An Uncomfortable Issue: Urinary Problems in Cats

Cat facts

Our beloved house kitties are close cousins with desert cats—this is why they love basking in the sun and seldom take a sip from their water tray. Wildcats get most of their water needs met from fresh prey, which is about 70% water. It’s not surprising that cats on a dry kibble (5-10% water) often lack hydration! These little beasts evolved to get water with their food, so they aren’t inclined to drink water to compensate.

For felines, dry diets can lead to painful urinary issues, such as cystitis (bladder inflammation), urethra obstructions (common in male cats) and urinary tract infections.

Signs of urinary issues

How do you know if your cat has a urinary problem? He or she may strain to urinate, pee frequently, cry while at the litter box, excessively lick “down there”, urinate in places other than the litter box and squat while doing business. This last behaviour can be mistaken as constipation when, in fact, the cat might have a urinary tract problem.

If your cat demonstrates these signs, consult your veterinarian ASAP.

Prevention is key

The good news is that feline urinary problems are preventable. The trick is to provide fresh water for your cat (we recommend a fountain), since bladders are happier when more water flows through them. You should also give your cat moist canned food, especially if he or she doesn’t drink much, or add distilled water or pureed veggies to dry kibble at a 1:1 ratio.

A note about urinary pH

The normal pH for cat urine ranges between 6.0 and 6.5, and a higher number points to alkalinity—a risk that comes with plant-based diets for cats. Alkaline urine can lead to the formation of struvite crystals, which in turn cause urethra obstruction.

Thankfully, this issue is preventable. You can opt for a vegan dry kibble (here or here) supplemented with acidifiers such as DL-Methionine. If you prepare your cat’s meals at home, make sure to add an acidifier like cranberry powder or VegeYeast. Use acidifiers in moderation, since they can create another kind of crystal called calcium oxalate.

The best way to monitor your cat’s urinary pH is to consult your veterinarian. This can be expensive on a regular basis, so you can opt for pH strips afterwards. These solutions are not perfect, but they do provide cat owners with a certain indication of pH.

If you’ve tried to measure your cat’s urine at home, please post your comments below to share your experiences!


Top 10 Most Common Dog and Cat Ailments Revealed, PRNewswire, Mar 29, 2016, Retrieved Oct 18, 2016 

Feline Urinary Tract Health: Cystitis, Urethral Obstruction, Urinary Tract Infection, Lisa A. Pierson, DVM RetrievedOct 19, 2016 

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Bladder and Kidney Stones, Retrieved Oct 23, 2016 

Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your veterinarian if you have questions about your pet’s health.

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