Crystals in your cat’s urine is not normal and can be very painful. They can lead to bladder stones and the possibility of eventual urinary obstruction. It is a good indication there is a problem if your cat is spending more time in the box straining to urinate or actually urinating outside the box. It is important to have your veterinarian collect a urine sample and analyze the sample under a microscope. The best way to obtain a pure sample is by cystocentesis—using a needle to draw a sample directly from the bladder.
There are two common urinary crystals: struvite and calcium oxalate. Struvites are composed of magnesium ammonium phosphate and form in alkaline urine. Oxalate crystals form in acid urine. So you can see that regulating the pH of the urine is very important. The easiest and most effective way to maintain proper pH levels is by feeding medicated diets. There are three veterinary diets that are low in the nutrients that cause the crystals (and stones) and promote a healthy urine pH. These are: Hill’s c/d, Purina UR, and Royal Canin SO. All three of these diets are available in canned and dry formulas. One HiIl’s study showed that feeding c/d lowers the recurrence of crystals in 89 percent of cat’s with urinary signs. The so-called urinary health diets in the stores will not protect your cat. The medicated diets are prescription only.
Another way to prevent crystals is to provide plenty of fresh water for your cats. Cat’s prefer fresh, clean, cool water and some enjoy water fountains or a slow flowing faucet. Adding water to the food is also helpful. Feeding more canned food is also a good idea to increase moisture in the diet. You may observe more volume and frequency of urination by increasing the water intake. That’s fine as long as the kitty isn’t straining with minimal output.
If a cat is obstructed, it is usually a male and will show the following signs: spending more time in litter with just a few drops of urine; no appetite at all; crying loudly when picked up under the abdomen.
This condition is a medical emergency that requires an immediate trip to the veterinary hospital to relieve the obstruction. The veterinarian will do a full work-up: x-ray the bladder to check for bladder stones, bloodwork for kidney function and electrolytes, and a urinalysis. Sedation to place a urinary catheter will ultimately save the cat’s life. Some cats require surgery to remove the bladder stones. The severe cases reblock and can require additional surgery to widely open the urethra. The best idea is to have your cat promptly evaluated to treat urinary tract issues and prevent unhappy outcomes for everyone.