What Ingredient in Cat Food Causes Urinary Problems

what Ingredient in Cat Food Causes Urinary Problems

Urinary problems are common among cats, more so than dogs. It happens since the feline species is stubborn and picky when drinking the necessary amount of water. They can survive for days without drinking. Add to this some unwanted food ingredient that could potentially be harming your pet without you even knowing about it. When kept unchecked, it can lead to bacterial infections, FLUTD like uroliths/urine crystals, and more.

These problems are treatable. However, when left untreated for long, they could turn out to be deadly. But what exactly is it in your cat’s food that could lead to urinary problems?

To answer this, we need to decode why cats are vulnerable to urinary problems such as bladder stones and urine crystals. So, let’s dig deep to find out what ingredient in cat food causes urinary problems!

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Urinary Problems in Cats: Why Do They Occur?

Urinary issues like bladder stones or urine crystals form when the cat’s diet has more protein, phosphorus, calcium, or magnesium. All these ingredients are flushed out through the urine via the kidney and excretory system.

A higher than normal amount of these ingredients can affect the cat’s excretory system that helps dissolve them completely. Originally, scientists thought that it was just the ash and magnesium content that contributed to urinary issues.

However, the urine pH can also be a major contributor to the same. Therefore, as per veterinarian recommendations, it is suggested that your cat’s urine pH should fall between the range of 6.0 & 6.5.

The key is to ensure that the urine and minerals within are diluted enough to prevent health issues. However, making your cat drink a good amount of water can be a tricky business. With the right brand of wet food, you can ensure that the food is diluted enough and hence the pH level is maintained.

In most cases, dry food is the culprit, but certain brands contain lower levels of these minerals and don’t affect your cat in any way.

Normal prey hunted down by a wild cat consists of 70 percent water, while canned food contains 78 percent water. In comparison, dry food contains 5 to 10 percent water, depending on the brand. So, it is evident that wet food is good for your cat.

Ingredients that can cause urinary problems

  • Phosphorus: Recommended Level- 1 to 2
  • Magnesium: Recommended Level- Less than 0.1
  • Calcium: Recommended Level- Maximum of 0.6
  • Protein: Recommended Level- 25 to 26
  • Phosphate: Recommended Level- Less than 100mg/100kcal

While protein is good for your cat’s health, excess of the same can cause urinary issues in the long run. So, look for a wet or dry food brand that sticks to these recommended levels. Phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and some other minerals make up for the “Ash” content in the cat’s food.

Although they are necessary for the better health of your pet, a food brand that exceeds the recommended limit can be potentially harmful in years to come.

When Should You Change Your Cat Food?

Cats are notorious for hiding their painful symptoms. So, as a pet parent, you must note any changes in their behavior or health.

Unfortunately, symptoms only surface when the condition has worsened beyond the point of retrieval. So, the key is to look for signs that might suggest any urinary inconsistencies.

Common signs indicating urinary problems include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Straining before and during urination
  • Painful urination
  • Genital licking
  • Hematuria
  • Obstruction in the urinary tract (Majorly in males)
  • Urinating in locations different than usual
  • Urine spraying

A surplus of minerals like phosphorus, calcium, & magnesium can induce the formation of urine crystals that eventually develop into urinary stones. The food can also influence the acidity or pH of the urine.

Normally, urine is moderately acidic, which is healthy for the proper functioning of the urinary tract. However, struvite crystals cannot grow in an acidic environment.

As a pet parent, you also need to understand that several other factors can partake in increasing the risk of urinary problems:

  • Cats that only stay indoors with minimal activity
  • Stress that could stem from various factors like sudden house guests, new pets, or lack of spaces to hide or rest
  • Refraining from drinking the right amount of water that enhances the risk associated with urinary tract issues
  • Unchecked inflammation in the urinary tract
  • Giving higher than the required amount of food can cause obesity and exposure to a higher amount of mineral content

Types of Urinary Crystals in Cats

Commonly occurring urinary crystal variants in cats include types like struvite and calcium oxalate. To modify the cat’s diet, you need first to realize the type of crystals ailing your pet. So, let us take a look at them in detail.

1-Struvite Crystals:

These crystals usually form due to the high levels of magnesium ammonium phosphate and triple phosphate. It is usually seen in the form of colorless, prism-like, three-dimensional crystals. They are also often termed coffin lids due to their appearance. Occasionally, they resemble a double-edged razor.

So, if your cat is detected with struvite crystals, you can start by opting for a diet with a lower amount of the minerals mentioned above. In addition, if your pet’s urine verges more towards a neutral or alkaline edge, it could increase the possibility of the formation of struvite crystals.

The general vet consensus is to ensure that the pet’s urine is slightly acidic instead of neutral or alkaline.

Apart from this, UTI infection in cats increases due to the presence of urease-positive bacteria that promotes urolithiasis or struvite crystalluria by increasing the urine’s pH & increasing the presence of free ammonia.

2-Calcium Oxalate Crystals:

The calcium oxalate crystals are typically colorless and square. The corners connect via intersecting lines that resemble the envelope. These crystals aren’t pH-dependent and can develop in any urine. They can be large or minuscule, depending on the number of minerals in the diet.

Calcium oxalate crystals form due to abnormally high calcium levels in the urine that happen pending calcium metabolism disorder. Miniature cat breeds are highly prone to calcium crystal formation. When left undiagnosed in the long run, it could lead to acute renal issues.

What Food Is Right to Prevent Urinary Problems in Cats?

Regardless of the food options given to your cat daily, the only elixir for your feline friend is the adequate intake of pain water. It is important because neither bladder stones nor crystals can form if the minerals present in the food are diluted sufficiently.

However, making your cat drink enough water can be a tough job. Cats are thirst-tolerant by nature. So, as a pet parent, you need to develop strategies that can help increase the pet’s water intake. You can either purchase a cat water fountain that would continuously provide your pet with fresh water.

Several pet parents swear by this method as it keeps the water fresher for longer. Apart from this, it would help if you switched from a dry cat diet to wet variants slowly. Veterinarians suggest the use of wet food instead of dry options as it is an ideal way to get more water into your pet’s body.

It helps balance out the urine pH and ensures that the minerals present in the food are diluted enough to avoid the formation of crystals in the excretory system.

Even if your cat refrains from having a wet diet, it is your responsibility as a pet parent to get a good amount of water into their body. Try to add some flavors to your cat’s water to ensure they drink it all.

Several cat owners are under the misinformation that only male felines are prone to having urinary issues. Although the risk factor is higher in males, it is equally risky for female cats as well.

Being overweight is a major factor that contributes to urinary issues, and the male feline population is highly vulnerable to the same. Apart from this, male felines have a narrow and long urethra for the urine to pass out compared to the female cats.

It is the most likely reason for small crystals to get stuck in the urination process and cause inflammation, along with several other issues.

You may also like our recent education pieces on how to feed cats wet food while away, what is ash in cat food, how much-wet food for a cat and when can a kitten start eating cat food; these are produced to educate cat parents so they can better care of their fluffykids.


Remember that these issues can occur in young cats and old ones depending on their lifestyle, weight, and water intake. Keep your pet healthy, active, and well-fed to ensure they can avoid unwanted pain.

Always get your pet checked by a veterinarian regularly to avoid the issue from worsening. Urinary issues aren’t a one-off health hazard among cats. Any irregularities in the diet and higher intake of minerals can lead to the re-formation of issues such as crystals, inflammation, blockages, and more.

Try to reduce any possibility of stress in your pet’s lifestyle to ensure it doesn’t take a toll on their health. Most of all, always observe your cat’s excrements like poop or urine to ensure they represent a healthy pet.