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Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is a common disease in cats, affecting upwards of 60% of the feline population.
That’s why most vets recommend urinary tract food for cats who have a urinary tract infection.
There are so many diets to choose from and most pet parents don’t even realize they have a choice.
They just grab a bag of food at the pet store, hand it over to their cat, and not give it another thought until it is time to buy more cat food.
However, the situation is not that simple. Just like we have different human nutritional needs, so too do our pets.
This can be especially true if your cat has a feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).
In this article, I’ll discuss some of the best foods to feed your cat if they are suffering from a feline urinary tract infection.
There are an awful lot of cat food brands and types available nowadays, but there’s a pound of research backing up the ones we’re going to mention.
I’ll walk you through the most common feline urinary diets.
What is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease?
FLUTD was earlier known as a feline urologic syndrome (FUS).
FLUTD is a combination of diseases with multiple causes that target the urinary tract of felines.
The lower urinary tract of cats comprises of:
• The bladder sphincters
• The urinary bladder
• The urethra
Any medical condition that affects any of the above organs are usually classified as FLUTD.
Common conditions include:
2. Urinary stones
It involves symptoms such as painful irritation of the urinary bladder to chronic dangerous conditions that require urgent attention.
Because cats with FLUTD experience painful irritation while using the litter box, they associate the pain with using the litter box and abandon the box eventually.
This causes them to look for alternative places to eliminate such as on your favorite flower pot. It is the most common medical condition that causes your cat to urinate outside the litter box.
The urinary tract system of a cat functions just like that of human beings whereby the kidneys filter waste products from the blood and channel the waste products via ureters and empty finally into the bladder.
Each kidney has a ureter and the bladder expands progressively as the urine drains into it.
When it is fully distended, the nerves relay impulses to the brain, and the brain communicates back to the bladder resulting in contractions. This is how the kidney function.
The cat then relieves himself via the urethra, which leaves the bladder to the penis or vagina.
FLUTD occurs most commonly in cats, both males, and females that are between one to six years old.
Males have a long and narrow urethra causing them to be more susceptible to FLUTD. Females have a shorter and wider urethra hence FLUTD isn’t as common unlike in male cats.
This is inflammation of the urinary bladder. In most cases, this inflammation isn’t caused by an infection but the cause is unknown. Hence the name feline idiopathic cystitis.
It commonly presents in:
- Obese cats
- Cats aged between two to six years
- Sedentary cats
Urinary tract stones:
Urinary stones cause urethral obstruction and can quickly turn into a life and death issue.
Uroliths on the other hand are crystals that harden into stones blocking the urinary tract. Most of these crystals are struvite that is, made up of magnesium ammonium phosphate.
The formation of these crystals is influenced by the pH of the cat’s urine.
What causes urinary tract infections in cats?
Feline lower urinary tract disease causes include:
- Bladder stones
- Bacterial bladder infections
- Bladder irritation
- Viral infections
Urethral obstruction is the most serious of them all since urine won’t flow out.
In urethral obstruction, tiny stones, bladder stones, or sand accumulate in the urine and block the urethra, preventing the cat from urinating.
Male cats suffer the most from this due to their long narrow urethra.
The urine slowly retreats causing the bladder to expand and it becomes painful for the male cats.
If he cannot empty his bladder, the urine pressure is pushed back through the ureters and into the kidneys.
This eventually damages the kidneys and they cease functioning. Toxins build up in the blood system too. Kidney failure cripples the immune system
At this point, emergency veterinarian intervention is needed otherwise the cat dies a painful death. Your cat at this point may also be straining to urinate.
The feline lower urinary tract disease is life-threatening in both male and female cats.
Feline lower urinary tract disease symptoms
Here are common clinical signs and symptoms that you should look out for and inform the veterinarian officer immediately.
- Frequent urination
- Frequent visits to the litter box without eliminating
- Difficulty during urination, with little urine, excreted
- Cat crying as a result of straining to urinate.
- Extreme licking of the genitalia
- Abandonment of the litter box and opting for cool, smooth surfaces such as floors and sinks.
- Blood in the urine plus a strong ammonia odor
- Excessive thirst and poor appetite
- Squatting and straining for a long time
Your cat may exhibit only one or two of these clinical signs and symptoms.
It’s easy to conclude that your cat has a behavior problem while it is a medical condition.
If detected early enough, this condition can be cured or managed pretty well with long-term treatment and dietary management.
How do you prevent lower urinary tract infections in cats?
Recurrence of feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) signs and symptoms depends on the underlying cause.
Prevention measures to reduce the probability of recurrence include:
- Scoop the litter box every day and keep it clean
- Avail clean and fresh water every day. Wash the bowl before refilling it.
- Have the cats litter box in a quiet, low traffic area
- Scoop the litter box every day and keep it clean
- Get your cats a high-quality, premium diet, with the help of the veterinary officer.
- Provide small meals frequently
- Ensure enough accessible litter boxes are provided and the right litter type used
- Minimize stress levels
- Ensure any infection and disease are treated promptly and not left to exacerbate. Blood in the urine shouldn’t be ignored. It may also lead to a worse condition. A urine culture may help determine the causative agent.
- Change your cat’s diet to a raw diet that mimics what a wild one would eat. Dump the dry grainy foods.
- Introduce a pheromone diffuser such as Feliway into the house.
- Eliminate environmental stressors such as the presence of guests and other pets.
- Introduce environmental enrichment platforms such as a cat tree for climbing.
- Encourage exercises for your cat through interactive play.
- Monitor your cat’s litter box habits daily to familiarize yourself with her routine.
Watch this short video to learn more about FLUTD.
Having your vet close during this difficult phase is one way of ensuring that your cat is at ease and has a speedy recovery.
While diagnosing your cat, other conditions and illnesses should be ruled out such as bladder stones and bacterial infections since they may present as feline lower urinary tract disease. One simple way of doing this is by running different tests.
A urinalysis using a fresh urine sample from your cat should be withdrawn directly from her bladder via a syringe and needle. Blood in the urine should not deter you from conducting the tests.
Several follow-up tests may be necessary based on the urinalysis findings.
How do you treat a cat with a lower urinary tract infection?
Feline lower urinary tract disease treatment includes 3 ways:
They include analgesics such as buprenorphine, anti-anxiety medication such as fluoxetine, and nutritional supplements such as glucosamine. Antibiotics may be issued to clear any bacterial infections.
2. Stress management:
This will involve eliminating stressors in your cat’s life from a dirty litter box, separating your cat from aggressive house pets, and playing lovingly with your cat to ease and calm her.
The best type of diet for a cat with the feline lower uterine disease is one that’s high in moisture such as canned foods.
Benefits of the FLUTD Diet:
- It helps in dissolving struvite stones
- It increases the urine volume to avoid the formation of calcium oxalate stones and struvite stones. In addition to this, it also reduces their recurrence.
- Diets that are low on magnesium minimize the formation of urinary stones, and subsequent urethral plugs.
- Food that is high in moisture content increases urine dilution thereby reducing the recurrence of feline idiopathic cystitis.
WHAT ARE THE BEST NATURAL REMEDIES FOR CATS WITH URINARY TRACT ISSUES?
Cat flutd home treatment options that you can implement include:
1. Increase water intake:
When cats take inadequate water, it washes out the urinary tract, keeping the bladder system clean. This also moderates the urine concentration preventing crystal formation into stones, and creating urethral plugs.
Adding a few extra bowls of freshwater for your cat may encourage him to drink more water. Flavored ice cubes added into the water may entice some cats to take up more water.
Don’t forget to clean out and change the water daily.
2. Avoid dry foods:
The foods shouldn’t be dry
This is important for the cat’s urinary health.
High moisture foods include:
- Raw foods such as raw muscle meat, organs
- Home-made cooked foods
- Rehydrated freeze-dried raw food
- Canned food
Wetting dry food with some water is discouraged because the dry food may contain mold and fungus which thrive in wet and damp areas. Should you choose to moisten your cat’s dry food, please don’t leave it out for more than thirty minutes.
Diets have increased the sodium content to encourage many cats to take up more water, which causes them to pee more frequently. This type of diet though should be avoided in case your cat has heart disease.
What do you feed a cat with FLUTD?
Canned food for cats is made up of about 75% water, and hence suitable for many cats with feline urinary tract disease.
Transitioning her to a canned diet at home should be done methodically, by introducing 25% of the canned food to his normal diet. This can be done over a couple of days and consistently increase the amount of canned food until it replaces the normal diet completely. This process can take a few weeks.
Adding some tuna or salmon juice can entice her into trying out this new diet.
3. Use of pheromones:
Cats communicate in various ways and scent marking is one of the forms of scent communication.
Marking by cats can involve rubbing a person especially their legs or a home object with their chins, foreheads, or even cheeks. These are parts that contain scent glands.
Feliway is a spray that has analogs of natural cat facial pheromones.
- It provides a calming effect on cats
- It lowers the urge to urine spray as it reproduces the familiar natural smells that she releases when she rubs against an object or person.
It should be sprayed on the objects around the house as it calms her and counteracts the cat’s alarm pheromones responsible for spraying.
You can spray it twice on her every day for about three to four weeks.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are generally used for the management of arthritis but they are helpful for cats with feline lower uterine tract disease.
Glucosamine helps replenish glycosaminoglycans, which is a compound in the bladder wall that aids in the reduction of inflammation.
Chrondroitin prevents glycosaminoglycans from being broken down.
Have you considered that homeopathic remedies, Chinese traditional medicine, acupuncture, nutritional supplements, and herbal combinations could alleviate symptoms of feline lower uterine tract disease?
These however need guidance in selecting what is necessary for her. Good options will act as an anti-inflammatory, improve the mucosal lining of the bladder and prevent uterine tract infections.
• Homeopathic Remedies
Here’s a personal recommendation for homeopathic remedies. Aconite and pulsatilla are viable options.
Aconite is best during the early symptoms of the disease while pulsatilla is better in recurrent cases of bladder inflammation.
Common cat stressors include:
- Dirty unscoped litter boxes: Ensure that you scoop the litter box every single day and clean the box weekly.
- Boredom can “kill.”: Exercise and playtime are key for her health while at home. Throw in toys to keep her busy and entertained. Scratch posts are a good option. Mental stimulating activities such as bird watching are great too.
- Aggression from other cats and pets in a multi-pet household: Bully cats will keep the timid cat from feeding, using the litter box, and just relaxing. You will need to provide more separate feeding areas, litter boxes in different rooms and floors. You need to neuter and spay your cats too.
- Unfamiliar guests and uncomfortable environment: Visitors, a new baby, and new pets may cause your cat to be uneasy and unsettled causing her to be stressed.
Feliway is a good product to calm your cat during these transitions.
What ingredient in cat food causes urinary problems?
This is a low contributor when compared to the impact of pH on causing FLUTD.
Magnesium is key in energy production, bone growth, muscle function, teeth health, and cardiac health in cats.
A diet high in magnesium chloride may increase the pH causing crystals to form.
However, if the pH remains low, a diet high in magnesium will not cause struvite crystals to occur.
Since urine pH is the leading cause of struvite crystals, pet food manufacturers began to incorporate ammonium chloride into cat food to acidify it.
This however may cause chronic acidosis upon continued use causing mobilization of calcium from the bones of the cat.
Acidosis plus calcium loss from the cat bones causing increased calcium levels in the blood and urine plus low magnesium levels in the diet causes the formation of calcium oxalate stones.
This is a mineral content made up of different minerals such as potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, sodium, sulfur, and other trace minerals.
Initially, it was thought to be a contributor to crystals but research has proved that the main issue is the formulations found in commercial pet foods.
These may cause a higher pH in urine, leading to struvite crystals.
A raw protein diet is an ideal way to keep a low pH.
Phosphorous is a good indicator of the level of magnesium and calcium in the cat’s diet. If it is low, it is most likely low in magnesium and calcium and vice versa.
3. Dry food:
Dry foods are a leading cause of cystitis.
When cats take inadequate water, it washes out the urinary tract, keeping the bladder system clean. This also moderates the urine concentration preventing crystal formation into stones.
Diets have increased the sodium content to encourage cats to take up more water, which causes them to pee more frequently. This type of diet though should be avoided in case your cat has heart disease.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the best food for cats with urinary tract issues?
The best food for cats with urinary tract issues is a special veterinary diet that changes the pH of the cat’s urine.
The diet should make the urine more acidic or more alkaline depending on the type of mineral sediment that’s accumulating in the kitty’s pee.
Avoid feeding your elderly cats an acidic diet.
Feline lower urinary tract disease life expectancy
Once your vet has put your cat on a special diet and she remains healthy for about nine months, the vet will examine the cat and take her off this special diet.
Every 6 months, your cat should be checked to monitor her treatment progress.
Cats can live a normal life with proper treatment and enjoy high-quality life.
Can a cat recover from feline lower urinary tract disease?
Yes, a cat can recover from FLUTD. However, FLUTD has a 50-75% chance of reoccurring in your cat.
This is why they have to be put on a long-term special diet by the veterinarian. Your cat’s urine has to be checked every 6 months for struvites.
Feline lower urinary tract disease surgery
Surgery may be required for cats with recurrent FLUTD cases. This procedure is called a perineal urethrostomy.
It involves the removal of the narrow part of the urethra, at the penis, to create a wider opening.
Perineal urethrostomy isn’t always successful and should be a last resort.
Prescription diets are very effective and have reduced the need to have this surgery.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease occurs in many cats, with a high incidence occurring in male cats.
This is a life-threatening condition requiring immediate treatment by a veterinarian.
There are some important guidelines that you ought to follow – proper nutrition and management – and some diet alternatives to consider if your cat has a urethral blockage.
Following the diet recommended by your veterinarian is of utmost importance as its success depends on compliance on the part of the cat owner.
Having said that, I still see many people continuing to feed their cats diets that are inappropriate for their needs and which may worsen the feline lower urinary tract disease.
If your veterinarian recommends a low oxalate diet, it is important to understand how the diet works.
A healthy diet for cats with kidney or bladder problems will help to keep the cat in good shape and prevent a lot of unnecessary suffering.