Struvite crystals, are one of the most common crystals in cats. Struvite crystals are microscopic crystals that can be found in an affected cat’s urine, and can sometimes prove to be quite painful. In this article our nutritionists discuss what you can do to help discourage the development of struvite crystals and stones in your cat.
What Are Struvite Crystals and Stones?
Struvite, crystals or stones are made up of ammonium, phosphate and magnesium. Often, they can be normally present in the urine without raising any problems. However, there are some cases where these crystals can form over time into a stone-like consistency where they become hardened. Ouch! Like in humans, bladder stones can be flushed out through the urine but are often very painful. In some cases, these stones can be dissolved with special prescription diets, but occasionally will require surgery to remove them. Struvite crystals and stones can form in both male and female cats and can make it difficult for them to urinate despite the persistent urge to do so. Yep, this is a recipe for one unhappy cat.
Why Do Struvite Crystals Form?
The actual cause of struvite stones isn’t well understood and is part of the larger disease known as feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD). We do know that struvite are the most common crystals and stones to form in cats. However, research hasn’t been able to pinpoint one specific cause just yet, as there are many factors involved
Some of the factors we do know that can cause struvite crystals include:
- An alkaline environment (a high pH)
- Dehydration, leading to highly concentrated urine
- An unbalanced diet
- Environmental stress
- Obesity and lack of exercise
Symptoms of Struvite Crystals and Stones in Cats
You may often not even notice a behavioural change in your cat if they are experiencing struvite related symptoms , as they can be subtle at first. However, when left untreated, it can result in painful, bloody urine, irritation in the urethral area or complete blockage of the urethra.
Some other signs of struvite crystals in cats are:
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty or straining when urinating, sometimes accompanied with vocalisations
- Urinating more often (small amounts)
- Frequently licking their genitals
- Being constantly lethargic
How Does Diet Play a Role?
When it comes to helping prevent struvite crystals and stones in your cat and maintaining their urinary tract health, nutrition plays a significant role! Both diet and water consumption can play a role in your cats’ urinary health.
Cats aren’t natural water drinkers. As they’ve evolved over millions of years and derived most of their moisture from their prey, it’s common for cats today to not always drink enough water. This is important to understand because struvite stones tend to form in a concentrated urine. Therefore, it is important to encourage adequate fluid intake can help prevent mineral concentration in urine and discourage stone formation. Dry cat food provides your cat with very little moisture in their diet, so considering incorporating wet food can be a great way to increase your cats water consumption.
What Food Should I Feed My Cat?
As we mentioned, diet has a huge role to play when it comes to your cat’s overall health and wellness. Choose a premium quality cat food that offers your cat everything they need to meet their nutritional requirements. It’s important to remember that the initial formation of these crystals and stones can be discouraged by feeding a proper diet and maintaining water consumption. But once developed, they may require veterinarian care and specific, interim prescription feeding.
Here are some of our tips that our experts recommend to support urinary tract health and prevent struvite crystals and stones from occurring in the first place:
Create a feeding schedule. Feed your cat smaller meals frequently throughout the day; this will cause less fluctuation in their urine pH.
Ensure you feed a variety of Tetra Pak pâtés and stew recipes, otherwise known as “wet” food. Have fun and change it up! Doing this will help to hydrate and prevent concentration
of urine. If your cat isn’t taking a liking to wet food right away - try mixing it with some dry food.
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.
Provide a few litter boxes (the more, the merrier!) throughout the house and keep them in a quiet, safe place where your cat will feel comfortable going to.
Minimize major changes in routine. This includes feeding time, exercise, and even activity within the household. As mentioned, stress can be a big factor in onset of FLUTD.
As always, be diligent with vet check-ups and taking proper care of your cat. There are various ways to discourage struvite stones in cats. Just remember, hydration and proper diet are important to monitor when it comes to preventing crystal and stone formation.