Cat food for urinary care – what you should really consider for the health of your cat

If you’re not considering your cat as a carnivore, then this is your best step forward in helping them.

Did you know most commercial cat foods are high in carbohydrates (usually from grain) which your cat struggles to digest?

It’s also, quite possibly, the reason you’re now looking for a cat food for urinary care.

Vet-recommended diets for urinary care are also mostly made of grain. Possibly more than your vet realises.

So instead of recommending products made of grain for your pet carnivore like your vet does, let’s go back to basics and consider the important facts which will really help.

Once you’ve read through the simple points in this guide, you’ll be in a far better position to help your cat through their urinary issues (even if you choose the urinary care cat food your vet recommends).

Problem 1: Most domestic cats don’t get enough moisture from their diet

Did you know cats are desert animals who would naturally consume water from prey?

One of the biggest issues with dry cat foods is they barely contain any moisture.

You’re probably well aware your cat isn’t a big drinker. It’s not in their nature. Most cats won’t drink from a water bowl.

This is a problem – most domestic cats don’t consume enough water.

This brings us to one of the top causes of urinary issues in cats. If your cat has been fed mostly a dry cat food, no matter how reputable, it’s very likely they haven’t had a sufficient moisture intake.

Problem 2: Most domestic cats don’t get enough animal protein and fat from their diet

Most cat foods, dry or wet, contain less meat and animal ingredients than you may think. Many dry cat foods are over 50% carbohydrates from grains, or “grain-free” alternatives like potato or tapioca. That’s a lot.

A cat is, without dispute, an obligate carnivore.

These ingredients aren’t natural for your cat, so it’s easy to understand why your cat may suffer over the long term being forced to digest them. Usually every, single, day.

Even the big pet food companies won’t deny this simple fact, yet they still produce inappropriate foods and use their astounding influence to make sure you as the consumer, and your vet, believe their products are absolutely necessary for your cat’s health.

This is the reason we believe a carnivorous diet is harmful to our pet carnivores. Crazy, isn’t it?

You may be under the impression your cat likes a cat food, but did you know they will consume a cat food to satiate on the small amount of animal content it may contain?

Or in other words, your cat will be forced to digest the larger proportion of the cat food they don’t need, and don’t want, to get to the small proportion they need to live off.

What are the requirements of a urinary diet for cats?

Let’s take a look at the requirements of a urinary diet for cats. These are vital for your cat’s health, and help us decide what diet is best for our cat:

  • Increased moisture content – Cats require an adequate supply of moisture in their diet. Wild cats will consume around 70% moisture from eating prey animals, which is a good ratio to consider for the needs of your cat. Dry foods contain around 10% moisture, which is a clear problem.
  • Low magnesium and phosphorous. Science suggests magnesium and phosphorous can contribute to the formation of urinary crystals and stones. Reducing these minerals in your cat’s diet can help prevent these issues or make your cat more comfortable if they’re currently suffering. Grains are high in magnesium, meat is low in magnesium.
  • Controlled calcium. Urinary issues, such as calcium oxalate stones, can occur when your cat has an excessive intake of calcium. I’ll get to the reason why this can be the case in dry food later, but controlling your cat’s calcium intake is essential.
  • Increased protein. I mentioned earlier most dry cat foods can contain around 50% carbohydrates, which means most dry cat foods don’t contain anywhere near as much protein as they should, and even if they do it may not be quality protein from animal sources. Corn is often used as a substitute, which although isn’t optimal for your cat is beneficial for profit margins as it’s a much cheaper ingredient. Note, some urinary issues may be exacerbated by a high protein diet, which is another reason we must feed our cats high-quality proteins which they are better able to digest.

Solutions you should consider to improve your cat’s urinary health

Working on the requirements above, here are some possible solutions which we can consider more natural for your cat:

Increase moisture intake

There are a few ways we can do this:

  • Feed a diet which naturally contains more moisture. This can be a raw or whole prey diet, BARF diet, wet or canned, or at the very least you can soak dry food for around 30 minutes in warm (not hot) water before feeding to your cat.
  • Add bone broth to their diet. This is something you can easily make at home with a slow cooker, whole chicken, and a dash of apple cider vinegar. The benefits of bone broth to your cat, dog, or yourself are huge, and it’s a habit worth getting into.
  • Invest in a cat water fountain. This is always a good idea for any cat, especially if fed a dry diet. Not all cat’s take to water fountains though, which can be frustrating if you’ve forked out on a deluxe one.

Feed high-quality animal proteins

This is another problem with dry cat foods, and other types of cat food as well.

Pet food manufacturers work on a tighter margin than you might expect. Particularly smaller manufacturers trying to offer your cat a better alternative.

Unfortunately these pressures, and the nature of cat food as a product which must have a suitable profit margin, means high-quality animal proteins in cat food are often substituted with less-appropriate ingredients.

Most consumers, and I’m sure this includes both you and I, simply can’t afford premium prices all the time. Because of that, most cat owners must purchase cat foods which are affordable to them. The caveat of that is we feed our cats foods which aren’t optimal.

How can we feed our cats higher-quality animal proteins?

Here are two options depending on your budget:

  • If budget is an issue, at least consider some wet, BARF, or fresh raw meats and organs, as part of your cat’s diet. This can be a great way to increase your cat’s protein intake from animal ingredients, even if it’s 10% to 20% of their diet, and moisture as well
  • Switch to better quality cat foods, with a better meat content. In Australia we have some excellent options for cat foods which focus on your cat being a carnivore rather than a garbage can for grain waste. These cost more, because quality animal ingredients cost more, but the benefit is the health of your cat.

Get the balance of calcium right

Ensure your cat’s diet does not contain an excess of calcium.

I suspect the main cause of this with dry cat foods stems from “meat meals”, but this can also occur on any unbalanced diet including raw feeding. The problem with meat meal, such as chicken meal, is this can be very high in chicken carcass or other bones. It’s actually one of the reasons cat food formulas containing a meat meal are padded out with grains or legumes.

Your cat need’s calcium – it’s essential for bone health – but you want to avoid an excess.

Reduce magnesium and phosphorous

Did you know grains are high in magnesium? Given they’re not appropriate for your cat this is easy to address – opt for better quality cat foods which aren’t made from grains.

Meat, poultry, and animal ingredients do not contain a lot of magnesium.

Phosphorous is an essential mineral which plays a critical role in the health of your cat, but when they’re suffering urinary or kidney issues it can be harmful and cause discomfort.

Not feeding your cat a food which uses corn, such as corn gluten meal, as the protein source is a good start. A study of meat meal, chicken meal, and corn gluten meal as dietary sources of protein in dry cat food showed digestibility of the chicken meal group was significantly higher than that of the CGM group (corn gluten meal).

It’s not a surprising fact, but I’m sure a contributory factor in feline urinary issues given the amount of cat foods made from CGM.

Choosing higher-quality lower-phosphorous animal meats such as chicken, beef, lamb, and some fish, is a good way to reduce phosphorous while offering your cat high-quality digestible proteins.

What urinary cat foods do vets recommend, and why are they “less than ideal”?

There are three brands of urinary care cat foods recommended by *most* veterinarians. These are Nestle’s Purina, Mars’ Royal Canin, and Colgate’s Hill’s Science and Prescription Diets.

When you consider the first point above, about the necessity of moisture in any cat’s diet – especially for urinary care – it makes you wonder why vets recommended dry cat foods for sick cats. Don’t you think?

Let’s skirt over some of the main ingredients in the urinary diets for the above brands:

  • Purina One Urinary Care Cat Food – est. around 34% carbohydrates, protein from corn gluten meal (CGM) as well as chicken and poultry, with wheat, barley, corn, rice, soybean meal, and wheat gluten meal.
  • Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Urinary S/O Cat Food – est. around 32.5% carbohydrates, with first ingredient rice, second ingredient wheat gluten, and inclusive of maize flour (corn flour), maize gluten (corn gluten), and vegetable fibres.
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet Multicare c/d Cat Food for Urinary Care – 43.3% carbohydrates as stated, only 1 of 5 top ingredients are animal (chicken), the other four are whole grain corn, corn gluten meal, whole grain wheat, and brewers rice.

It makes you wonder how these can be scientifically formulated by nutritionists when they’re so clearly not conforming to the fundamentals of a carnivore diet.

On a personal note, when my first cat Rodney suffered renal failure, our vet recommended one of the above dry foods. I was in my early 20s at the time, and knew very little about pet food. I trusted by vet.

Rodney survived on the diet, but was very frail. We put it down to poor health and old age. It was only after his death I realised in hindsight the startling issues with his diet, which I strongly suspect led to his frail nature and poor quality of life.

Would Rodney’s final years been far better on a diet fit for a carnivore?

Yes, I very much suspect so.

To end this section on veterinary recommended diets for pet carnivores suffering a diet-related urinary condition, it has to be said the veterinary recommended wet foods are a much better choice than the dry.

Confused? Does urinary cat food actually “work”?

Most people trust the advice of their vets. Most of the time I do too, for good reason, but when it comes to pet nutrition there’s a grey area when it comes to education.

I can go down the rabbit hole of sponsorship and influence of pet food conglomerates to university studies, coursework, shows, breeder programs, and all other areas of influence, but there is plenty of evidence of this. Many vets were trained by lecturers under the employment of those manufacturers, often with the company name imprinted on their attire, with coursework actively promoting products.

When I studied pet nutrition myself, there were multiple product recommendations, and also advice which makes zero sense when you understand pet food formulations.

Why do vets recommend dry cat foods made of grain to pet carnivores with urinary problems?

This is such a good question, even if it sounds ridiculous.

We know our cats are carnivores, and need a diet of animal ingredients. We know urinary issues must be tackled with clean moisture and high-quality proteins from animals, not from substitutes like corn.

Yet many vets recommend these products religiously.

Are they evil?

Are they profiting from the health of your cat?

No, not at all. All vets I know do their absolute best for the animals they care for. I see the problem as being much more intricate than that, being they have seen these products work.

What is rarely considered, however, is how bad the previous cat food was. If it contained more grain, more carbohydrates, less-quality proteins, more magnesium and phosphorous, and perhaps some other additives, then of course a veterinary endorsed urinary cat food will show an improvement.

But is it optimal for your carnivorous cat?

I’ll let you decide – does urinary cat food work, or does it work a little better than other cat foods?

If you still want recommendations, here are some suggestions for urinary care cat food

I hope, by now, you already know what you’re looking for.

This will be a diet which ticks these boxes:

  • Good moisture content (around 70% of diet)
  • High-quality digestible proteins from animal ingredients (and fats)
  • Balanced calcium
  • Low magnesium (from avoiding grains and focusing on foods suitable for an obligate carnivore)
  • Low phosphorous meat or fish

Many of the foods on the best rated list should be suitable, particularly wet foods or freeze-dried which you will add clean water too.

Air-dried is a better option than dry food, but is still limited in moisture compared wet foods.

BARF patties and raw foods may also be a good option.

One caution with most foods is they won’t help your cat keep their teeth clean. For that they need something to chew on. This can be suitable raw meaty bones, like chicken necks/wings/drumsticks, keeping in mind calcium intake (most cats will only gnaw meat off the bone, but may eat softer bones which is fine in moderation). Suitable meat-based chews, including dried chicken or fish skin will also help.

Please let me know if this information has helped, or if it hasn’t. Feel free to add a comment below for the benefit of keeping this article relevant and useful for other cat owners!

Disclaimer: For any health issues you face with your cat I must advise consulting your vet as well. You may speak with them about the information in this article, and find a solution which works best for you and your cat.

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  1. This is a great article but the link provided for best foods “best rated list” takes me to a dog food article with the best dog foods. Do you have one for cats?

  2. My cat has been on a proscription pro plan Urinary track wet food for a year ( since he was hospitalized for a full blockage ) it’s very expensive and I’m not able to keep him on it right now which is stressing me out. Do you have any good recommendations for cheaper wet food brands? Or supplements?

    • Reply
      Pet Food Reviews (Australia) October 3, 2023 at 12:23 am

      Hill’s prescription is expensive, and more so when you look at the ingredients and see how much grain/starch there is – for your carnivorous cat. My best advice, which may also be the cheapest, is to supplement whatever cat food you feed (the best for your budget) with some fresh meats/organs/raw meaty bones like chicken necks/wings. Take advantage of reduced stuff at the supermarket.

      The more you can reduce carbohydrates, and the more you can increase moisture, protein, and fat from animal ingredients, the better. Cats do need a balanced diet though, but even adding 20% fresh to their diet should be beneficial and help reduce urinary issues.

  3. What would you recommend for a senior cat with constipation? My 15 year old cat has a water fountain and I feed exclusively wet food (A combination of Ziwi Peak, Applaws, Tiki Cat, Wellness). Her stools are hard and dry and sometimes I hear her meowing in the litter box. I raised this with my vet and they didn’t seem concerned. I think it might be to do with the lack of fibre in her current food. Would appreciate any recommendations. 🙂

    • Reply
      Pet Food Reviews (Australia) August 4, 2023 at 11:38 pm

      Hi Charles, did your vet assess kidneys or megacolon?

      Some fibre or probiotics may help. The Frontier Pets cat food has some fibre in the form of vegetables – small amount – which may help? The brands you’ve mentioned above are rightly or wrongly low in fibre, although there’s some evidence a little fibre may be beneficial to cats. For cat probiotics I can’t say I’ve had much experience, but a quick look on pet circle and the Petz Park brand looks more beneficial in terms of ingredients.

  4. The Blue Buffalo WU prescription diet ingredient list looks better than the Hills & Royal Canine but my vet won’t prescribe it because it wasn’t formulated by veterinarians. Is it good for my cat with urinary & weight issues?

    • Reply
      Pet Food Reviews (Australia) July 27, 2023 at 6:00 pm

      Hi Tonya, I wouldn’t feed any high carbohydrate dry foods to a cat, especially one with urinary issues – it’s also likely the root cause in the first place.

  5. Many thanks for a most helpful article. My 17 yr. old cat is just now suffering from urinary problems. No food recommendations from the vet!!!! I have purchased Purina dry and wet food pouches. Despite the cost, still cheaper than a visit to the vet. Maybe I will reconsider the dry food – she certainly doesn’t consume the amount recommended by Purina for her weight, 65 grms.

  6. I totally agree. my cat has been having urinary problems and the vet recommended science hill prescription and Royal Canin urinary diets but when I looked at the first few ingredients they are crap!! not even meat as the first ingredient! Instead I found Authority Urinary at Petsmart and the first ingredient is deboned chicken, and other decent ingredients. In fact my cats didn’t like the expensive prescription foods and now I know why!! sticking with the cheaper better ingredient stuff.

  7. Thanks! So far I have been sticking with the Royal Canin and Hills urinary speciality wet foods, so that is good to hear.

    Definitely looking for to the wet food reviews 🙂

    I find puzzling that there’s dry food for cats with urinary problems, but perhaps if an owner is going to feed their cat dry food no matter what, it’s better than regular dry food? Or of course it’s just something that companies can make money from.

  8. Thank you for writing this article, it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for since my cat started having urinary problems!

    I’ve been feeding him Ziwi dried and wet foods, and the vet recommended either Royal Canin or Hills Science Diet wet foods, but in general they seem to be not very good, but I wonder if I have to put up with that if they will have the right amount of magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium for him?

    I have found this site immensely helpful, though I’ve only been able to find one wet food review, the Weruva food? I saw the message that if a brand has a good dry food their wet food is probably good, but if you’re looking for more topics to write about, reviews of wet cat food would be great.

    • Reply
      Pet Food Reviews (Australia) May 18, 2023 at 5:22 pm

      Hi Snorky, I find the wet foods for Hills and Royal Canin significantly better than the dry, for both dogs and cats. I wouldn’t feed a cat who suffers urinary issues dry food, even if it’s labelled for urinary care!

      More wet food reviews to come, eventually….

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