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​How your cat's diet affects its urinary health

Adult cat standing indoors next to a silver bowl.
Learn more about how what you feed your cat can help it maintain a healthy, functioning urinary system.

Up to 10% of 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 in maintaining a healthy, functioning urinary system.

Why is my cat's urinary health important?

Your cat's urinary system works to process and remove waste products from their body. A poor-functioning system—one that is inflamed, infected or unhealthy—can no longer remove these products. These can eventually build up and cause multiple problems including irritation, "stones" and preventing your cat from urinating, which can be fatal.

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 "stones" can build up in your cat's urinary system, most often in their bladder. These are caused by a crystallization of minerals, naturally present in your cat's body, which aren't being processed properly by their urinary system or being flushed out through frequent urination. These stones can cause inflammation or even block the passage of urine.

Cats can also contract bacterial infections, which can irritate their urinary system and, more rarely, develop tumors or mucus plugs which result in urinary issues.

Adult cat standing outside on grass eating from a white bowl.

Why do cats suffer with urinary problems?

Cats are descended from desert-dwelling mammals whose requirement to drink water was low. This underlying instinctive behavior 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, infection, 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 caused by 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 my cat?

If your cat is suffering with an urgent problem such as infection or 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 favorable internal environment in which stones are less likely to form and your cat is encouraged to urinate frequently and flush out their system. A specially designed diet will balance the pH of your cat's urine to deter mineral build up, and include lower levels of those minerals which contribute to the development of stones, such as magnesium. 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 and therefore lower the concentration of potential stone-forming minerals.

If your cat's behavior 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—and always remember to give your cat access to plenty of fresh, clean drinking water to help keep its urinary system healthy.

  • Urinary health

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