Best Foods for Cats with Urinary Tract Problems

Written March 17th, 2013 by
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The following information is not intended to replace information given by a qualified veterinarian, but should be used as supplemental information. If your cat has a urinary tract infection it may need medication for a proper treatment. Signs of a urinary tract problem can include not urinating in the litter box, blood in the urine, or painful urination. Treatment may involve an antibiotic. With proper care, and feeding, you can help prevent problems from reoccurring.

Please be aware that many veterinarians are not trained on cat food brands or ingredients and may try to sell you on a food that is not necessarily the best for your cat, you do have options.

When buying cat food you must pay attention to all ingredients. It is not enough to assume that because a cat food is available for sale that it is healthy for your cat. Many of the cat foods sold today are poor quality, loaded with cheap filler, and are not suitable for a cat with chronic urinary tract problems.

©B Nelson- tabby cat

©B Nelson- tabby cat

Magnesium Content in Cat Food

It use to be that people who had cats that were prone to urinary tract problems were told to feed their cat a low ash cat food. There are many cat foods available that are indicated to be “Low Ash”, the problem is that ash is where the minerals are, and as such ash is not the ingredient to be aware of, but rather magnesium specifically.

In a dry food try for 0.08%, magnesium and never more than 0.10%. Most dry cat foods list their maximum content for magnesium.

In a canned cat food you want to aim below 0.03% magnesium.

You may find that cat food that contains fish or bone meal is high in magnesium, and should be avoided. Some concerns suggest that calcium in bones (and in fish) also is linked to causing urinary tract problems such as the development of kidney stones and crystals.

Making the Cat’s Urine More Acidic

Some dry foods also use cranberries, or cranberry extract. This is good, however I caution owners from adding cranberry juice to their cat’s water. Cranberries work to make the urine more acidic as it is harder for bacteria (which cause infections) to live in an acidic environment, but urine that is too acidic will cause other problems for the cat. As such if your cat is already on something to make their urine more acidic you do not want to add more to that.

Canned Food

Cats with urinary tract problems need to have canned food as it has a higher moisture content. Small helpings of canned food (not fish based) can be given 3 or 4 times a day.

Getting the Cat to Drink More

Cats are pretty finicky drinkers but having your cat drink more can keep its urinary tract healthy. You can encourage a cat to drink more water by keeping its water fresh, the bowl should be filled with fresh water twice a day (otherwise it tastes dusty). Your cat canned have a bit of water added to its canned food too.  Also do not use a plastic bowl (they can contain bacteria), stainless steel or ceramic are better.

Regular Meals

Cats who eat larger meals will tend to have more urinary tract problems than cats that eat naturally, browsing throughout the day. As such a cat should have access to dry food at all times and be given the additional meals of canned food spread throughout the day. If you do not feed dry food then the cat should have more meals of canned food throughout the day, canned food cannot be left out however as bacteria will start to grow in the food after 20 minutes.

Other Reading:

Selecting a Good Dry Cat Food

Source- Author’s experience owning a cat with a urinary infection, education in the pet food industry, and this peteducation website.


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I have worked with pets for many years, been to college to study horses, worked in an animal shelter, kept pets, owned my own pet supply store, and currently live on a hobby farm in Alberta. I have sheep, a donkey, llama, have kept chickens, pheasants, and pigeons, as well as lots of other critters. I am also interested in travel and science. I am not a veterinarian but have a lot of pet and animal knowledge.

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