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My cat-wizard pees crystals. Cheapest food to make him stop?
March 13, 2014 7:34 PM   Subscribe

Alternatives to Royal Canin SO wet cat food?

Four weeks after we got our large cat from surgery for removing five mast cell tumors he had urinary issues, and he had grown another mast cell tumor on his face. We took him to the vet yesterday, and he's now on Royal Canin SO wet cat food, which he seems to love. Before that he had been on dry food (for 8 months) after a long period when he turned his nose up at even his favorite wet foods and would not eat them in any ratio of dry:wet food, or any other remedy.

Royal Canin SO is expensive. Removing mast cell tumors is REALLY expensive and in the past three months we've spent over $2000 treating our cat. We really don't know how we'll afford the $600+/year for Royal Canin on top of more inevitable MCT surgeries and treatments. Are there any alternatives? The internet is a cesspool of unreliable cat food testimonials and advertisements.

if you have any advice about cat MCTs that is very welcome, especially about cats that seem to grow many over short spans of time. Ours has had six in the past year.

Our cat patiently awaits your reply.
posted by Luminiferous Ether to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Also, should have added that this cat is only six years old. He's young and spry.
posted by Luminiferous Ether at 7:49 PM on March 13


I can't speak to the food specifically; I've asked before what were the special ingredients in the prescription foods, and I haven't gotten a straight answer.

You might look at the nutritional information in depth. One vet tech told me that cheaper/less good urinary health food contained more salt, but of course you don't want to give your cat too much salt.

Depending on the type of crystals, you might want to limit, for example, magnesium intake. You might want to look around for a vet who will help you with this specifically.

What might help you is having your cat just hungrier in general, or more disposed to eat moist food, or to drink more, and there is plenty of advice out there on that.

I just found a home for an adorably pudgy cat that would not eat wet food (she'd had crystals before, also), so I know what you're talking about.

- Collie the cat would sometimes eat a less-desirable food if it started out next to a more desirable food; so, I'd put some wet food in the bowl next to the kibbles, and after a couple of sessions, she was more inclined to eat the kibbles.

- Some cats get hungrier if they are played with or petted. Would he be hungry enough to eat wet food? Probably not, but it's something to try.

- Cat fountains are a pain to keep clean, sometimes, but some cats find moving water so much more attractive to drink that this might be worth investigating.

- If your cat is fitter in general, he might be more inclined to eat food and water with less pickiness and more verve. I realize that he just got out of surgery, so today's probably not a good day for running around the house, but if you can exercise him regularly he'll probably do better in general (it's good for you, too -- playing with cats is refreshing).

He has such a sweet fuzzy face! I'm sorry you both have to deal with the medical stuff.

Good luck :)
posted by amtho at 8:40 PM on March 13


I am not a vet, but I do give presentations focused on cat nutrition for my local cat rescue.

Here is a chart by Lisa Pierson, a veterinarian and feline nutritionist, on the composition of various wet cat foods. Here is her article on urinary tract health, and here is her article on what you want to look for in wet food composition. I recommend them all.

Royal Canin SO is full of byproducts. In most cases, I would question a veterinarian who prescribed it. Look at these first ingredients: "water sufficient for processing, pork by-products, chicken liver, chicken, corn flour, chicken by-products, powdered cellulose, dried egg product" -- the first ingredient should be muscle meat or poultry. Not chicken liver or chicken byproduct, but chicken. Not pork by-products. You really, really don't want to know what is in meat byproducts. There shouldn't be corn flour in a diet for an overweight cat, either. I would consult a young veterinarian who is say, five years out of school, and ask about whether Royal Canin is something that vet would recommend.

The most premium canned cat food, Weruva (chicken varieties only), comes out to about 93 cents a meal if you are buying it by the case. Weruva has a very high water content and a low calorie content, so do the math and make sure you're getting your cat a minimum of 135 calories a day. (This may mean 9 ounces/day instead of the usual formulated 6 ounces/day.) That's the very high end of the scale in good cat foods.

Merrick foods are substantially less expensive but may require you to add a tablespoon of water because they are so pasty. They are also formulated pretty well. Next I'd look at Wellness Core, Blue Buffalo Wilderness, and Halo. They are all significantly less expensive than Royal Canin and contain better ingredients, but again, I am not a veterinarian.
posted by brina at 8:48 PM on March 13 [7 favorites]


I am not a vet, but when my then two year old cat had urinary issues I was told Science Diet. But my cat refused to eat it. The vet said he would die, so I checked with the local feed store. They gave me Wysong Uretic, dry food, which my cat ate. My other female cat also ate it, and lived until 22 with only one kidney the last 5 or so years. The only two issues I had with Wysong is that I had to special order it when I moved, and they changed the formula recently and my cat refused to eat it. So now he is on the Royal Canin urinary dry food. Price is close to the same. But I would rather pay extra little by little than the $2000 at one shot.
posted by 101cats at 10:26 PM on March 13


This stuff worked wonders on preventing crystals in my insanely crystal-prone cats. Obviously this is anecdotal, but I also did a ton of research before buying it, and couldn't find anything scary about it online. Worst it seems to be able to do is nothing (which some Amazon reviews do reflect), but it could clear up the problem.
posted by jessicapierce at 11:49 PM on March 13


I'm a vet, and unfortunately don't have time to write a long reply, but:

Urinary issues in male cats can be life-threatening and cost $1000s to treat if the crystals cause a urethral blockage.

This isn't really a question that can be answered by the internet. No one knows the specific details of your cat's urinary problems, what crystals were found, etc.

I'm about "5 years out of school" but for certain urinary problems there is no real alternative to the prescription diets (Royal Canin Urinary SO, Hill's c/d, or Purina UR).

Don't experiment with your cat's food from internet advice. Speak to your vet, or get a second opinion.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 1:21 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]


More of an augmentation than an alternative, but I've found that leaving a lot of water bowls around the house where the cat hangs out helps a lot. You really want to keep the cat hydrated and more water bowl options seems to make the idea of drinking appealing to the cat more often.
posted by burnmp3s at 4:39 AM on March 14


We were dissatisfied with the prescription foods for our cat, too. (Though for the opposite reason -- we wanted to keep her on a higher quality food, as brina described.) For the type of crystals our cat had, our vet wanted to see the pH of her urine brought down, as a first priority. So, we went with the prescription foods she knows and trusts for long enough to see a good pH. Then, having read that L-methionine can control pH, we worked with our vet to try her prior, high quality food with an L-methionine supplement, while keeping on eye on pH. It has worked great. The form of L-methionine we went with is Wysong's pH-, which we sprinkle on her food, but there are probably cheaper ways to get it.

That said, our cat is female and may also have a different type if crystals than yours -- for some, you need to RAISE the pH, so L-methionine would be the opposite of what you want. I'm a big believer in doing your own research to find better solutions for you (as you are), but in working closely with your vet as you do so, to avoid the kinds if risks that peanut butter milkshake is cautioning you about.
posted by daisyace at 4:41 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


My cat is on Royal Canin Urinary so and I tried taking her off once and using premium cat foods but she started to show signs of difficulty urinating so I put her back on the Canin. Cost is a factor for me too and at first I switched to the dry formula which was cheaper overall but now I've found that of I give her one third of a can of Can in the morning and supermarket cat food the rest of the time she does fine and it keeps costs down. She has been on Canin for five years now. She is sixteen and has no bladder problems now.
posted by biggreenplant at 5:10 AM on March 14


Can you make your own cat food? Chicken Livers, gizzards and hearts are pretty cheap and if your kitty will eat them raw, it's just as easy as cans. You can even get your butcher to grind them up for you. (They'll pull SUCH a face)

Our vet told us to up the canned wet food as a weight management tool, saying that even though the Purina One we've been feeding them is a good, high quality food, the canned food has more meat and is better for them. (Carbs make kitties fat).

Here's a feline nutrition site, I have no idea if it's woo or not, but there's some interesting stuff on there, nonetheless.

Our vet said poultry was the way to go.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:30 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


My (male) cat had the soluble kind of urinary crystals (it's been a couple years, I forget the specific kind) and refused all the expensive/healthy foods. He would take cheapo wet food, and according to our vet, the worst wet food is better than any dry food for his kind of crystals.

Using distilled water in lieu of tap water made the biggest difference in his urinary health.

I added it to his food (cat food slurry!), put it in a cat fountain, and made sure that all his water sources were non-tap. He's back on dry food now with no crystal issues. YMMV obviously, but his issues arose when we moved cross-country to a totally different water system.
posted by bookdragoness at 9:00 AM on March 14


I am neither *your* vet nor *a* vet, but ever since I was a kid our family vets have recommended Dad's Gourmet Blend low-ash cat food for our neutered male cats with urinary issues, and they've all done well on it. It's anecdata, of course, but it's been a large number of boycats, so adjust your grain of salt accordingly.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:49 AM on March 14


I kept my cat on expensive prescription food for about a year after he was diagnosed with crystals. Then I switched him to purina one urinary health. That plus a cheap pet fountain (to encourage him to drink more water) has worked well for him so far.
posted by Carmelita Spats at 10:32 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


This is just my experience, please do your research and follow up with a vet.

For our cat grain free wet food + dry food seems to be working for us. He eats his wet food more reluctantly in the morning and once that is all gone, he gets dry food in the evening. Cat seems happy and isn't having any more problems. We've added some pet grade pumpkin to his wet food to give him a little more fiber. If anything he's more frisky now that he went grain free.

Previously to going to the vet at 1AM with a crying girl friend and a "dying kitteh!", he ate higher end grocery store dry food only.
posted by PlutoniumX at 10:48 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


I also use Purina One Urinary Tract Health (dry) for my two male cats. However, they're pretty fat. I agree that you should get a second opinion from a vet. Explain that prescription is too expensive for you and see what they say. My dog's vet gave me a rebate form for his food.
posted by desjardins at 10:55 AM on March 14


My cat has had 2(!) blocked urethas in four years. Both required extremely expensive surgery. We switched from Hills C/D to high-quality wet food about 3 years after his first surgery, and he got sick again a year later. Now we're on the Royal Canin, and I plan on keeping him on it.

I think it really does depend on the cat. Talk to your vet and find out more.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:43 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Your vet prescribed your cat food to discourage the formation of a specific type of urolith.

The only general advice from any non-veterinarian above that is worth a damn is to encourage your cat to drink more water.

Yes, Royal Canin contains "by-products." It is also very specifically formulated to contain ingredients that will induce diuresis, restrict certain minerals, and alter the pH of your cat's urine.

While expensive boutique brands of pet foods advertise "human quality ingredients" (a claim that is not regulated in any way by the pet food industry), they are not formulated to have the specific physiological effects that a prescription food does. For the same reason, a home-cooked diet is not advisable unless you are working with a veterinary nutritionist.

Your cat is not the cats of people on the internet. Uroliths are an extremely painful, potentially fatal, frequently recurring condition. Treatment, hospitalization, and surgery is expensive. Call your vet with your concerns.
posted by Seppaku at 1:49 PM on March 15 [2 favorites]


You are taking good care of your cat. I have been through the urinary crystals stuff with my cat, back and forth, and back again. I tend to research everything and have traditionally been vehemently on the side of no grain, natural pet food. I have read Dr. Lisa Pierson's website over and over, and I'd suggest that her approach is a little more forgiving than some readers suggest - for example, her take on byproducts is that wet food with byproducts is likely better than dry food.

In any case, despite my 'natural' leanings, my cat has occasionally needed vet prescribed food, for urinary problems and GI upset, and those foods were absolutely necessary at those times. So I've softened my stance on what is good/bad food for my cat - what is important is that the food, regardless of being 'natural' or not, is helping my cat. If this food is working for your cat at the moment, I would try, if you can, to keep him on it, at least for a good long while.

I was eventually able to stop using vet prescribed urinary food for my cat, but gradually (after several months) and I never stopped using wet food, which is so important for the moisture. The wet food also had the huge benefit of helping him to lose weight. There have been no more urinary problems since I made the switch to wet food (knock on wood!)

My cat is back on prescription food again, for GI issues this time. The natural, super high quality foods I was trying didn't cut it - barfing and occasional diarrhea continued to be a problem - until I tried the vet prescribed food! The food is about the same price as the natural food I was buying before. I am a bit bothered by the potential issue of how the company sources the meat, but I am choosing to use this food because it works for my cat. If I need to use it forever, I will.

In any case, all of that to voice my recommendation to keep your cat on the Royal Canin Urinary SO if you can swing it, at least until the other issues have stabilized a bit. I hope that you can have a frank conversation with your vet about all this.
posted by analog at 4:20 PM on March 16


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