Understanding Feline Behaviour and Providing Enrichment to Indoor Cats

Play Behaviours of Domestic Cats

Observing feline playtime can be quite entertaining; a statue still, low crouch followed by a tail swish and a butt wiggle, leading up to a most dramatic pounce! It is adorable and maybe even comical to watch. But what do all these actions mean, and what is their purpose? They are all predatory behaviours – yes, even the cute little butt wiggle is the act of a ravenous hunter!

Hunting Behaviours of Feline Predators

For a successful ambush, a predator lies in wait in a concealed spot that prey are likely to wonder by. They must be perfectly still in order to avoid being detected, and driving prey out of reach. While stalking, a predator follows their prey in a low, silent crawl until they are in the optimal position for attack. In preparation for the pounce, the hunting feline must be sure their targeting is accurate. Sometimes prey are also very still and it is difficult to lock in on their location. A slight tail swish can catch the attention of the prey, causing small movements, giving away their exact position. Next, the feline squares up their hind legs by rocking their weight side to side (the butt wiggle), giving them maximum pouncing power! These behaviours are exhibited by wild cats and domestic house kitties alike. The difference being that our house pets are often going after toys or dust bunnies and not actually hunting their food source.

 

Why do Well-Fed House Cats Exhibit Hunting Behaviours?

The hunting instinct ingrained in felines is not driven by momentary hunger; rather it has been established by thousands of years of evolution as a mechanism of food acquisition.  Felines, as obligate carnivores, have evolved as predator animals, and an important part of a predator’s lifestyle is hunting. Being at the top of the food chain comes with a lot of responsibility. Acquiring food depends on hunting – it is a much more involved process than scavenging for others’ leftovers or grazing across an open plain and it requires a very high level of motivation. But why do we still see this instinct in our domestic house cats? If you give a cat a meal, their hunger will be satisfied, but the urge to hunt still lingers. Why, when the need is eliminated, does the desire persist?

To better understand our pet cats, we should better understand how they became our pets in the first place. The process of domestication involves genetic alterations affecting physiology, appearance and behaviour. The transition from a wild animal to a domesticated animal can result in traits lost or gained, depending on which are beneficial in the domestic lifestyle. The domestication of cats began with humans and cats living symbiotically – in a mutually beneficial scenario. The most common theory of feline domestication involves the stored grains during early agriculture attracting small rodents (prey), which in turn attracted small wild cats (predators). Wild cats that were less wary of humans had access to an abundance of prey, and in turn they provided humans with effective pest control. Early in the domestication process, hunting was still the primary manner of food acquisition, so success of the animals relied on a strong motivation to hunt. Even though our house kitties are fed meals in a bowl and no longer need to hunt for food, the instinct is still present, and we must ensure they receive appropriate stimulation in order to preserve a positive state of well-being.

Enrichment for Indoor Cats

Outdoor cats have the opportunity to hunt real prey – the ultimate stimulation; but for those that live exclusively indoors, we must provide the stimulus. Strings tipped with feathers fly through the air like darting birds; toy mice unknowingly wait to be ambushed; bouncing wires dance like hopping insects. There are so many enriching toys available that are engaging and satisfying for our cats. Perhaps the most satisfying are products that allow felines to actually hunt for their food. Available at Global Pet Foods is the indoor hunting feeder from Doc & Phoebe’s Cat Co. This product allows your cat to hunt for kibble-filled mice that you’ve hidden around the house. It satisfies their instinctual desires, gives them plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, and enhances overall well-being of your beloved feline.

An under stimulated feline may exhibit destructive behavior; frustration may build up and lead to misbehaviours such as going outside the litter box; a lack of physical exercise can lead to unhealthy weight gain; a lack of satisfaction can prevent relaxation and increase stress. When we provide enrichment for our indoor cats, we provide them with an outlet to express all their natural behaviours, satisfying the deeply ingrained urges they maintained through domestication. In doing this, we prevent them searching for other, less desirable outlets, and most importantly, we make them happy.

Visit your local Global Pet Foods to see all the most innovative feline enrichment products available!

 

Understanding and Combating Dry Winter Skin

The winter season presents a variety of challenges for people and pets. Dry skin is something we can all be affected by – two-legged or four-legged.

Dryness in the air, whether it be cold winter wind or dry heat indoors, can reduce or eliminate the moisture-locking oil barrier on the surface of the skin. Skin that is most exposed to the air is most vulnerable to losing this protective layer. We, as people, notice it most on our face and hands. For our pets, areas at most risk are dependent on how much hair they have and where it grows!

For any dog, the nose is always vulnerable as it is always exposed. Other areas at risk of high exposure are ears and bellies. Paw pads are especially vulnerable in the winter months because they are not only exposed to dry air, but also to ice, cold concrete, salt and rough terrain.

Some breeds are more at risk than others. Brachycephalic breeds (dogs with shortened/flattened faces; example, pugs) have difficulty licking their noses due to the anatomy of their face, so they are less able to wet their noses, putting them at even higher risk in dry conditions. Breeds that are short-coated, with more exposed skin on their ears and bellies (example, boxer) may experience dry skin in these areas as well. Finally, hairless breeds are fully exposed and many more areas can be affected.

There are a variety of strategies we can implement to prevent or treat dry skin in winter time.

Winter apparel can limit the exposure of some areas, but what about the areas that are difficult or not possible to cover up?

First and foremost, we must support the skin from the inside-out: with nutrition. It is important to support total nutrient requirements of the body. If some requirements are not met, the body will direct nutrients to essential body functions and may not allocate enough to the skin. This can compromise the health and function of skin.

Nutrients to pay close attention to:

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs): Essential omega-3 and -6 PUFAs are the most important nutrients for maintaining moisture in the skin. Essential PUFAs are assimilated into epidermal cell membranes and are an integral part of cell structure. They are also components in the extracellular lipid matrix – this is the oil barrier on the surface of the skin, and is directly related to moisture retention and permeability of the skin’s surface by preventing trans-epidermal water loss.

Vitamin A: important for cell reproduction and growth. Skin cells are continuously regenerating and it is important to support this process in order for the structural integrity of the skin to be maintained.

Vitamin C: strong antioxidant activity; plays a role in collagen production. Preventing oxidative damage and supporting skin structures are important for keeping the skin healthy.

Vitamin E: strong antioxidant activity. Vitamin E works alongside vitamin C in the antioxidant complex.

Vitamin B5: attracts and binds to water. Used topically on the skin, it can help to lock in moisture.

“Complete and Balanced” diets should provide enough of each of these nutrients for maintenance requirements. However, in dry conditions, requirements for some of these nutrients may be elevated beyond normal maintenance levels. Increasing feed rate is one way to increase nutrient intake without changing the balance of vitamins, but excess calories may not be tolerated by some pets. Sometimes supplements can be introduced.

The most important and safest supplements to introduce are fatty acid supplements. There is no concern with upsetting the carefully calculated vitamin balance in your dog’s commercial diet like there is with vitamin supplements (if you feel a vitamin supplement might benefit your pet, consult your veterinarian). Omega-3 and omega-6 supplements are readily available for purchase. Fish oil and flax oil are examples of high omega-3 sources; sunflower oil and chicken fat are examples of high omega-6 sources.

*A Note on Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is a popular go-to for dry skin but it may not be the solution your pet requires. Coconut oil is DEFICIENT in essential fatty acids and is composed of primarily SATURATED fatty acids, not the beneficial PUFAs, so it is not a good dietary additive to improve or prevent dry skin. It can be used topically to temporarily relieve symptoms of dry skin, but since it is a comedogenic oil (plugs skin pores), it should not be the long-term solution to dry skin.

Topical products to consider are those that moisturize and protect the skin without clogging the natural oil ducts.

Moisturizing shampoo followed with moisturizing conditioner can be beneficial to the whole body. A soothing oatmeal shampoo and conditioner can be a great start to a moisture-replenishing regimen by cleansing dirt and debris and leaving the skin clean and pH balanced (make sure to only use products that are formulated for pets, since the pH of their skin is different from ours). From this stage, moisturizing and protective products can be applied to treat or prevent dry skin. It is important, however, to limit bathing to once a month. Excessive bathing can end up having an opposite effect to what we desire, by stripping away natural oils, leaving the skin dry and unprotected.

Oils such as argan oil, olive oil, jajoba oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil and many others moisturize and soften skin without clogging pores.

Beeswax is a natural substance that seals in moisture and acts as a barrier to cold air without clogging pores in the skin so they can continue to function optimally. It is also antiviral and antibacterial which is especially important for dry, cracked skin that is more vulnerable to infection.

Paws are especially at risk during cold weather. Paw pads can become irritated and cracked in the winter not only because of dry air but also due to road salt, cold surfaces and rough/abrasive terrain. The best solution for this challenge is prevention and protection! Some dogs will tolerate boots, which offer the best protection against salt, cold and rough surfaces. However, many dogs strongly dislike the sensation of wearing boots. In these cases, paw balm is a great solution. It creates a barrier on the paw pad surface to protect against winter hazards. Natural combinations of wax and oils protect the surface of pads while allowing perspiration to escape (remember, dogs sweat through the pads of their feet so this is very important to maintain healthy pads and avoid infection). Antiseptic and protective beeswax is a great option for pads as a barrier and to encourage moisture retention as well as healing.

Moisturizers can be used short term to help cracked pads heal. Products with high oil content which are intended to soften skin should be avoided as long-term solutions because the function of the pads of the feet relies on toughness, not softness. The softer the pads are, the more vulnerable they are to cuts and abrasions – this is not ideal, especially when traversing frozen winter terrain. Once pads are healed, products intended to maintain moisture and protect the pads are best.

No matter what you and your pet like to do in the winter, it is important to give them what they need to be healthy and comfortable. Proper nutrition and protective layers ensure your pet can enjoy any winter activity, whether they are bounding through the snow or tucked in on the couch.

Understanding Glycemic Index & Glycemic Load in Pet Foods

GLYCEMIC INDEX is a measure of the relative rate of how fast and how high blood sugar levels rise after a specific carbohydrate is eaten relative to the rate of increase in blood sugar levels if the meal consisted of only the simple sugar glucose. The higher the glycemic index the faster the rise in blood sugar levels and the higher the concentration of sugar in the blood. In contrast the lower the glycemic index the slower the rise in blood sugar levels and the lower the concentration of sugar in the blood. Glycemic indices are rated as high >70, moderate 55-70 and low <55.

Diabetes is associated with high blood sugar levels so there is an inference that if the blood sugar levels are kept low it will help to manage diabetes and may help to prevent diabetes from occurring. The management of diabetes is aided by managing blood sugar levels but whether low glycemic index foods prevent diabetes in pets is still unknown.

Glycemic indices have been developed for many food ingredients. Foods high in carbohydrates often have high glycemic indices but not always. For example, potatoes can have either a high or low glycemic index depending on the type of potato (cultivar), the preparation method, cooking time and temperature, whether the potato is eaten hot or cold, how the potato is formulated with other ingredients and the size of the meal. Hot mashed potatoes can have a high glycemic index of 70 to 80, while cold cooked potatoes mixed with protein and fats can have a low glycemic index in the range of 30 to 40.

GLYCEMIC LOAD: To further complicate the understanding of the effect of various diets on blood sugar levels one also needs to consider glycemic load. It is a mathematical assessment which attempts to predict the actual blood sugar level that will result from a complete meal, not just the individual ingredients. Glycemic load sums the glycemic indices from all of the ingredients together taking into consideration, how they are prepared and how they are served. Glycemic load is a much better predictor of blood sugar levels than simply glycemic index.

This table illustrates that the exact same diet formulation can have very different glycemic loads depending on how the diet is formulated and how the diet is served. Glycemic Load is highly dependent on preparation and presentation. Both diets A and B have identical carbohydrate inclusions but diet A has a high glycemic load and diet B has a low glycemic load.

There’s a New Dog in Town!

Have you heard? Global Pet Foods in North Vancouver, BC is NOW OPEN! They are located in the Capilano Village at 801 Marine Drive, Unit 200 North Vancouver, British Columbia.

Owner, Anthony, is very excited to be in North Vancouver and has already had a very warm welcome from the community. He is eager to meet you (and your pets)!  Anthony himself has three beautiful Golden Retrievers that are a part of his family.

Specializing in natural, holistic, and wholesome pet foods & supplements for every type of pet from dogs and cats, to birds, and small animals.  They have the best selection of healthy pet food, toys, and accessories.  Anthony, Noorhan, and the rest of his friendly staff will ensure that you get the right pet product for your specific needs!

 

 

To find a location near you, use our Location Finder.

High-Rise Syndrome

Many pet parents live in condos and apartment buildings and for those of us without the luxury of air conditioning, we rely on open windows and balcony doors to help keep us cool during the hot summer nights.  You may, however, be putting your pets at risk.  Unscreened windows and doors pose a real danger to dogs and, more often, cats, as they can fall out of them.  There is a term that has been recently associated with this: High-Rise Syndrome.  It’s more common than you think.  Veterinarians see cases on a weekly basis whereby the family pets have fallen from an open window or from the balcony.   Falls can result in shattered jaws, punctured lungs, broken limbs and pelvises, and even death.

 

Cats have excellent survival instincts, and they don’t deliberately “jump” from high places that would be dangerous.  Cats have an incredible ability to focus their attention on whatever interests them.  However, they can become so distracted by a bird or another animal that they lose their balance and fall.  And that’s where the “High-Rise Syndrome” applies – when cats fall accidentally from high-rise windows, terraces or fire escapes.

 

  1. People often assume that cats can take care of themselves since they seem to have little fear of heights and enjoy perching in high places. However, even though cats can cling to the bark of trees with their claws, it`s much more difficult for them to cling to surfaces like window ledges, concrete or brick.

 

  1. Cats don’t land squarely on their feet when they fall from a high place. They land with their feet slightly splayed apart, which can cause severe head and pelvis injuries.

 

  1. It’s a misconception that cats can’t be injured when they fall from one- or two-story buildings. Cats may actually be at greater risk for injury when falling a shorter distance than falling a longer distance. Shorter distances do not give them enough time to adjust their body posture to fall

 

  1. When cats fall from high-rise buildings, they may end up on sidewalks or streets that are dangerous and unfamiliar to them. Never assume that the animal has not survived the fall; immediately rush the animal to the nearest animal hospital or to your veterinarian. There is a 90% survival rate for cats who are high-rise victims if they receive immediate and proper medical attention.

 

High-Rise Syndrome is 100-Percent Preventable.  We recommend that you do the following to keep your pets safe this summer:

 

  1. Install snug and sturdy screens in all of your windows.

 

  1. Make sure that adjustable screens are tightly wedged into window frames.

 

  1. Cats can slip through childproof window guards so please do not assume that they provide adequate protection.

 

And finally, if you have a cat (or multiple cats) you may want to keep them indoors to protect them from additional dangers such as cars, other animals and disease.  Purchase full-screen enclosures for backyards and terraces if you want to provide your cats with outdoor stimulation.

Always know where your pets are in the house when you’re home.  Just as you would do when you have children in your home, know where your pets are at all times so that you can keep them safe.

Emergency Planning for Your Cat

A flood, a tornado, loss of electricity. Disasters do happen and they can strike when we least expect them. Planning ahead is the key to keeping you, your family and your pets safe when a disaster happens. Here are some tips to create your Emergency Plan so that you are prepared:

 

 

Ideally, you should have 2 emergency kits for your household – one for everyone in your family, and the second for your pet(s). Keep in mind that when an emergency strikes, you won’t have time to gather everything together. Having the kits ready to go means that you’ll have the essentials you need to keep your family safe and together over a period of time. As anyone who has been through this before knows, being prepared provides you with some peace of mind to know that you’ll be able to weather the storm.

 

Dogs VS Cats

  1. Dogs can be trained quickly, some in a matter of minutes, to obey basic commands like ‘come’ and ‘sit.’
    Most cats are difficult if not impossible to train to respond to directives.
  2. Most dogs take considerably longer to housebreak, and some just never get all the way there. Unlike with Fluffy, housebreaking a pup is usually a hands-on, time intensive project.
    Cats can be house-trained in an instant as long as they have access to a litter box. There’s really no training to it, in fact. It’s instinct.
  3. Dogs are social beings. They want to be with their pack, wherever their pack may be.
    Cats are solitary by comparison and their primary attachment (when forced to choose) is to their territory rather than other two or four-legged animals.
  4. Dogs have 42 teeth. Cats have 30.
  5. Cats can jump and climb, giving them more options when they need to hunt for food, or when they feel threatened.
    Dogs are  earthbound, so they need their pack to hunt effectively.  And when a threat triggers their fight-or-flight response, they are more likely to react with aggression because their ability to flee from a predator is limited.
  6. Dogs are scavenging carnivores, which means although they are primarily meat-eaters, if necessary they can survive on plant material alone (remember, surviving is different than thriving).
    Cats are obligate or strict carnivores. Cats cannot sustain life without eating meat in some form.

  7. Dogs in the wild catch their prey by running it down. They are long distance runners, not sprinters.
    Cats creep up on their prey and catch it by surprise. They are sprinters, not distance runners.

  8. Cats cannot be fasted and should not be dieted down too quickly. Cats don’t efficiently burn fat reserves as an energy source. Instead, without food, their bodies break down non-fatty tissues for energy. This can lead to a life-threatening liver condition called hepatic lipidosis.
    Dogs are much better at using their fat reserves and can tolerate a lack of food for much longer than cats.
  1. Cats have retractable claws that stay sharp because they are protected inside the toes.
    Dogs claws are always extended and become blunt from constant contact with the ground when they walk.

 

  1. Cats can remember up to 16 hours.
    A dog’s memory is only about five minutes long.

Say Cheese!

You clearly recognize the importance and benefits of having a mouth full of healthy teeth and gums. Did you know a lack of regular and attentive care to your cat’s teeth can result in serious health implications? Prevention is the key. Studies show that cats with poor oral health also have a higher risk of heart, kidney and liver problems, which can lead to an early death.

 

People often underestimate the steps that need to be taken with their cat’s teeth in order to maintain good health. To ensure that oral health problems do not interfere with your cat’s quality of life, cats should have their teeth brushed on a regular basis.  Don’t assume that you will know when your cat’s teeth are hurting him or her. Cats will continue to eat even if they have tooth pain simply due to hunger. If you are stressed about the process or are concerned about whether you are brushing your cat’s teeth properly, ask one of our Healthy Pet Care specialists at your neighborhood
Global Pet Foods store to demonstrate the proper technique for daily brushing.

 

Signs and symptoms of Dental Diseases:

 

Please also note the following:

  1. Dental care is critical for your cat’s health. If you are not able to brush your cat’s teeth, there are other options when you’re in between vet visits. Consider using oral rinses made especially for cats. You’ll find a wide variety of oral care products for cats at Global Pet Foods stores.
  2. Never use human toothpaste because the foaming agents can pose health risks to cats.
  3. Do not give your cat any type of candy, ever!
  4. While many brands of dry cat food incorporate dental benefits, giving your cat special dental treats formulated to reduce tartar, plaque build-up and stains is another option to help prevent oral health problems.
  5. Contact your veterinarian if you note changes in your cat’s behaviour or health. The following usually indicates an issue that must be addressed by a professional: your cat stops eating, they have bad breath, their gums are inflamed, or their teeth are visibily demaged or they’ve lost a tooth (or teeth). Failure to obtain professional care for dental problems can result in serious health problems.

 

SLURP’N’FRESH:

From toothbrushes to rinses. Slurp N’ Fresh, a dental care product, is made in Canada. Slurp N’ Fresh uses a unique blend of natural plant extracts to eliminated odour causing compounds in the mouth which cause bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease. This all-natural product will eliminate bad breath, reduce plaque & tartar, and protect your cat’s natural oral environment. Clear, unscented, with NO alcohol, artificial flavors, coloring, dyes, or harmful chemicals. Economical to use each time you change your cat’s water.

 

Looking after your cat’s teeth and gums is one key factor in keeping them healthy and happy for many years. You’ll find a wide variety of new and improved dental products for cat in your neighbourhood Global Pet Foods store. Let our Healthy Pet Care Specialists help you improve and maintain your cat’s dental health. We want to see your cat smile!

Think Outside the Litterbox

For those of you who have recently adopted a kitten or a cat, among the list of items to buy is a litter box and cat litter.  Our Healthy Pet Care Specialists can assist you with choosing a litter that is the best option – one that does the best job in reducing the “litter box odour” in your home.

 

There are many litter options for cats and we urge you not to pick the cheapest option, but look for the best option.  Cheaper in many cases does not mean better – you need to choose a litter that works and that your cat likes.  Quite frankly, your cat will be the one who will determine which litter will be used and if you have a finicky cat, you may have to try a couple of different options before you find the one!

 

Cat litter comes in various textures and scents.  There are a number of different varieties of litter that are available on the market and you’ll find a good brand assortment at Global Pet Foods stores across Canada.

 

Clay:  When we opened our first store over 35 years ago, the only available litter was clay based.  Clay litter is typically the cheapest type of litter available.  There’s no question that cats like the texture of clay.  It’s absorbent, they can dig in it, they can bury their droppings, and the clean-up is easy.  Some people may not like using clay litter because they find some brands dusty and irritating.  It produces a lot of waste, and clay does not decompose which means it’s not environmentally-friendly.

 

Over the past number of years, companies have provided other litter options that are more environmentally healthy.  You can purchase a premium clumping cat litter that is 100% natural, biological, organic and holistic, and is 100% chemical free.  These companies have also found a way to ensure the litter stays odour free for a lot longer than the non-premium litters.

 

Silica: Litter made up of silica crystals is a low-maintenance solution because the bag usually lasts one month (based on one cat using it). The silica pellets will absorb the urine and the pellets change color when they’ve absorbed all that they can and then turn yellow.  This makes it easy to know when you have to change the litter.  The heavy silica crystals will stay in the box although some cats don’t like the larger pieces or the texture, as it is harder for them to dig in.

 

Natural and Biodegradable Litters – Pine, Corn, Wheat or Walnut: These litters are considered more natural than clay. They’re usually non-toxic, they decompose naturally ie. biodegradable, some are flushable (depends on your sewage system), they’re quite absorbent, and they provide great odour control, many better than clay litters. While the natural litters are generally more expensive than clay, they are worth their value since they tend to last much longer due to their absorbency. For those who are contemplating switching to an alternative litter, most cats will transition fairly easily to an alternative litter such as pine, corn or wheat.

 

Newspaper based Litter: Recycled newsprint litter is a great eco-friendly litter. This type of litter is made up of pellets of recycled newspaper. The pellets are larger, so it won’t stick to your cat’s feet and end up all over the place. Newsprint litter works like sponges to absorb urine odors, and a scoop with larger holes will let you remove waste easily. Unfortunately, the size of the litter makes it a more difficult transition from clay, but if you take your time, your cat will likely adjust to it.

 

When choosing a litter for a kitten, we recommend that you select a basic, unscented kind.  Some kittens dislike scented litters and may refuse to use them.

 

Litter pans come in many shapes, sizes, and materials. When selecting one for your kitten, look for one that is:

 

 

 

 

NOTE: If you’re thinking about transitioning to a different litter, ie. one that’s more eco-friendly, you may have to make the transition slowly. Start with the old litter mixed with some of the new litter. Gradually increase the amount of the new litter over the next couple of weeks until you’re only using the new litter.

 

More Litter Box Tips:

 

And finally, if your cat is avoiding the litter box or you find that they’re urinating outside of the litter box, this can be a sign that your cat is stressed (for example, there’s a new cat in the house, too many cats in the house, recent vacation, etc.) or that there’s a physical problem such as a bladder infection or something more serious, i.e. FUS (feline urological syndrome).  If this happens for more than a few days, we recommend that you schedule an appointment with a licensed veterinarian to rule out any medical concerns.

Avoiding Urinary Stones

When I was a kid we had a cat with urinary crystals. I didn’t know it, but that was why he peed in our bathtub all the time. I just thought the poor thing had become senile. As my mind turns to spring cleaning, I remember old Boo Boo Kitty and the regular mess he made for my Mom. I’m sure other pet owners have similar stories, so let’s talk about this a bit.

 

One of our customers recently told us how her dog’s urinary crystal issue cleared up after transitioning to Carna4. Delighted with the results, she wanted to know exactly what urine pH level Carna4 produced.

 

The answer is not a definitive number but speaks more to the holistic way an animal’s body functions. A pH level is defined as the concentration of hydrogen ions in solution, which determines the measure of acidity or alkalinity of that solution. A low pH (under 7) is acidic, and a high pH (over 7) is considered alkaline.

 

A healthy urine pH for a dog is a slightly acidic range of  5.5 – 7 , and for cats a healthy pH level is within 6.0-6.4  But here is the rub: there are two main types of crystals, one forms in a more acid pH and the other forms in more alkaline. It has been shown that the potential for struvite crystal formation is reduced if urine pH is lower than 6.6 whereas calcium oxalate crystal formation is less likely to occur at a higher urinary pH. Urine acidification together with a low magnesium intake increases the risk of calcium oxalate formation in domestic cats but decreases the chance of struvites.

So what do we do?

 

First understand that urine pH is influenced by multiple factors and is the sum of all the body’s metabolic processes, from digestion to elimination, each working together to determine the acidity or alkalinity of the waste product.  The body does not have one single pH level, however. Instead, different systems within the body maintain ideal pH levels for what is needed for those functions. For example, the pH of the mucous membrane in the mouth will be different than the pH of the blood.  Body systems are designed to function at ideal levels of acidity or alkalinity, and when the pH is off in one area it is often struggling in another. Urine pH is a handy measure for assessing whether the uro-genital and digestive systems are functioning at an acid/alkaline level conducive to discouraging crystal formation. It is important to note that struvite crystals are present in many, many animals without causing any problem at all.  It is only when a urinary tract infection is present, causing those struvites to become urolithic crystals that the dog or cat suffers. It is actually the presence of a UTI + struvite cystals that  precipitates the presence of these painful bladder stones.

 

Diet is the key to prevention, and not just the low-protein diet you may have heard about. While low-protein will help resolve a stones issue in the short term, it is NOT a long-term solution, and can in fact backfire by robbing the body of important protein needed to repair the immune system! Preventing a UTI, or any infection for that matter, by following a healthy whole foods diet is actually the way to preventing stones because certain ingredients have a big impact on the pH.  A diet containing a lot of highly processed ingredients such as meat or vegetable meals and additives such as lactose, sucrose or fructose elevates and creates an unbalanced concentration of calcium in an animal’s urine.  Too much magnesium will do that too, as well as a low level or poor source of phosphorus, which also raises the calcium concentration – creating oxalate crystals and potentially kidney stones. Vitamin imbalances and formulation errors that can occur with synthetic premixes or sub-standard ingredients, can also wreak havoc. A diet too low or too high in Vitamin D can increase urine calcium – leading to crystals or urinary disease over time. Similarly, a Vitamin B6 deficiency can increase blood oxalate levels and also form crystals.

 

Although the ingredients in your animal’s food are key, the pH resulting from dietary choices is still very important for overall health. In practical terms, meats, fats and sugars creates acidic ash, whereas plant foods and whole grains create alkaline, neutralizing ash. Animals need mostly meat to be healthy, but an over-acidic pH body environment can cause inflammation and allow diseases to thrive. We know that cancer cells require an acidic environment, so a more over-all neutral to alkaline body system encouraged by a balanced whole food diet will help deter this scourge.

 

In the end, knowing specific urine pH levels are less important than knowing how to feed your animal properly with whole, minimally processed foods with no synthetics because bladder health is the result of a variety of the dietary factors explained above. Keeping the whole animal in a healthy state so as to avoid infection is the top strategy for avoiding crystals. Check out the new Carna4 Cat Food containing only well-selected whole foods required to maintain naturally good health in every cat so none of them end up wanting to pee in the bathtub!