Grain Free Cat Food for Urinary/Bladder Health
September 18, 2015 7:24 PM   Subscribe

A year ago I asked this question about grain free cat food and have been feeding Bunny Cat Blue Buffalo Freedom dry food since then. Now she has bladder crystals and the vet wants me to change her diet. :( Help!

The prescription diet the vet wants me to switch to unfortunately has all sorts of weird fillers and crap that will aggravate Bunny's allergies. Vet is looking into alternatives but I'm having a hard time finding grain free cat food for urinary/bladder health. If you've had this issue with a female feline under the age of 5, what was your solution?
posted by Hermione Granger to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It looks like this was mentioned on the previous thread you linked so I hope I'm not staying the obvious, but have you considered feeding her wet food?

On phone and link isn't turning out but this is a useful site:
posted by whistle pig at 7:54 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Came in to suggest wet food. Apparently a lot of the UT issues have to do with not enough water. Here's a direct link to the site whistle pig suggested.
posted by trip and a half at 8:01 PM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

I sort of feel obliged to second an exclusive wet food diet. It's more expensive and more hassle than dry food, but cheaper and less hassle than the kind of health issues we had to deal with on dry food (digestive stuff rather than urinary) and which went away with a wet-food diet.

The prescription diet might be necessary as a prescription -- that is, to treat the acute UT problem -- but after that, go with cans.
posted by holgate at 8:04 PM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm going to reiterate my raw-food suggestion from your previous thread. A few times I've gone out of town and left kibble for my cats, and the amount of water they drank was astoundingly more-so than the amount of water they think is necessary when they're eating raw food, and their waste was still gross. I'm not a vet, but I believe that the general solutions to bladder issues is more fluids, so if I were you, I'd try to get my cats eating as "wet" a diet as possible.
posted by jaguar at 8:34 PM on September 18, 2015

Fifthing, or whatever. My dog had inadequate access to water most of one week, and developed UT crystals.

My incompetent/unethical/filthy-depraved-money-grubbing vet at the time recommended an expensive, prescription food based on a particular type of crystals found (which were below threat-levels, so he was really grasping for straws), and then sprang on me after the "six-week course" that he expected me to keep buying this stuff from him for the life of my dog.

I asked if there was any proof the condition was chronic. "No." I asked what would happen if it were chronic, and I switched him back to his regular feed. "He might spot the carpet again."

He also changed the prescription on me without mentioning it - I noticed the labels change. He seemed surprised that I would expect him to tell me when he changes my dog's prescription.

The dog food profit line was bogus, of course. Steady access to plenty of water, and he's never had another problem.

Moral: Don't blindly trust doctors, of any type. Ask questions. Make reasonable healthcare decisions based on their advice.

And make sure your pet gets plenty of water, any time it is thirsty.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:51 PM on September 18, 2015

Response by poster: We did the raw food diet for about 3 months as an alt to her dry food and she basically threw up the raw food every day even though I gave it to her in tiny portions. Right now she's eating the wet food version of the Freedom diet so she can have antibiotics -- I could easily continue that if it'd be better for her. She goes bananas for it. She also always has access to a lot of water -- should it be filtered at this point?
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:52 PM on September 18, 2015

My cats got bladder crystals after we moved - I started giving them filtered and/or deionized water, including supplementing wet food. I used a cat fountain to keep it fresh.

The ingrates turned up their noses at any canned food but Friskies shredded, so I'd make a 50/50 mix of Friskies and filtered water for them. The crystals went away.
posted by bookdragoness at 9:21 PM on September 18, 2015

My cat got crystals when we were feeding dry food. The vet had us put her on Hills Science Diet (he wanted us to use dry, but that seemed really counterintuitive to me given what I know about cats and urinary problems). We did for about 4 months, but he seemed to be doing poorly on it--he was losing weight and muscle definition, had a ton of hairballs and puke, and just didn't look great. And it was super duper expensive. We've switched to Primal Raw pellets, which we supplement with occasional canned Fancy Feast if I forget to order the raw food (classic pate--it's grain free even though it has animal by-products) and his frequent spewing has pretty much stopped and his coat and weight seem much better. Still no bladder problems. I actually just add a little extra water to the raw food when I rehydrate it to make sure that he's drinking enough, and he always licks the bowl clean. The price is a little less than Hills wet.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:37 PM on September 18, 2015

I had a similar problem with one of mine and she's doing very well on the Merrick grain-free (she gets wet and dry, but I believe she mostly eats the wet - the other cats like the dry fine but, other than pitching a fit if the bowl gets too empty, she mostly ignores it.)
posted by restless_nomad at 9:50 PM on September 18, 2015

One of mine barfs up all raw food except for the chicken. If you haven't tried that, it may be worth trying.

For me, I would say yes, staying on wet food (raw or canned) is better.
posted by jaguar at 10:02 PM on September 18, 2015

you can try moving the water or changing the dish or getting a fountain, but honestly cats just aren't that driven to drink usually. we've gone with a mostly all wet food diet because of bladder crystal concerns .
posted by nadawi at 10:54 PM on September 18, 2015

I switched from the Science Diet anti-crystal web food (I've forgotten what letter it was) to Weruva. Weruva is not cheap (though a bit less expensive than the Science Diet was, I think), but has recognisable chunks of fish (or chicken or whatever, as applicable for the flavor). I remember pulling the nutrition information for both and they were almost identical, though Weruva wasn't making the same claims as Science Diet (about pH? about how narrow the ranges were on the nutrition information? I don't remember).

(I have a male cat who is now five. When he was two, he suddenly developed an inability to pee one morning. There were no crystals in evidence, and I think I was told 'cats are weird, try switching him to wet food'. I think I switched to Weruva at that point. A couple months later he had a not-peeing episode with crystals, at which point I switched to the Science Diet. I forget when I switched back to the Weruva. He's been fine since.)
posted by hoyland at 4:35 AM on September 19, 2015

I sneak more water into my cats' diet by adding a little warm water from the kettle to canned wet cat food and mashing it all together so that it is very soft and the mixture will almost pour. One of them has tooth problems so this also makes it easier for him to eat. They both eat more when it is soft like this which is good because they are old and bony. (My cats are fifteen year old male siblings.)

The brand I feed the cats is mostly grain free depending on the flavour. I read the labels and don't buy the flavours that had added wheat gluten, only the flavours that have no added grain of any sort. I can get the store brand version next to the same name brand version at my grocery store. It comes in the small cans that I have to feed them two cans each a day. I usually pay 59c a can Canadian for it. With luck you can also find something like it that does not require you to buy the food from the vet or pay astronomical prices for it.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:05 AM on September 19, 2015

Our cats eat wet and dry, and they are both completely obsessed with this grain free food we get them. We get it here in Australia, but their website implies it is available in the US.
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 7:01 AM on September 19, 2015

Yeah when I read this last night, I missed the dry food thing. Wet food all the way. Treat the acute crystal issue however the vet says, but wet food is better for them (and for you, so much less poop in my experience). Bonus: less obesity.

Edited to add: I meant to say I use Wellness (CORE and just regular pate kinds). It's reasonable in price. I'm looking at Canidae as well.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:19 AM on September 19, 2015

Response by poster: When you're feeding a cat wet food, do you just dump the whole can in their bowl in the morning and leave it there, or are you supposed to portion it out over the course of the day? Should I be cleaning or rinsing the bowl in between feedings, and is there anything else I should know about transitioning her to a wet food diet (which I will probably have to supplement with small amounts of dry food during the day since I can't always come home at lunch to check on her)?

She'd been doing so well just grazing on a half cup of her dry kibble all day without waking me up in the night to let me know she was hungry (she sits on my face to do this and tries to suffocate me). Now I'm worried about her getting enough but also about her gaining weight because she loves the wet food so, so much. (She's 13 lbs, but she has Savannah cat in her so she's not a regular cat all in all.)
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:46 AM on September 19, 2015

Check the feeding guidelines on the food. At 13 pounds, she'll likely need two of the large cans per day. I feed mine twice a day, but you could presumably give her two cans in the morning.

Yes, wash (not just rinse) the bowl between feedings.

And a lot of cats lose weight on canned food, especially grain-free canned food. It has way fewer carbs and fillers than the dry food.
posted by jaguar at 8:53 AM on September 19, 2015

My male cat had urinary crystals show up with trouble peeing a few months ago when he was eating some wet and some dry food, and he went on prescription food for a few weeks. He went in for retesting and everything was clear, so I talked to the vet about putting him on regular wet food only (mostly Natural Balance and Wellness, because if he gets the same thing too much he refuses to eat it). Gave that a couple of months and he went back for a recheck at the beginning of September, and again had a few oxalate crystals. They hadn't caused noticeable trouble yet but it was enough that he's back to the prescription stuff for a while. I don't like it from reading the label and I don't think it's that great for him except for his bladder, but it seemed like the safest choice. Just saying, even if you switch to all wet food you will probably want to get him rechecked after a while just to be sure.
posted by dilettante at 8:58 AM on September 19, 2015

If she is not taking to the wet food right away, add in small amounts to what she does like- adding some warm water always to the dry food. Raw food should not be left out more than an hour or so, so keep in the fridge and scoop out as needed. I find one big feeding just before bed usually keeps my cats asleep through the night.
I swear by raw frozen kibble (Instinct Rabbit for dogs is same and cheaper than cat formula- I add a touch of taurine) it takes only a few minutes to thaw, and is the meat they tolerate best.

Also filtered water fountains do often encourage cats to drink more, which could help too.

One thing to look for is a Yahoo or Google "group" for people with your cat's health issue and also breed. Check out both boards and see which one is much more active these days and join up to search and read and also ask questions. There is a ton of great advice very specific to your cat already there, and surely much about specific diet. Good luck!
posted by TenaciousB at 10:43 AM on September 19, 2015

My mom fed her cat according to the feeding guidelines on the can and her cat gained a lot of weight--her vet explained that the portions the cans lists are basically restaurant portions.

We used to feed Blue Buffalo until our male cat got crystals, and our vet told us that she's seen a lot of that problem with the Blue Buffalo. We currently feed them the prescription C/D stuff, both canned and dry, and our vet keeps telling us that we can feed them with cheaper stuff (Wellness, Halo, Inova is what she suggests) but honestly, the male cat is prone to crystals and doesn't get them with this food, and the female cat is incredibly finicky and hates change so much that she refuses to eat new stuff for weeks. They're both eating this, they both like it, we can afford it, we're sticking with it.
posted by telophase at 11:35 AM on September 19, 2015

Check the feeding guidelines on the food. At 13 pounds, she'll likely need two of the large cans per day. I feed mine twice a day, but you could presumably give her two cans in the morning.

My cat is a 15 - 18 lb male cat, depending on his diet and activity level, and I have never given him two large cans a day (though the Science Diet feeding guidelines were something absurdly close to that, which at like $2.50 a can was really freaking expensive). A can and a half was the most I've ever given him on wet, and that was when he was indoor/outdoor and super active.

With wet food, you really don't want to leave it sit because most cats won't eat wet food that's been there for too long. I read somewhere that the flavor goes foul pretty fast, and it's a bacteria party and will attract bugs, too. However, if you refrigerate a portion, your cat might wait until it's at room temperature to eat it--ours always did. If she's leaving a lot of a serving leftover, I'd cut down on the size of the servings quite a bit. According to the raw food instructions, two meals are preferred, but my cat is used to frequent meals because we work from home and it's been a struggle getting him not to turn into a WhinyMcCatpants at lunchtime. If you're concerned about her waking you, consider playing with her right before bed and then feeding her--she should sleep for a nice chunk of time after that. Also, don't feed her first thing in the morning no matter how insistently she tells you she's starving. Make yourself coffee or whatever first so that she learns that sitting on faces is not effective.

When my cat had crystals I read a bunch of reviews of different wet brands, and I believe a lot of people said their cats had crystals on Wellness and (IIRC) Weruva, something to do with the ash content. Googling reviews might be helpful, if overwhelming.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:50 PM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I give my cats 1/3 of a cup of dry food in the morning (which they rarely eat all of, except when they do) and about 100g of wet food at night (which is not always gone in the morning, but will usually be the next night.

It seems to work out fine.

All the left over biscuits get ditched at night, and I wash out the bowls before dinner.
posted by Mezentian at 4:04 PM on September 19, 2015

Digging into the feeding amounts a little bit, I found this formula on the site:

Required calories per day = [13.6 X optimal lean body weight in pounds] + 70

If her ideal weight is 13 lb, she should be getting 246.8 calories a day, then. Using the chicken formula of the blue buffalo freedom canned food, that would be a bit less than a can and a half a day, probably split into 2-3 meals (remember that cats are predators, not grazers--their bodies are made for going lengths of time between sometimes unpredictably timed meals). You can check the calorie contents of various canned cat foods on their websites. also gives the general guidelines of increasing the amount you feed if your cat seems to be losing weight, and decreasing if they seem to be gaining, which I've always found helpful and sensible.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:19 PM on September 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I used Hills "Prescription Diet" C/D for my cat that started getting crystals at around age 6. Kept her on that, as her only food. Over the remaining 12 years of her life, the crystals never returned.
posted by mabelstreet at 12:39 PM on September 20, 2015

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