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Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is a disease syndrome of cats characterized by the formation of crystals (most commonly struvite crystals) within the urinary bladder. Struvite crystals are normally found in urine and have no significance on their own. Problems occur when these crystals combine with mucus and form a urinary plug that can cause a blockage in a male cat's urinary tract or when the crystals bind together to form bladder stones. We now know that multiple factors lead to struvite crystal formation including the pH of the urine, the amount of magnesium and phosphorus excreted in the urine, the length of time urine stays in the bladder before the cat urinates, and the concentration of the urine.


  • Straining to urinate
  • Bloody urine
  • Urinating in inappropriate locations
  • Urinating small amounts frequently

If a cat is prone to this disorder, it will usually show some signs of the disease when it reaches 3 years of age, although urinary tract blockage can occur at almost any age. Both male and female cats are at risk of developing FLUTD; however, males have a greater likelihood of developing an obstruction simply because the male urethra is narrower than that of the female and can become plugged with crystals more easily.


The formation of urinary crystals is a treatable and avoidable disease. Sadly, many owners give up on their pets before finding out how easily it can be treated. Most veterinary researchers agree that diet plays the foremost role in the creation and in the treatment and prevention of this disease syndrome. Dry diets are the major culprits in promoting FLUTD in cats as well as feeding patterns.

Dietary Changes:

Eating canned food can help cats with the formation of crystals. The reason this works is because the primary ingredient in canned food is water which helps make urine more dilute–a dilute urine means a lower crystal concentration. So feeding canned food is a simple and effective way to increase a cat's water consumption. It is also important to find a cat food which has a balanced level of the minerals that make up the crystals such as magnesium and phosphorous. In addition to being formulated to produce an acid urine, they are also formulated to produce more dilute urine, so crystals are less likely to form. By eating small meals throughout the day, the urine pH will stay more acidic.

Increased Water Consumption:

An important influence on the development of urinary crystals and stones is the consumption of water. Cats that are well-hydrated produce dilute urine, which is less irritating and "washes away" inflammation from the bladder wall. Also, since there is more urine, the cat will urinate more frequently, and the urine will be present in the bladder for a shorter period of time. This also decreases the chance of crystal and stone formation. Provide fresh, clean water at all times, and preferably in several areas around the house. With these increased urinations comes the responsibility of cleaning the litterbox on a regular basis. Many cats refuse to urinate in a dirty litterbox, a practice that encourages urine retention and FLUTD.

For more information about struvite crystals:

The contents of this page are provided for general informational purposes only. Under no circumstances should this page be substituted for professional consultation with a veterinarian.

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