Originally Posted by Ellsworth
does the RX food have something in it that actually gets rid of the crystals? or is it just that it doesn't cause the crystals? Does the regular food cause crystals? If so, why? I guess what I'm saying is, what brings on the condition in the first place?
Yes and yes. There are different types of crystals, but if its struvite crystals for example, from what I understand they create a formula that acidifies the urine, has lower magnesium/phos., and is usually salted a bit which makes the cats thirstier to dilute the urine.
There are many factors that can lead to struvite crystals.
1) If a cat is holding it in, the urine becomes more and more concentrated. A cat might hold it in if its not happy with the number, location, or quality of its litterbox.
2) Hydration matters, so a pure kibble diet for example can lead to chronic mild dehydration. Adding multiple water fountains and including at least some wet food in the diet (which is around 80% moisture) helps dilute the urine.
3) The food itself can affect urine PH. You can get different types of crystals depending on if the urine PH is too high or too low. Typically in inexpensive kibbles, they are too high of carb and a lot of the proteins are plant as well, and plant matter, while lower in minerals, creates a more alkaline urine PH than meat. The meat that is in these cheap kibbles usually has a lot of bone, which creates a high ash/mineral content. Fishy foods are an issue as well for this reason. How often the cat is fed also affects urine PH, as right after eating urine PH is elevated for a while.
4) Overall body health matters too, as I have read that obese cats are at greater risk to develop urinary tract issues.
5) Genetics. Some cats just have a really narrow urethra (males in particular) or strange out-of-the-norm habits that predispose them to crystals even if ten other cats were fine in the same environment and food.
Typical cause: Cheap kibble free-fed and insufficient or poorly maintained litterboxes are the main factors IMO. They have high ash, too much plant protein/carbs and are often free fed which all raise urine PH, cats are often overweight from having unlimited calories available, and few people have the recommended one litterbox per cat + 1 spare (so two cats, three litterboxes).
Preventative solution: Schedule feed a proper amount of quality wet food or wet+good grainfree dry mixed diet such as Blue Wilderness, Wellness Core, Innova Evo, or Nature's Variety Raw Instinct (Evo and Nature's variety dry are only 7% and 8% carb respectively for example, lower than even many quality canned wet foods like Wellness Chicken and Lobster), and try not to feed TOO much fish (in particular tuna). Include multiple water fountains to attract kitties to drink, and have adequate clean litterboxes and you should be good to go.