This May Be Why Your Cat Has Struvite Crystals or Cystitis

53590533 - portrait of a 10-year old female grey cat

Have you scoured the Internet for reasons why your cat keeps getting struvite crystals or recurring cystitis no matter what you do? Maybe you’ve tried everything. You’ve fed your cat the special prescription diet, or you’ve switched to a no carb, high protein diet of wet food. Maybe you’re adding a natural cranberry supplement to your cat’s meals, or you’ve switched to feeding a raw meat diet. If you’ve tried everything, but your cat still gets struvite crystals, have you considered your cat’s drinking water?

I’m not a vet, and what I discovered was through personal experience, so it hasn’t been thoroughly vetted—so to speak, nor does it mean that it will apply to your cat and their situation. However, I’m sharing my experience in the hopes that it may help other cat owners who are baffled over why their cats have persistent urinary tract issues.

This information is not intended to replace veterinary care. Struvite crystals can be life threatening so always follow your vet’s recommendations. But if you’re at your wit’s end, maybe this is the missing puzzle piece that will help prevent recurring crystals or cystitis in your cat.

“Some cats get them no matter what you do”

Over the course of my cat, Furball’s, 15-plus years, he’s had three instances of a blocked bladder due to struvite crystals. The first time it happened was when he was about two years old. I took him to the vet and he got the works: catheter insertion, subcutaneous fluids, antibiotics, and antispasmodics. About a thousand dollars later, I asked the vet what could be done to prevent struvite crystals from recurring in the future.

She told me to feed him a prescription diet and also to give him lots of water with his food so that any crystals would be continuously flushed out of his system. When I asked her why cats got crystals, her answer surprised me. Maybe veterinary medicine has improved since then, but she told me that they didn’t really know. “Some cats get them no matter what you do.”

I didn’t leave feeling very reassured, but I felt like I had no other options. So I gave Furball the prescription food and filled his food bowl with water. I fed him the diet for a few months, and the crystals were under control, but Furball’s normally lustrous coat turned dry, dull, and wiry.

He’d always had super shiny soft fur, so I knew it had to be the food. Since he’d been stable for several months, I decided to try tweaking his diet and eventually shifted him to a diet of half prescription food, with the other half consisting of a rotation of natural cat foods. He thrived on this diet, and was fine for years.

But then we moved to a new apartment, experienced an earthquake, and my husband accidentally dropped a tray of cutlery on the floor—all within a short timeframe. These events completely stressed out Furball, and it was not long before he had another case of a blocked bladder. I took him to the emergency vet, went through the usual routine, and got the same recommendations and lack of answers on how to prevent crystals. Sensing there had to be more I could do, I took him to a holistic vet once Furball was out of the emergency phase.

Views from a Holistic Vet

The holistic vet visit was very illuminating. No prior vet had told me about the importance of maintaining an acidic urine level to prevent struvite crystals. The holistic vet told me that was how prescription diets worked. They had additives to make the cat’s urine more acidic. She told me the same thing could be achieved by feeding my cat grain-free cat food that was high in protein.

She highly recommended that Furball get moisture from his food, namely wet food as opposed to adding water to dry kibble. She explained that simply adding water was hard on his kidneys because cats are desert animals not used to processing a lot of water. Here’s a list of the natural cat foods that she recommended.

She also told me that obesity and stress increased my cat’s risk of getting struvite crystals and a blocked bladder. So I made changes to his diet again, and Furball was good for another few years. But then we moved into our first house, and the baby arrived.

I don’t remember all that much from those sleep-deprived years of raising a baby/toddler. But I do recall there was a point where Furball started showing signs of straining to use his litter box, so I immediately took him to the vet. He once again tested positive for struvite crystals and he also had cystitis.

Furball was placed back on the prescription diet. I was advised again to give him as much water as possible, and we also had to give Furball antibiotics and antispasmodics. This time however, even though the level of struvite crystals in his urine went down, he continued to have recurring issues with straining to pee.

The vet was an assh*t, competent but with a tendency to dominate the animals. Furball hated him so I took him to another vet. This one was nice, but couldn’t offer any additional insights. The holistic vet wasn’t available, and then one day, my poor cat stopped eating. He became lethargic, and it looked like he had reached the end of his nine lives.

Rather than subject Furball to the stress of visiting the vet again when they had no new insights or information, I figured it would be better to let Furball pass away peacefully at home. He didn’t seem to be in pain even though he was not very responsive.

As I sat with my cat, crying and petting him, I got the idea to place my hands on his back shu points (acupuncture points) for the bladder. I imagined sending him loving energy through my hands, and an amazing thing happened. Furball began purring. So I stayed in that position for almost an hour, imagining healing energy flowing to my cat, and he continued to purr.

It was getting late so I said what I thought might be my final goodbye and went to sleep. I woke up the next morning not knowing what to expect, but surprisingly Furball was absolutely fine. He was running about, eating food, drinking water, and purring. It was like nothing had happened.

Realization

I kept wondering why my cat kept getting recurring cystitis when he was on the prescription diet, getting cranberry supplements, and drinking so much water. How did he get crystals in the first place when he was on a premium pure chicken, all-protein diet formulated for cats?

Then it suddenly dawned on me. Furball had been eating a dehydrated cat food that required the addition of water. And because of the cystitis and recent bout of struvite crystals, I was giving my cat extra water all the time. Was it the water?

When we moved, our new home was in a different municipality. Was the water in this district somehow different? It did seem to have a high mineral content because we always had a ring build up in the toilet bowl. Could the minerals be alkalinizing the water or causing sediment in my cat’s urine?

test-ph-cat-urineI needed pH testing strips like the ones used in high school science classes. I found pH strips on Amazon (the strips for testing cat urine can also be used to test water), and when they arrived, I tested our tap water. It tested slightly alkaline. No wonder my cat was forming crystals in his urine. He needed an acidic diet to prevent the formation of struvite crystals, and I was giving him lots of alkaline water. No one had told me to check the water. It’s supposed to be pH neutral, but it wasn’t.

I went to the grocery store, bought a bottle of water, and tested it with a pH strip. It was surprisingly slightly acidic. Perfect for my cat, but not so perfect for people or the environment. Anyhow, I’ve been buying bottled water for my cat for over three years now.

I know, I know, you’re cringing at the idea of bottled water. How can I do such a thing when California has been in a drought for four years, and when I wrote about hardcore ways to save water? And what about the plastic waste? Even New Delhi banned disposable plastics. So how can I in good conscience give my cat bottled water?

Well I’ll be honest. It’s one of those things you wrestle with. For some people, this crosses the line and I can respect and appreciate that. Furball’s my furbaby so I try to find other ways to offset the impact, kind of like buying carbon tax credits when you fly. The people in our household don’t drink bottled water—only the cat. We drink tap water and use reusable water bottles wherever we go.

Since I switched Furball to bottled water, I weaned him off the prescription diet again because it was making him vomit and made his coat dull. We also moved again, experienced a few earthquakes, and Furball was shut in a bedroom for an entire day while workmen with loud machinery cleaned and replaced the insulation in the attic.

Despite all of these stresses, it’s been three years and Furball has not had a single reoccurrence of cystitis or a blocked bladder. Fingers crossed that my kitty lives into his second decade in good health. And I hope your cat does too.

Is Your Cat Getting Too Many Vaccines?

In California, there’s a huge debate going on about the right to choose whether or not your kids get vaccines, but did you ever consider the same issue for your cat? I recently came across a petition on change.org, posted by Truth 4 Pets, about vaccines for cats and dogs. While no one is recommending… Continue Reading

Save 15% on All Natural Pet Dental Care

Only Natural Pet is having a 15% off sale on all of their natural pet dental care products, including: Greenies Dental Cat Treats PetzLife Dental Gel with Salmon Oil Life Line Organic Ocean Kelp Only Natural’s Pet’s Oral Care Dental Spray Hurry though, the sale is only on for the month of February to celebrate… Continue Reading

Recent Study Raises Serious Concerns About Bacteria in Pet Food

Here’s some disturbing news that should come as no surprise to Green Little Cat readers. It came to my attention from our friends over at The Conscious Cat: “The Association for Truth in Pet Food (ATPF), an advocacy group established by Susan Thixton, the publisher and founder of The Truth About Pet Food, recently published… Continue Reading

Alternative Healing Methods That Really Helped Furball

Furball has been living a green lifestyle for his entire life. By all means, he should be healthy as a horse…err..a cat :). However, my cat is extremely sensitive to stress. While there are many natural products for calming stressed cats, unfortunately Furball is still susceptible to the impact of stress on his health. Most… Continue Reading

Natura Pet Products – Huge Dog and Cat Food Recall

Shame, Natura Pet Products, was once highly renowned for their green practices and for providing quality dog and cat food.  In fact, they were the winner of my Natural Cat Food Throwdown a few years back. Then, success got to them. It was announced in May 2010 that Proctor & Gamble was purchasing them.  As… Continue Reading

Cat Health Advice to Avoid a Flabby Feline

Furball’s been battling the bulge and on a diet since January. The results are stellar as he’s much more active and playful now. I’d have to say that weightloss for an overweight cat is one of the best natural ways to improve your feline’s health. That’s why I’m delighted to share this guest post from… Continue Reading

Scientists: Ubiquitous Household Chemical Could Be Killing Cats

For your cat’s health and happiness, please go as green as you can. I recently came across this article about a government study that found a “significant association” between hyperthyroidism in cats and certain flame retardants. Basically, the flame retardant that’s sprayed on your furniture, carpet and CHILDREN’S CLOTHING is linked to the death of… Continue Reading

The Honest Kitchen: Review of Prowl Cat Food

If you’ve been thinking of switching your cat to raw cat food, but are looking for a more convenient option, here’s my honest review of The Honest Kitchen’s Prowl cat food. My cat, Furball, had been on the same diet for about two years. Because he had a history of struvite crystals, I had him… Continue Reading

Natural Ways to Promote Cat Urinary Tract Health

Given Furball’s latest bout of blocked bladder, I felt it would be a good idea to summarize everything I’ve learned about natural ways to prevent urinary problems in cats.  The primary focus of this blog post is on managing crystals in cat urine, specifically struvite crystals as this Furball’s primary issue when it comes to… Continue Reading

Rah Rah Raw! – Learn About Raw Food Diets for Cats

Despite the title of this post, I’m actually neutral about raw meat anti anxiety diets for cats as I haven’t actually tried it. About the time I heard about a convenient way to feed Furball raw food (see post on The Honest Kitchen), it was no longer an option since I had a baby. It’s… Continue Reading

10% Off PetzLife Natural Dental Care

I just received this email promotion from PetzLife.  They’re having a Memorial Day sale and offering 10% off all of their products. I wrote a review about their gel product awhile back. Suffice to say, it did a great job of keeping Furball’s teeth clean and he loved the taste of it. Visit their website… Continue Reading

Why Antibacterial is Anti-Cat and Anti-Human

I was recently reading the latest newsletter from the David Suzuki Foundation.  If you’re Canadian, you know who he is.  If you’re not, David Suzuki is like the Al Gore of Canada, only he’s been in the public eye supporting the environment since the 70’s and no one questions the science he presents because it’s… Continue Reading

Wee Cleaner — Is It Really Non-Toxic?

In January, I wrote an entry about eco-friendly natural cleaners for eliminating pet odours and stains. One of the products I came across was Wee Cleaner. Their website made it sound fantastic for getting rid of the smell of cat pee: “WEE CLEANER is non-toxic, fragrance-free, dye-free, phosphate-free, and enzyme-free. It is biodegradable and produces… Continue Reading

Understanding Why Your Vet Has Prescribed Hill’s C/D

Here’s a guest post by Adrienne DeArmas.  She shares her incredibly detailed research into struvite crystals and a cat’s diet.  Thanks for sharing your findings Adrienne! Struvite vs. Calcium Oxalate Crystals Struvite crystals are usually formed in response to urine that is saturated with magnesium, ammonium and phosphorus combined with an alkaline urinary pH (not… Continue Reading

Probiotics for Your Cat’s Digestive System

Lactobacillus acidophilus is a type of bacteria that grows naturally in the digestive tract.  It’s known as a “beneficial bacteria” (I should probably be saying “bacterium”) because it helps us to digest food.  Acidophilus is a common dietary supplement for people, usually taken in the form of a capsule, powder or liquid.  People take probiotic… Continue Reading

Is Your Cat Sleeping in a Chemical Cesspool?

Now that I’ve got your attention, a friend emailed me an interesting website that lists the toxic chemicals found in pet products.  Did you know there are no government standards for hazardous chemicals in pet products? HealthyStuff.org tested over 400 products for toxic chemicals and lists the results on their site.  Most of the tested… Continue Reading

The Natural Cat Food Throwdown

Blame it on watching late night TV on the Food Network, but I came up with the title for this series of posts after seeing a couple of episodes of “Throwdown with Bobby Flay”.  It’s time to see which natural cat food manufacturer has the green muscle to go the distance. As I’ve mentioned before,… Continue Reading

Holistic Vets vs. Traditional Vets — What’s the Difference?

Furball has used two of his nine lives.  He had a blocked bladder once and acute pancreatitis another time.  Under those emergency situations, I took him to his regular vet and they did a great job of diagnosing and treating his condition.  However, after getting through the emergency phase, I found there wasn’t really much… Continue Reading

Day 10: Natural Pet Dental Care The 30-Day Green Cat Challenge

At Furball’s last visit to the vet, the doctor commented that Furball’s teeth and gums were in excellent condition. I’d love to claim credit for being a good cat mommy and brushing his teeth, but I’m admittedly not that devoted. Plus, if I approached him with a cat toothbrush, he’d attack it and think it’s… Continue Reading


Green Little Cat is the only blog that's all about eco-friendly ideas for cats and cat lovers. This blog is a labor of love, created by Holly Tse, author of Make Your Own Cat Toys.
Check out Furball's cat toy book
Spoil Your Kitty the Green Way
Get Furball's cute ebook full of oodles of eco-friendly cat toys that are fun and easy to make.
Learn more >>

  Pets Business Directory - BTS Local