Feline Urine Crystals

Feline urine crystals are a fine, sandy substance that may develop in your cat's bladder. Cats may develop urine crystals when the have a urinary tract infection, or they may develop these crystals independently of any infection. Crystals in the urine irritate the cat's bladder and can lead to bladder stones or to a condition known as feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD. In some cases, urine crystals can lead to a life threatening blockage of the urinary tract.

Causes of Feline Urine Crystals

Feline urine crystals may develop due to a number of factors. Infection by bacteria or viruses can cause crystals to form in the urine. Injury to the bladder or congenital deformities of the bladder can make urine crystal development more likely. Bladder stones, kidney stones and tumors of the urinary tract can contribute to the development of crystals in your cat's urine.

Some risk factors for the development of feline urine crystals include:

  • Too much magnesium in the diet
  • Chronic, low level dehydration as a result of inadequate water consumption
  • Stress due to illness or environmental factors
  • Imbalances in urinary pH levels

Feline Urine Crystals and Urinary Tract Stones

If your cat develops crystals in his urine, he's at risk for bladder and kidney stones. These stones develop when crystals in the urine clump together to form larger masses. Bladder and kidney stones can cause your cat a lot of pain. They can make urination difficult and they can cause inappropriate urination outside the litter box.

Bladder and kidney stones can cause blockages in the urinary tract if they become large enough. Male cats are especially prone to urinary blockages because their urethras are much narrower than those of female cats. If your cat suffers a urinary blockage, he could die.

Consequences of Feline Urine Crystals

Feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD, often develops as a result of feline urine crystals. FLUTD may cause your cat to experience painful urination. He could strain to urinate and may urinate outside the box. Blood could appear in his urine. Cats with FLUTD may appear lethargic and depressed, and they may vomit from the pain associated with their condition.

If left untreated, FLUTD can be life threatening.

Another serious consequence of feline urine crystals is urinary tract blockage. Blockage of the urethra occurs most often in male cats with urine crystals, but female cats are at risk as well. If your cat's urinary tract becomes blocked, he'll be unable to urinate. With emergency treatment, his bladder could rupture and he could die.

Diagnosing and Treating Feline Urine Crystals

If your cat is showing symptoms of painful urination, he could have crystals in his urine. Even when urinary tract stones or FLUTD aren't present, crystals can still irritate the bladder. If your cat has urine crystals, your vet can diagnose them with a urinalysis.

If your cat has a urinary tract infection, he may need antibiotics. In most cases, antibiotics and dietary changes can eliminate urine crystals and help to reverse FLUTD. If your cat has large bladder or kidney stones, or a urinary tract blockage, he could need surgery.