General Question

jca's avatar

What are some ways to help prevent bladder problems in cats without paying for ridiculously expensive specialty cat food?

Asked by jca (35976points) May 14th, 2014

My female cat had to have surgery on two separate occasions for bladder stones. I bought special prescription cat food (Hill’s Prescription Diet 6238 c/d Multicare formula) 24 cans for about $40 from the vet. I just googled prices and that’s actually pretty cheap, even compared to Amazon.

I also checked prices of the hard food and it’s about $60 for 8 lbs. That’s totally nuts, considering regular hard cat food (even “the good stuff”) can be had for about $13–15 for 8 lbs. So it’s four times the price to get the specialty stuff. That’s a big difference. For that price, the cat could eat steak and I would have no problem giving her steak if it were equally effective at keeping the bladder stones at bay.

Yes, if the only way to prevent bladder issues is to buy the specialty stuff, of course I will do it. My cats all get taken to the vet and they live and eat well, so they’re not neglected in any way. I am just curious if there is a cheaper way.

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17 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

This is probably not very helpful but I use the equally expensive Hill’s Rx dry food for tartar control for Milo, mixed with about ¼ Felidae (also not cheap.) I just bite the bullet.

Sending this to @syz and @tinyfaery.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I’m looking forward to the vets’ advice… mine is not at all expert, and may be shouted down. However, when I had cats several years ago, I remember Hill’s going rather quickly from the brand all vets loved to the brand all vets hated. My last vet advised against any cat food with too high a proportion of corn, and said it would be helpful to feed them raw chopped liver occasionally – which is much cheaper than steak, if you’re looking for “real meat” options. I kept it diced in a bag in the freezer, so it was easy to handle and not smelly.

Coloma's avatar

Just like humans some animals are more prone to particular issues. I had a male cat years ago that lived to be almost 16 and had to be on one pill a day of Uricept at the time ( this was in the 80’s & 90’s, maybe another medication now.) Stress can be a factor, as well as diet, exercise level. I have never had a female cat with bladder issues, males seem to be more common, getting crystals in their urine and blockages.

Is your cat happy, does she get enough exercise, does she drink enough water, or…do you feed her a dry diet only?
Many factors can factor in.

Buttonstc's avatar

Lisa Pierson, DVM has written quite a bit about helping cats with this condition as well as other illnesses. Her site is:

She is very critical of the harm done by dry cat food and goes into specifics. Obviously her take on things is rather controversial but she has successfully rehabilitated numerous severely ill cats whose owners had given up.

There is a plethora of info on her site and you can make up your own mind as to whether her points are valid.

Even if you don’t decide to go for her approach totally, she does give lots of specifics on how to construct a healthy diet for cats. She is a fully licensed and trained Veterinarian so at least you know the info isn’t from some wild eyed Internet crank. At least spend some time reading the info on her site before you decide.

jca's avatar

@Coloma: These cats get hard and soft food. For the soft, I was feeding them whatever was in stores that is low in ash content, since I heard that’s what can cause urinary and bladder issues. Apparently for this one cat, that wasn’t enough.

jca's avatar

@Buttonstc: I took a glance at the site. It looks interesting. I’m going to look at it more later on today.

wildpotato's avatar

First of all, Hill’s is not good quality food. I would not feed it long term unless there are no other options.

My kitty boy nearly died from FLUTD and I relied heavily on the site for help.

Get a cat fountain. Like many animals, cats are averse to standing water and prefer flowing water. This is why many cats love dripped water from faucets. I have the Petmate FreshFlow – it’s inexpensive, easy to take apart and clean, and the replacement filters are cheap.

The ash content thing – whether it matters is apparently debatable, as are the arguments that too much protein can cause urinary issues. I eventually just decided to feed a high quality no-grain food. I use Merrick’s Purrfect Bistro because it’s (relatively) inexpensive. (We switched recently from Nature’s Variety Instinct because in the middle of the bag my boy started vomiting a lot. So I don’t recommend this food. After the switch – which was to more cost effective food anyway – he is fine again).

syz's avatar

If your cat has had two cystotomies, she has a genetic/metabolic condition that will likely affect her throughout her lifetime.

The most effective prophylactic for stones is a prescription diet. Yes, they are ridiculously expensive, but the food companies have us over a barrel. If it makes you feel any better, try comparing the price of the food with the cost of surgery and hospitalization.

Coloma's avatar

@wildpotato Yes, I feed grain free too, and canned once a day. Zero issues for both, a female and male, ages 5 & 8.

jca's avatar

@syz: Yes, definitely true! The surgeries have been expensive. She’s 10 now. Her last surgery with the food and the vet stay was a little less than $1400. Her previous surgery was in 2007 and I don’t know what the cost was (the bill is filed in one of my files).

I realize that the cost of the food is small compared to the surgery, but it still kills me to spend $60 on 24 small cans of food or a bunch of money (not sure what yet) on hard food. IF there’s an alternative way to do it for less, I’m interested. If, for example, “people food” could be had with equal results, definitely people food is cheaper.

If she has this condition act up again, in a few years she probably wouldn’t be eligible for surgery since she’ll be old by then.

I’m going to check the catinfo site asap. I’m also going to look into a pet fountain.

Coloma's avatar

@jca Ask @syz or your vet, but you might be able to put her on some sort of raw or poultry diet, but, as always, pick your poison. Spend the extra cash or spend the extra time to prepare a fresh diet.

Mariah's avatar

I’ve heard that using one of these things can get your cat to drink a lot more water. If you’ve ever had your cat try to drink out of your faucet then you know why – they love moving water, I don’t know if it’s just a fascination or maybe it’s easier for them to drink it as it pours down than when it’s stagnant in a bowl. Increasing water intake can help prevent things like stones…I don’t know if it’s really enough on its own, but it won’t hurt.

tinyfaery's avatar

Can’t add anything else. My baby boy died from a blocked urinary tract. Spent 2 grand to unblock and then it happened again. Boo.

hearkat's avatar

When I was growing up, we always fed our cats dry grocery store food and standing water, and all our cats lived well into their late teens or even early twenties. Only one had a UTI once – they blamed the litter we were using (this was before the clumping kind was developed). I’ve often wondered what has changed, because it seems to me that more cats have more health problems these days, and I’ve suspected the food.

We do have a cat fountain now, and I let them drink from the faucet if they want. We still only give dry food, but get the grain-free Blue Buffalo Wilderness formula for indoor cats. I also give them cat grass and they eat the grass and catnip growing in the yard. Canned is given as a treat on occasion, but the older cat doesn’t even like it much. She is 9 and he is 3. She’s getting a thyroid pill daily, but it doesn’t seem to have improved her weight. He’s never had any health issues, although they both supposedly have heart murmurs. However, he’s only the second male cat I’ve lived with—does it make a difference whether it not they’ve been neutered?

rojo's avatar

The timing of this question was fortuitous. I just took my cat in for what my vet (actually my cats vet) described as a “Bad UTI”. She made no food modification suggestions, in fact did not even ask what was being provided. She just said give her (my cat) this medicine, Clavamox, twice a day until it is gone.

Buttonstc's avatar


As Coloma mentioned (and you wondered about) it is entirely possible to construct a healthy diet for cats using primarily raw “people food”.

That’s what Dr. Pierson advocates (and what she feeds all of the cats in her household) since it’s the closest to a natural prey diet which cats in the wild eat.

Obviously it’s more labor intensive for you but it’s definitely less expensive than costly canned prescription foods.

Personally, I wouldn’t do it without observing ALL of her very specific guidelines in order to prevent nutritional deficiencies. But all of the info is there on her site.

She also gives instructions on how to transition reluctant cats to switch over to the raw diet. Some cats take to it right away and others are more addicted to their commercial dry kibble.

As we all know, every cat is different. Feeding a raw natural prey diet takes a lot of initial research and is more labor intensive but many many cat owners have reported wonderful results and find an organized system which works for them. They wouldn’t go back to commercial food.

There are numerous ways to construct this type of diet and she describes all of them in sufficient detail so that you don’t have to worry about deficiencies as long as you adhere to her guidelines.

It’s definitely a viable alternative to the monstrously expensive prescription diets. Whether it’s workable for you is something that only you can determine. But if you decide to go for it, you’ll definitely have healthier cats (and likely happier ones also.)

syz's avatar

@rojo It sounds as if, rather than crystals or stones, the vet saw bacteria on the urinalysis.

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