Keep your cat's urinary issues at bay
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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-age group, 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 result in 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 system health cat foods available today.
Best Overall: Evanger's Heritage Classics
Best Wet: Hill's Prescription Diet c/d Multicare Urinary Care with Chicken Canned Cat Food
Best Dry: Wysong Uretic Dry Cat Food
Best Budget: IAMS PROACTIVE HEALTH Adult URINARY SYSTEM Health Dry Cat Food with Chicken
Best Variety: Purina Pro Plan Urinary Tract Health Variety Pack Canned Cat Food
Best Supplement: Under the Weather Urinary Support Soft Chews for Cats
Best for Senior Cats: Blue Buffalo W+U Weight Management + Urinary Care Wet Food
Evanger’s EVx Restricted Diet for Urinary Tract wet food earned our top spot predicated 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.
What to Consider in a Cat Food for URINARY SYSTEM 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 aid 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 end up being 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 already 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 mealss that list a high protein content of a specific meat first and if any grains are included, wholegrains 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 foods 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. That’s not the case for many foods that are cheaper. Some cats will turn their nose up at meals 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. To become USDA Certified, all of these requirements should be documented and have been confirmed via USDA inspection. By law, the USDA must apply the same standard to cat food that they utilize to human food. “Organic" refers to the way a crop or animal is grown or rais certainlyed 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. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the use of the term “organic” in cat food. 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 word "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 labecomeled “natural” without actually being good or healthy for the 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 elements 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 includes 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 create 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 particular 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 for example 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 family pets, therefore do not require a prescription.”
Why Trust The Pets Care?
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 really 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.