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Pet Food & Nutrition


Nutrition Myths & Facts

For Veterinary Professionals

Continuing Education

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Feline Health Conditions

Pet health problems are stressful for owner and pet alike. Understanding certain health conditions your cat might be facing can help bring you one step closer toward nutritionally managing the problem.

Feline Health Conditions

Pet health problems are stressful for owner and pet alike. Understanding certain health conditions your cat might be facing can help bring you one step closer toward nutritionally managing the problem.

Cat Urinary Tract Disease

Cat urinary tract disease: a common health problem

It has been estimated that 3 percent of all cats seen by veterinarians have cat urinary problems and show signs of Lower Urinary Tract Disease, or LUTD. Feline urinary disease can affect both the urinary bladder (such as cystitis, an inflammation of the bladder) and the urethra, the channel that carries urine from the bladder to the outside.
In some cases, cat urinary tract disease is caused by crystals or stones that form in the urine. These can irritate the lining of the urinary tract and partially or completely block the flow of urine.

How to recognize the symptoms of cat urinary problems

Your observations about changes in your cat’s appearance or behavior can assist your veterinarian in making an accurate diagnosis of a feline urinary tract disease. For example, urinating can be painful for a cat with lower urinary tract disease. Urine may be bloody, have a reddish tinge, or a strong ammonia-like odor. A cat with LUTD may: 

  • make frequent trips to the litter box
  • cry when urinating
  • urinate outside the litter box
  • lick its genital area excessively

Occasionally, mucous plugs or crystals can block the urethra in cat urinary tract disease, making it difficult or impossible for your cat to urinate. These cats will

  • strain to urinate, with little success
  • display signs of anxiety, such as pacing or hiding

Consult your veterinarian immediately if your cat shows any of these behaviors. If an obstruction is not relieved it can lead to vomiting, loss of appetite, dehydration, collapse and even death.

Understanding feline lower urinary tract disease

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (LUTD) can be caused by a number of factors, including:

  • stress
  • bacterial or viral infection
  • obesity
  • anatomical abnormalities
  • confinement
  • genetics

There are several different types of cat urinary tract problems. One type, associated with the formation of stones or crystals, is linked to conditions in the urinary bladder such as the concentration of minerals, the pH and the volume of urine.


Male and female cats can experience cat urinary problems, such as cystitis, but since male cats have longer and narrower urethras, their urinary tracts are more likely to become obstructed by crystals and mucous.


Urinary problems are more common in some breeds like Persians, while there is a lower incidence in Siamese cats.


Young adult cats between the ages of 2 and 6 years are more likely to have lower urinary tract disorders, but cats of any age are susceptible.

Physical activity

Indoor cats seem to be more susceptible to cat urinary tract disease. This may be because confinement reduces physical activities, which in turn may reduce the amount of water consumed and the frequency of urination, allowing crystals to form in the urine.


High levels of ash and magnesium in the diet were once thought to cause crystal formation. More recent work indicates that urine pH and concentration are more important factors in the development of LUTD. Increasing water intake is highly recommended to help reduce the risk of LUTD.

Diagnosing your cat’s urinary problems

To determine the type and severity of your cat’s urinary disorder, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical exam. This includes gently feeling your cat’s abdomen to determine if the bladder is full, a possible sign of a blocked feline urinary tract.

Your veterinarian may also recommend tests such as a urinalysis to evaluate any crystals, blood cells and bacteria in the urine, as well as urine pH and concentration. If stone formation is suspected, an X-ray will help determine if stones are present. Not all types of urinary stones can be seen on x-rays, but struvite stones are generally visible.

Helping your cat recover from feline urinary tract disease

If your cat has an obstruction, your veterinarian will need to remove it immediately.

Most cases of feline LUTD are not caused by infection, but if infection is present, your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics.

If there are struvite crystals in your cat’s urinary tract that aren’t blocking the flow of urine, a special diet can help dissolve those crystals and reduce crystal formation. Diets which help create urine that’s slightly acidic have a positive effect on reducing struvite crystal and stone formation. If signs persist beyond five to seven days of dietary therapy, consult your veterinarian. 

Regardless of the type of feline urinary disease your cat is experiencing, increased water intake is recommended to increase urine volume. Your veterinarian may recommend a special diet that promotes increased water intake.

Feline Urinary Tract Disease Signs

What are the signs of feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD?

The following article is taken from the "Purina® Animal Instincts" Podcast Series. Learn more at

If your cat shows signs of straining in the litter box, or if you see blood in the urine, it might be a sign of feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD. This disease is actually a collection of conditions that affect the bladder and urethra of cats.

Cats with FLUTD experience pain and have difficulty when urinating. They might also lick themselves excessively in an attempt to sooth the area. Another classic sign is when fluffy urinates outside the litter box on a cool, smooth surface.

FLUTD tends to affect middle-age, overweight, indoor cats that don’t get much exercise, and a dry diet may be a factor. It’s a serious illness, especially for male cats, so check with your veterinarian about treatment as soon as you notice something’s up!

– Dr. Larry McDaniel, DVM

Crystals In Cat Urine

I see crystals in my cat's urine. What does this mean and what can I do about it?

The following article is taken from the "Purina® Animal Instincts" Podcast Series. Learn more at

If crystals suddenly start showing up in your favorite feline’s litter box, this could forecast a rocky road ahead. A buildup of crystals may lead to a urinary tract problem.

The good news is that the problem may be caused by your cat’s diet, which is easy to control. Fish-flavored foods increase the chances of crystal formation, so avoid them if you can. And since dehydration can contribute to kitty’s crystal calamity, always make sure clean, fresh water is available. Also keep in mind that canned food is generally moister than dry cat food.

As always, these basic remedies are not an alternative to seeking your veterinarian’s advice – crystals are a clear sign to have your cat checked out.

– Dr. Larry McDaniel, DVM

Urinary Stones In Cats

What causes urinary stones in cats?

The following article is taken from the "Purina® Animal Instincts" Podcast Series. Learn more at

Bladder stones in cats are rock-like bits of minerals that form in the bladder. The correct name for them is “uroliths.” But a bladder stone by any name is a pain for your cat.

The stones may be as small as a grain of sand or as big as a pea. The most common idea for why these stones are formed is called the “precipitation-crystallization theory.” This simply means that there are elevated levels of stone- forming minerals in the cat’s urine. The trickier question is why. It may be due to diet, disease or an infection. In any case, these crystals do not get broken down in the urine. Instead they build-up into a rock and mineral collection no kitty wants to own. Talk to your veterinarian about treatment options!

– Dr. Larry McDaniel, DVM