Struvite crystals (or just "cat crystals" for us less technical folk) are dreaded by both pets and owners the world over. When cat crystals form, it becomes almost impossible for your cat to urinate, despite the persistent urge to do so...and frequently, we might add! Yep, this is a recipe for one unhappy kitty.
Why do cat crystals form?
Cat crystals are tiny crystals that can develop in your cat's urine & may cause your kitty significant irritation, pain and possibly even an infection. The actual cause of cat crystals is not well understood, but we do know that the following can predispose cats to them:
+ An inflammation in the lower urinary tract
+ An alkaline environment (a high pH)
+ Low water intake
Back in the day, cat crystals were actually thought to be caused by food, in particular the ash level; but current research now suggests that environmental stress may be the primary cause. Pets that are overweight and lacking in exercise are also at risk.
However, your cat's diet still does play a factor; the main dietary factors that appear to affect the development of cat crystals are urine pH and water consumption.
Cats are not natural water drinkers, as they evolved over millions of years and derived most of their moisture from their prey. Cats that are routinely fed a diet of dry food are particularly at risk for struvite crystals. Dry cat food provides very little moisture in their diet & can make their urine too concentrated, making it difficult for them to pass the crystals. Cat crystals do not tend to appear in a more acidic environment (a low pH) and where the urine is more dilute.
So, what should I feed my cat now?
The following are some easy tips that should help your cat feel better soon, and also help prevent struvite crystals from recurring:
1. Feed small meals on a frequent basis; this will cause less fluctuation in their urine pH.
2. For cats with a history of cat crystals, ensure you feed a variety of canned pâtés and stews recipes ("wet" food) that will help to hydrate and promote the formation of urine with a low or acidic pH.
3. Provide clean, fresh water at all times and consider having multiple water dishes, or even a fountain! You can also try a delicious chicken broth to encourage your cat to drink more.
4. Provide an adequate number of litter boxes (the more, the merrier!) and keep them in a quiet, safe place.
5. Minimize major changes in routine.