Several years ago, one of my cats got struvite crystals which required surgery and several days of hospitalization. After much research and talking with veterinarians, I was able to get a very good idea of what caused the struvite crystals to form in the first place, and what should be done to prevent them. If the condition is not detected quickly, the cat can die from excess ammonia going in the bloodstream and kidney failure. If your cat has struvite crystals, he will let you know right away. The struvite crystals will lodge themselves into the small urethra and prevent urination, which is always very painful.
The connection between struvite crystals and cat food:
Struvite crystals will develop in the bladder if the urine’s pH is not acidic enough. In my cat’s case, his pH was right on 7.0 which is neutral and anything above is alkaline. One way to prevent struvite crystals from forming is feeding a high quality food to your cat. I personally use dry food because it is more convenient, as well as canned food occasionally. Any good quality food will work, as long as the main ingredients are meat, and anything you’d eat yourself if you were a picky carnivore. Would you eat beaks and claws? Not unless you are very hungry. Would you eat human grade chicken? Definitely. Stay away from fillers such as corn gluten and flour, and animal by-products. Also, look at the magnesium level. Any level above 0.09 or 0.10 is not healthy, and might lead to struvite crystals.
Struvite crystals and a cat’s pH:
As I said, an important concept here is pH, as our body’s different pH have to be at certain values for us to stay healthy. Our blood pH for example has to be around 7.3 and our bodies constantly work to keep it at this number. A cat’s urine has to be slightly acidic, around 6.4 or 6.6, and a slightly acidic diet can prevent struvite crystals from forming, since they are caused by a more basic urine. Of course, it is better to feed a high quality diet so that the cat will be healthy and the pH will almost certainly stay at a steady, healthy number, because if the urine is too acidic, then oxalate crystals will form. It’s all a question of balance.
Struvite crystals and a cat’s weight:
Also, try to keep your cat at a healthy weight. A standard cat will weigh around 8 pounds, which seems pretty skinny. When you touch her sides, you have to be able to count ribs. This is not easy to do when the cats are getting old, as they are usually much lazier and do not want to exercise. In my case, I also have to deal with the dog trying to play as well, but my cats don’t appreciate his enthusiasm.
When I was discussion treatment options with the vet, he mentioned that he had an older, overweight cat and wouldn’t be surprised if he developed struvite crystals sometime in the near future. Indeed, even if you do all of the above, your cat may still develop struvite crystals. Regularly, when you are petting your cat, you can try touching and palpating gently the area of the lower abdomen and the sides. It’s difficult at first, but you will feel the bladder when it’s somewhat full, like a soft balloon. The cat shouldn’t react negatively, and might purr if you pet her at the same time.
If the cat develop struvite crystals, urination will become difficult and impossible, and the bladder will fill up. It will become extremely painful, and your cat will let you know. But you have to keep the idea of struvite crystals in the back of your head at all time, because some cats prefer to hide from everyone when they are not feeling good. So when you come home, and your cat is nowhere to be seen, try to find her. Stay calm though, it could be that she is just sleeping and didn’t hear you open the door!
This is quite common when the cats are unable to make out sounds due to struvite crystals which is quite peculiar given the condition but you need to see this as a telltale sign that things aren’t as smooth as they seem to be.
Struvite crystals are much more common for male cats, as the urethra is very small. If your cat keeps getting an obstructed bladder, then your veterinarian may perform a surgery where they will remove the penis, and create an opening similar to a female cat’s, so that if struvite crystals do develop again, they will be easily excreted.