It has become widely acknowledged that a cat's urine pH can be directly related to the health of its urinary tract. Is your cat in danger of developing crystals in his urinary tract? How does his diet affect his urine pH? Here is help in removing the mystery of the desired range of feline urine pH and how these numbers can correlate to a cat's urinary tract health.
How does urine pH affect a cat's health?
Crystals can form in a cat's bladder and/or urethra, causing irritation, bleeding, infection and/or blockage. These symptoms are lumped together in a condition called FLUTD (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease). Complete blockage of the urethra can cause death within 72 hours, if not treated.
What is the desired urine pH range for cats?
Cats need an acidic urine for urinary tract health. Although the higher range may vary under certain circumstances, the expert consensus seems to be from 6.0 to 6.5. (The lower the pH, the more acidic the urine.) A pH above this range can lead the growth of struvites (magnesium ammonium phosphate crystals). A pH lower than 6.0 can cause the formation of calcium oxalate crystals.
What other factors affect feline urinary tract health?
- Excess concentration of minerals in urine
Although for years the generic "ash" content of cat food was blamed for what was then known as FUS (Feline Urinary Syndrome), ash is merely the residue from the burning of minerals, and doesn't really indicate the kinds of minerals, nor the amounts and types of each. For that reason, the FDA prohibits claims such as "low ash" on cat food labels. Max's House has a great chart showing the various minerals, along with their AAFCO-recommended percentages in cat food.
Magnesium and phosphorus have more recently been singled out as potential culprits for FLUTD. Also important is the source of magnesium. The highly respected veterinarians at PetEducation.com believe that magnesium oxide appears to cause alkaline urine, and magnesium chloride may result in the formation of acidic urine. The desirable phosphorus to calcium ratio is also factored into the AAFCO recommendations.
- The water intake of cats
Kidneys require water to function, and the urinary tract system requires sufficient fluids to flush extra minerals out of the body. A cat that drinks adequate water will urinate more frequently. As a result, the urine will also be less concentrated, which will help prevent the formation of crystals.
What relationship does diet have to a cat's urinary tract health?The relationship is so important that many of the premium cat food manufacturers now publish the target range for urinary pH for their various formulas. This information is much more important and meaningful than any claim of "low ash" might be. Here is an example of the target pH range disclosure on one pet food manufacturer's site. Scroll down to see the numbers.
If the company that provides your own cats' food does not disclose this information on their web site, I'd urge you to call the company directly for this information. If they don't have that information or refuse to disclose it, I'd switch to another food. It's that important.