Food for a Finicky Feline (Urinary Crystals Edition)
August 7, 2016 6:44 AM   Subscribe

My male cat had a urinary obstruction last year. He's supposed to be eating prescription wet food to prevent future cat crystals, but he has other ideas about this situation.

The prescription food is relatively expensive, but worth if it if means my little guy won't have any more awful urinary tract problems. The issue is, he absolutely refuses to eat it. We've tried two types of the RX dry food (Royal Canin and Hill's Science) and two types of wet food in multiple flavors.

He'll occasionally nibble at the dry food and absolutely refuses to eat the wet food. I've tried everything, mixing it with regular wet food (which he loves), adding tuna water, adding Fortiflora, adding nutritional yeast, hiding treats in it. At best he'll take a few licks before walking away. He's started losing a little bit of weight and incessantly yowling, probably because he's hungry all the time.

This has been a struggle for over a year, and my vet hasn't been very helpful. The last time we took him in, she said to make sure he drinks enough water and "try looking up some food tips on the internet." We'll be going to a new vet next time, but in the meantime I'm just not sure what's the best option.

Should I focus on him getting him to eat the RX food somehow (adding nutritional yeast or Fortiflora helped, but I'm not sure that it's good for him to be eating either of those ingredients twice a day everyday), or is it better that he definitely gets enough water by just giving him non-prescription wet food that he wolfs down?

Are any of the non-prescription foods better than others in this situation (low Ph regular cat food like this one)?

*You are not my vet, suggestions will not be taken as cat medical advice

Some previous questions on the same topic:
Do I have to keep my cat on a prescription diet for life?

Does my cat need to stay on a vet diet forever?
posted by forkisbetter to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would confirm with a vet but my fat boy, Mr. Chubs, had a crystal blockage over 10 years ago and was prescribed the special diet he wouldn't eat. Since then he eats only regular stinky wet food and Purina Pro Plan Urinary Tract special food from the grocery store and he's been fine.

But without a picture of said cat it's difficult to know.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 6:54 AM on August 7, 2016 [7 favorites]

Water is the primary goal. We had a cat who had similar problems, and he got more regular wet food with pretty much eleminating dry until an unrelated problem happened (he developed IMHA, and my wife made cat food for him). His crystals were when he was very young (under a year, botched surgury, ended up needing another surgury, sepsis involved poor little guy) and passed at 8 due to IMHA without another occurrence of crystals.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:57 AM on August 7, 2016

I have a cat who was having trouble peeing and was diagnosed with FLUTD. They also prescribed him the Royal Canin very expensive dry food. Initially his diet was a mix of wet and dry food. The vet did mention that ultimately the cat needs to get more water in his diet and they dont get that from dry food. So once he was better I thought he might benefit from having an exclusively wet diet. I slowly eliminated the dry food and switched over to Friskies pate flavors. I no longer give any of my cats any tuna or fish flavors or tuna water either.

Not recommending this but it's what worked for me. I cobbled this together based on limited information provided by my vet and the internet plus knowing my cat. So far (knock wood) he has been good and there haven't been any issues since I went down this route. Also kitty's got to eat. Not eating and losing weight too fast might make things worse. Good luck finding what works!
posted by mokeydraws at 8:07 AM on August 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

My former cat had a problem with urinary crystals a few years ago. Besides the food, how do you give him water? Our vet had us try a fountain, and that actually worked to get him to drink more water. Basically, between the food or water bowl, he needs to be getting more water so the crystals don't form (or at least that's how my vet explained it, I'm not a doctor so I don't know much). My cat seemed to be way more happy to drink from the water bowl that was part of a fountain of running water setup. There's a lot of choices for these now in pet stores and online, so if you don't have one already for your kitty, it might be worth a try. And then maybe you can just pair that with the regular wet food that he loves. Good luck!
posted by FireFountain at 8:34 AM on August 7, 2016

It isn't better for your cat to starve to death. I also understand that it's most important that your cat gets lots of water, via wet food and actual water, and not the anti-crystal food.

NB, I have found picky cats like (a) baby chicken puree (only ingredient: chicken) and (b) kitten milk. Maybe mixing the food with baby chicken or kitten milk powder will help? But I'd probably just go all wet food for the moment and see how he does, watching his peeing very carefully.
posted by jeather at 8:39 AM on August 7, 2016

My cat had one terrible round of crystals and then never again, so FWIW, this advice is coming from that perspective. Should you find your cat having round after round of them, then the management strategy is probably different.

But for my guy, my vet and I (and his continued lack of crystals many years later) seemed to indicate that the most important thing was that he eat wet food, any wet food. So, non-prescription canned food was better than having him turn up his nose at the prescription stuff. I also keep drinking fountains in a couple of different rooms so he never has to go far for a drink.

I seem to remember that for a while I was using a supplement made by Wysong added to the regular food, to help tweak its PH. When the crystals never recurred, I stopped eventually, but that might be an option for you if they're still making it.
posted by Stacey at 8:57 AM on August 7, 2016

Seconding the water fountain suggestion. My idiot cats play with it all day.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 9:14 AM on August 7, 2016

My friend just went through this exact issue with his cat. Nthing all that the important part is wet food, any wet food.

The key to getting my friend's cat to switch: putting the wet food in a blender and then warming it up so it was warm meat puree. Totally gross but totally worked. Over the course of a month they weaned him to blended but not warmed and eventually just regular out of a can wet food.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 9:17 AM on August 7, 2016

I had this problem with my female cat, and eventually had to switch because the my other cat couldn't tolerate the food. We now feed the Merrick grain-free stuff (wet for the UTI candidate, dry for the tiny finicky 16-year-old who doesn't like eating) and have not have a UTI problem in six years at least.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:50 AM on August 7, 2016

My dog gets urinary crystals and eats prescription food. The vet also said water intake is really important for him. She recommended giving him chicken broth. He loves drinking it, plus the salt makes him drink more water. You should ask your vet about that. Sometimes if I'm making tuna salad I will mix some tuna juice with some water for him too.

FYI, most commercial brands of chicken broth have onions, which are a no no for dogs. I found one brand, Savory Choice Chicken Broth Concentrate. The upshot is that it's less expensive than regular chicken broth and takes up less space in your pantry.

You could also try dousing his food with the chicken broth.
posted by radioamy at 10:58 AM on August 7, 2016

You can try Purina FortiFlora powder! I put it in wet food as well as mixed into water, and my extremely picky kitty guzzles anything with it down like it's drugs. It may be a little pricey, but I use a 1/3 packet at a time and it still does the trick. If you mix it into water, just don't let it sit longer than an hour or two since it gets kinda sludgey after a while if the whole bowl doesn't get slurped right away... But it's basically kitty crack.
posted by zinful at 11:09 AM on August 7, 2016

I have a cat that had that problem. Even had to have surgery. After a few years of CD, then WD, then KD (almost exclusively dry food) as our other cats had other problems that required diet changes, my SO got into the whole "mostly meat" premium dry food thing and switched all the cats over to Premium Edge dry food. There has been no recurrence of the crystals. After moving, it became impossible to get the Premium Edge food at a reasonable price, so I started buying Publix Premium cat food (the chicken and rice with cranberries variety) and still no urinary problems after a year on that.

Not sure if it was just something that resolved with time or if quality cat food in general is better for it (we were buying shit food at the time..didn't know any better), but as I said, no problems on the better dry foods.
posted by wierdo at 12:53 PM on August 7, 2016

Agreeing with previous posters that good-quality wet food will probably be fine, especially if (as mokeydraws suggests) you eradicate or limit tuna-based foods. Tuna (and fish generally) can affect cats' urinary pH in a way that increases struvite crystal formation--one of my cats developed crystals while on wet food because he was getting regular tuna treats. Once I cut out the fish, he was fine.

You don't have to get the most expensive wet food at the store; just aim for varieties with little or no fish as filler, and more meat than grains. I find that almost every brand has at least one flavor/blend that doesn't include fish, so mixing more expensive and less expensive brands helps with cost and will keep your cat from getting tired of any one flavor.
posted by Owlcat at 3:40 PM on August 7, 2016

Our female cat had crystals repeatedly, and was prescribed the same foods. I didn't like the quality of the ingredients, so I asked my vet about keeping her on her regular food, but adding the Wysong pH-correcting supplement that Stacey mentioned. It's a powder that we sprinkle on her food. It has worked wonderfully for years. We also smush extra water into her wet food. Wysong has one that raises pH and one that lowers it, so be sure you know which you need.
posted by daisyace at 3:59 AM on August 8, 2016

My old man cat had blockages and surgery about 7 years ago and has been eating high protein, low-grain wet food for most of that time with no recurrence. No fish, no chicken or turkey (his "brother" is allergic). He likes Wellness Core Beef, Venison & Lamb, Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet Venison and Duck and Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Duck.
In fact, he just got back from a check up where the vet asked what I feed him because he has such a nice coat and is generally healthy.
posted by siouxsiesmith at 11:26 AM on August 8, 2016

My cat is dumb and doesn't like wet food. What kind of cat doesn't like wet food! But he LOOOOOOVES the royal canin so dry food. To the point he won't eat anything else. We got him a fountain, which he drinks from all the time, and if it looks like he isn't drinking, we leave a faucet dripping for him, which he loves more than anything. The most important thing is water and to get him drinking.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:56 AM on August 9, 2016

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