Hi, My Dear Catmentors!
I know you that you and your person are the experts in cat knowledge so I come to you for advice. My friend Tiger, a 2-year-old living in Oakland, California, was just diagnosed with struvite crystals. We (his person and I) want to be sure he gets the right treatment. His person will be buying him the high-end canned, low magnesium, high protein, etc. cat food that the vet recommended. But after reading heaps of websites about causes and treatment, we thought that we should turn to you three for some practical advice. We know that plenty of water will help … but do you have any additional advice about keeping Mr. Tiger happy, healthy and comfortable?
Siouxsie: Hi, Lelia. We’re delighted that you and Tiger’s person are so dedicated to making sure he stays happy and healthy and — hopefully — never has another attack of crystals again!
Thomas: And we do have a bunch of vet-approved and experience-proven tips to help prevent Mr. Tiger from having a recurrence.
Dahlia: First of all, your friend is already doing the right thing by feeding Tiger canned food. Because we cats naturally don’t drink much, we get most of our water through the food we eat. So canned food is a must when it comes to preventing crystals and urinary tract problems.
Siouxsie: High protein foods are particularly important because as obligate carnivores, we have to have a much higher level of protein in our diet than, say, dogs or people, in order to stay healthy. The low magnesium factor will also help prevent the buildup of struvite crystals.
Thomas: We also recommend that Tiger’s person buy canned foods that are at least 95 percent meat (there are a number of premium canned foods that fit this bill) and avoid grains in any form. Certain kinds of grains can cause irritations of the urinary tract in sensitive cats.
Dahlia: And while we’re on the subject of food, no cat that’s had crystals or urinary tract problems should ever be fed seafood-flavored cat food. Tuna and other seafoods irritate some cats’ bladders and may contribute to development of stones or crystals.
Siouxsie: Even though we don’t drink much water, it is essential to have plenty of fresh water on hand. Since Tiger’s person lives in a large city and presumably gets his water from the municipal supply, it contains chlorine and other additives that will make Tiger’s urine more alkaline.
Thomas: To address this problem, Tiger’s person should invest in a filter pitcher — it’ll be good for him, too. In the long term, investing in a filter pitcher is less expensive and more environmentally friendly than buying bottled water.
Dahlia: Another thing you can do to make that water more tempting is to get a pet drinking fountain. A lot of cats seem to prefer running water to standing water. The best-known pet fountains are made of plastic, though, and we don’t recommend plastic dishes for cats because they harbor bacteria and they’re hard to clean well.
Siouxsie: Instead, your friend should buy a steel or ceramic fountain. Both steel and ceramic are dishwasher-safe, and they tend to be easier to clean than plastic. Here’s one example of a steel drinking fountain.
Thomas: Ceramic fountains, however, can be much more aesthetically pleasing. And as long as they’re made in the USA of food-grade ceramic and finishes, your cat will be totally safe. Thirsty Cat Fountains makes one-of-a-kind, beautiful hand-crafted pieces that can also be used for decorative or feng shui purposes if it turns out Tiger isn’t a drinking fountain fan.
Dahlia: Mama says she’s totally buying us one of their beautiful fountains as soon as we’re finished with our Big Move!
Siouxsie: It’s really important to keep Tiger’s litterbox scrupulously clean — Tiger’s person should scoop at least twice a day and change the litter completely whenever it starts to smell — and use an unscented litter. Dirty boxes or chemical scents can cause a cat to be reluctant to use the box.
Thomas: If Tiger is obese, his person should start an exercise program to get him more active and reduce his extra weight. Obesity can contribute to urinary tract problems, as can inactivity. By exercising Tiger daily, his person can improve his overall health as well as his weight. We recommend two 10-minute play sessions a day with an interactive toy like Da Bird, Neko Flies, or a home-made interactive cat toy.
Dahlia: Be sure to keep Tiger’s stress level as low as possible. Stress can cause a cat to urinate less. If Tiger and/or his person are going through stressful times now, a feline pheromone like Feliway can help keep Tiger calmer.
Siouxsie: The authors of the Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook say that glucosamine supplements may help to ease irritation of the bladder and urethra.
Thomas: Good luck to Tiger and his person. And thank you, Lelia, for believing in us enough to ask for our thoughts on how to keep the little guy heahty!