding wet food, reducing mineral and/or protein content, and using a diet to change the pH (acidity or alkalinity) of your cat’s urine. You will need to tell the vet what food you cat currently gets – including any treats. Lower calorie foods can also help with weight loss, if your cat is overweight, which also contributes to urinary problems.

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