Urinary tract disease occurs frequently in cats and is one of the most common reasons for a consultation with a veterinarian. This condition is frequently misunderstood. Here are a few myths that need to be busted.
#1 Feeding dry food will lead to urinary tract disease in cats
Urinary tract disease in cats is a complex condition that has many proposed causes. Dry food has been wrongly implicated as a direct cause for urinary tract disease in healthy cats. It is true that your cat’s urine is directly influenced by what your cat eats. However, the urine is affected not only by the moisture content of the food but also by the quality of the protein and amount of minerals in the food. Many cats have a strong preference for dry food and this is perfectly okay! Rather than making a choice between feeding dry or wet food to your cat, it is more important to feed a good quality super premium food that contains highly quality protein sources and an appropriate mineral content.
This myth has likely come about as cats who suffer from urinary tract disease benefit from eating wet food as it helps to prevent repeat episodes. But in healthy cats, there is no evidence to suggest that diet can help prevent urinary tract disease.
#2 Only male cats experience urinary tract issues
Both male and female cats can experience lower urinary tract disease. Male cats are however over-represented when it comes to urinary tract disease. This is thought to be for two reasons:
Being overweight is a risk factor for urinary tract disease; male cats are more likely to be overweight compared to female cats.
Male cats have a long narrow urethra (tube through which urine passes from the bladder out of the body) compared to female cats making it more likely for them to show signs of urinary tract disease.
#3 Only elderly cats experience urinary tract issues
Urinary tract issues can occur at any stage of your cat’s life. They are more common in adult cats with the average age of a cat with urinary tract issues being four years. Urinary tract disease is very uncommon in kittens and senior cats.
#4 Urinary tract issues in cats are not life threatening
Urinary tract disease is a serious condition in cats. If the urethra (the tube that carries urine from your cat’s bladder out of the body) becomes blocked, your cat will not be able to pass urine. If your cat displays any signs of not being able to urinate, it must be taken to a veterinarian immediately
. Not being able to urinate causes waste products to build up quickly in your cats system; this is life threatening and should be treated as an emergency. .
Even if your cat is not blocked, urinary tract disease is often painful and requires veterinary attention.
#5 Active cats are more prone to urinary tract problems
All cats can develop urinary tract problems whether they are active or not. In fact, inactive cats that are overweight are more at risk of developing urinary tract disease. Keeping your cat a healthy body weight through appropriate diet and exercise is important to your cat’s overall health.
#6 Urinary disease in cats is usually a once-off occurrence
Urinary tract disease in cats can and often does recur without appropriate preventative measures. The two measures proven to be effective at preventing future episodes include feeding a premium diet (in some cases a urinary diet prescribed by a veterinarian) and environmental enrichment to relieve any environmental stress.
#7 I have no way of telling that my cat has urinary issues
There are a few tell-tale signs that your cat may have a urinary tract issue. These include, but are not limited to:
Vocalising or pain when urinating
Blood in the urine
Urination outside of your cat’s litter tray
Straining to urinate (can sometimes appear as though your cat is trying to defecate)
Attempting to urinate and not producing any urine
More frequent use of the litter tray
Excessive licking of the genital area
#8 Stress does not cause urinary issues in cats
There are many proposed causes for lower urinary tract disease in cats including infection and bladder stones. However two thirds of cats with urinary tract disease will appear to have no obvious cause identified. For these cats, it is thought that stress is one of many factors predisposing them to urinary tract disease. Additionally, it appears that when stress is managed well, it helps to reduce the frequency of urinary tract disease in cats. Find out more here
#9 High salt diets dehydrate your cat
Healthy cats can tolerate salt in their diet and it won’t cause dehydration so long as they have access to water at all times. Diets specifically for the prevention and treatment of urinary tract disease may contain higher levels (but within safe limits) of salt. The salt is added to the diet to encourage your cat to drink more water. Drinking more water can have beneficial effects:
Promotes your cat to urinate more frequently which is important for bladder health
Frequent flushing of the bladder prevents stones and crystals forming
Dilutes the urine that helps to reduce irritation to the bladder lining.