Cat food help/Urine issues

by Rachel

My husband and I live in a small town in Wyoming. This creates challenges on finding a local food that is good for the seven cats.

We have cats ranging in age 1-11 years old We have had lots of problems with hairballs. We were feeding them a food called "Exclusive".

We check labels and try to avoid food with fillers. We also look for the AAFCO approval. The cats did well with this but then began vomiting a large amount of food after we had been with this food for almost a year.

We gradually switched to a food called Wellness complete. This has caused very foul smelling litter boxes and the vomiting continues.

I want them to have a food that will allow us to live in the house without being overrun by litter box smell. I also don't want them to vomit due to the food.

I worry about my kids getting poor nutrition. I don't care about the cost of the food. I have noted a greater output in the litter boxes and this concerns me that they are not getting good nutrition from this food.

My second concern is how to find out which cat has developed litter box problems. I think it may be our youngest one but I can't tell. We have had urinating outside of the litter boxes.

We have seven boxes and seven cats. Someone is using the corners of the living room and the corner of one of the bedrooms. We have removed the carpeting and painted the floors. When the carpeting left, the wetting stopped. We have started laying down hard wood flooring and the wetting started again.

I took our oldest girl to the vet because she had started to act lazy and have dandruff. The vet said she had an alkaline urine so we treated her and she is better. I don't think she is the culprit.

If you have a suggestion how to find this out, I would appreciate it. Three of our cats do not travel well and the seven miles to the vet really causes them stress. We usually have the vet come to the house to do physicals.

I can run a urninalysis on the cats but I don't know what I would be looking for and how to collect it. Any help would be great. My husband is very frustrated and I keep telling him that we probably have a medical problem. I just don't know how to figure it out.

Thanks for reading this long email. Any help would be great.

Hi, Rachel,

Your first question is very easy to answer, at least in my opinion. There have been and are so many different types of food on the market, each one claiming to be better than the others.

Marketing is an amazing phenomena. It always intrigues me and often frustrates me that people buy products based on commercials or ads or words on a label that sound healthy.

I never realized how impressionable we are or how much advertisements influence us until my youngest son started to insist he knew what I should buy based on the tv commercials he had seen.

The thinking about feline nutrition has changed dramatically over the last few years. While dry food used to the main food fed to cats and in many households still is, we know now that canned food is much better for cats due to the higher moisture content. It also tends to be lower in carbohydrates which is very important for cats who are obligate carnivores. Not every flavor of every brand of canned food is low enough in carbs. There is a chart at that will give you the carbohydrate percentage of many cat foods.

It is also recommended that you stay away from beef and fish flavors. Cats are more likely to develop allergies to these and food allergy could certainly be a cause of vomiting.

Fresh water at least twice daily is also very important for cats. Pet water fountains are ideal. Most cats drink more when you provide them with fountains.

I would also suggest that all cats be dewormed with a dewormer from your vet that includes medication against stomach worms.

In addition, the best weapon against hairballs is the FURminator. If you use it regularly on all cats, you can practically eliminate hairballs in your cat household.

Regarding your second question, you are absolutely correct that you must find out if there is a medical issue before you can assume it's all behavioral.

For that you need a urine sample either from every cat or from the one that is urinating outside the box. Your vet can give you a type of litter that doesn't absorb urine. One by one, you need to isolate each cat in a small room (bathroom, powder room, etc.) They have to stay in that space with their litter and food and water until they urinate. You can fill their litter boxes with the special litter from the vet or with dry beans or aquarium gravel (rinse well first to get rid of all the dust) If left in the room with that as the only choice, most cats will eventually urinate in the box.

After they urinate, save the urine in the refrigerator until you can get it to the vet (get it there within 24 hours if possible).

An alternative is to get fluorescein capsules from your vet. You would give one to each cat, one at a time. The cat who has ingested the fluorescein will have urine that fluoresces more under a black light than does normal urine. When you find the fluorescent urine outside the box and know who you just gave the capsule to, you will know who is urinating in that area.

Meanwhile, there are a number of things you can be doing around the house at the same time to decrease any environmental causes of the inappropriate urination. You will find these suggestions under the sections, CAT ELIMINATION PROBLEMS, LITTER BOX PROBLEMS, CAT BEHAVIORS, OR CAT URINARY HEALTH.

That's it in a nutshell. If you have further questions along the way, don't hesitate to write again.

Good luck,
Dr. Neely

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