How your cat's diet affects its urinary health
Many cats worldwide are affected by lower urinary tract disease, often without any identifiable underlying cause. This can have a significant impact on your cat’s overall health, so it’s crucial to understand how you can support them and help them maintain a healthy, functioning urinary system.
Why is my cat’s urinary health important?Your cat’s urinary system, which includes the kidneys and bladder, works to process and remove waste products from their body. If there are kidney issues, the system can no longer remove these products. Bladder problems may include inflammation, stones, and, in a worst-case scenario, urinary obstruction. These problems can affect your cat’s comfort and overall health.
What urinary problems can cats suffer from?
It’s common for cats to suffer from lower urinary tract problems caused by several different things.
Urolithiasis is the process by which crystals or stones can build up in your cat’s urinary system, most often in their bladder. These are caused by a crystallisation of minerals, naturally present in your cat’s body, which aren’t being processed properly by their urinary system or which are at higher concentration in the urine than normal. Increased urine concentration can also contribute to this process. These stones can cause inflammation or even block the passage of urine.
Cats may also have inflammation unassociated with a stone or infection. The cause of this inflammation is usually unknown, so it is called “idiopathic” – which means the underlying cause cannot be found.
Cats can also contract bacterial infections which can irritate their urinary system and, more rarely, develop tumours or mucus plugs which result in urinary issues.
Why do cats suffer with urinary problems?
Cats are descended from desert-dwelling mammals whose requirement to drink water was low. This underlying instinctive behaviour is a key factor in cats’ predisposition to urinary problems, as they often drink less and urinate less frequently than is ideal for their new lifestyle as companion animals in a modern environment.
However, other factors also affect the likelihood of your cat suffering with urinary issues. Overweight or obese cats are more likely to get cystitis (inflammation of the urinary organs), urolithiasis and obstructions. Neutered cats also have an increased risk of developing stones.
Idiopathic cystitis in cats (where there’s no clear underlying cause for the problem) can be affected by one or more diverse lifestyle factors including stress, sedentary or indoors living, environments with little stimulation for your cat, and even a litter tray which is poorly placed or difficult to access.
How can diet maintain a healthy urinary system in cats?
If your cat is suffering with an urgent problem such as a urinary stone, the first thing your vet will do is offer medical or surgical treatment to get rid of these issues in the most appropriate way. After that, they may suggest changing your cat’s diet to help maintain a healthier urinary system.
Your cat’s diet can support their urinary system through creating a favourable internal environment in which stones are less likely to form and your cat is encouraged to urinate frequently to help flush out their system. If your cat has urinary stones, a special diet may help prevent the development of more stones.
Wet foods have a high percentage of water, which can be useful in getting your cat to urinate more. Some veterinary diets are specifically designed to dilute their urine as well as encourage a lower urine concentration.
If your cat’s behaviour around urinating has changed, make sure to take them to a vet who will be able to advise you on the best course of action. In addition, always remember to give your cat access to plenty of fresh, clean drinking water to help keep its urinary system healthy.