Urinary Crystals in Male Cats

The Chat

A few months ago, my co-worker and I were talking about our cats. Like me, she’s a cat lover and we often exchange stories about our babies. So when she told me that one of her cats, her altered male, Simon, seemed to be having trouble urinating, I wanted to help. I once had a neutered male cat with symptoms very similar to what she’d been describing. She said Simon went to the litter box, scratched around and squatted, but didn’t urinate, or only urinated a tiny bit. If he did manage to pee, he’d cry and then lick himself very carefully. My cat, Tony, (who died quite a few years ago) did basically the same thing. It turned out he had an anal gland infection and after treatment with antibiotics, it cleared up and he was fine. But, the more my co-worker told me about Simon, the more I realized that his symptoms really didn’t sound the same. Tony had a discharge while Simon didn’t. I asked my friend if she’d been feeding Simon anything different. I thought that maybe she’d switched food which might have caused an intestinal blockage or something.

The Problem

My friend said she’d been giving both of her cats, a brother and sister, the same high-quality dry food for years. She said if he didn’t get better by the next day, she’d take him to the vet. Then I had another thought. I’d read that male cats can get urinary problems much easier than female cats. Perhaps there was something that both cats were eating, but it was only affecting Simon. She thought for a minute, and then said she’d been giving both cats Glaceau Smart Water. I knew right away that this particular water had added minerals, like many of the other vitamin waters around. While these supplemented waters are great for humans, they are not meant for animals.

The Diagnosis


I made the suggestion that she stop giving her cats this water and use plain tap water or even regular bottled water. She was upset that she might have done something that had caused her beloved pet to suffer and said she’d stop the Smart Water right away. Unfortunately, the damage was apparently done and Simon didn’t get better. My friend took him to the vet for tests. The vet agreed that giving additional electrolytes to a cat could have thrown his system out of balance. A urinalysis showed no bacteria, but the vet determined that poor Simon had crystals in his urine.

Male cats are more susceptible to getting crystals and according to the ingredients of Smart Water, it contains ‘vapor distilled water and electrolytes-calcium chloride, magnesium chloride and potassium bicarbonate’. The conclusion for Simon’s treatment was to keep him on plain water and take him off dry cat food, using wet canned food instead. The extra moisture in the canned food would help flush out the crystals and prevent new crystals from forming.

Male Cats

I did a little research on the Internet because I couldn’t remember why male cats were more susceptible than females to getting urinary tract infections and found that females have larger urethras than males. So if small crystals form in a female, they can pass out more easily than in a male. Once a blockage occurs in a male cat, kidney failure can happen within a couple of days. That’s why it’s critical to see a vet right away as soon as the first symptoms appear. Luckily for my co-worker, she got treatment in time. The vet also prescribed antibiotics just to make sure Simon also didn’t get an infection.

A Happy Ending

It took a couple days for Simon to get back to normal, but he did. Even though this was an awful experience for my friend, Simon’s illness reinforced the importance of remembering that animals, especially cats, have special requirements and their diet needs the correct balance. While an occasional treat or morsel of ‘people food’ probably won’t hurt, pets generally should only be given specific food made for them. And, since male cats have narrow urethras, they should be offered wet food in addition to dry, and always have plenty of clean water available.

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6 Responses

  1. Daniel
    | Reply

    That was a great read and glad to read that Simon is ok now. I have a male cat and never knew about how they had smaller urethras than females. Learn something new about cats all the time.

  2. Rona
    | Reply

    I have a male that has had crystals more than once – the first time we weren’t in a posiion to feed the more expensive (canned Hill’s k/d) food on a permanent basis. It’s $50 for a case of 24 cans! Since the 2nd incidence (which was 10 days long and VERY expensive!) we have kept him on his special diet **quite a trick when you have 3 other cats** and now more than 2 years later George is still doing well. His brother Peanut, oddly enough, has never had a problem, and typically eats dry Performatrin and more recently some canned Friskies (he’s gained weight since the daily dose of wet food) Never any problems with my two girls, either. (All 4 had been fixed before coming home with me.) This last checkup, the vet just recommended switching George to Medi-cal which targets pH levels; no news yet as am finishing up the last case of Hill’s.

    When George had his crystals flare up, he gave such gutteral groaning meows that were just soul-wrenching, almost like they popped out of him without him knowing he was about to meow. It was very obvious when he’d become “backed up”. [Hard to monitor litter box activity when 4 cats share them.] He had the highest kidney counts my vet had ever seen. The operation to essentially make him a girl was almost decided on as a last resort after he’d been there for over a week; I guess he didn’t like that kind of talk, as his counts dropped almost to normal between day 9 & 10!!

    Simon was lucky to have only needed a couple days to get back to normal! George had a catheter, an IV in his shaved front paw, a cone to stop the licking… poor lil guy. If you have suspiscions, also feel the bladder: if it’s consistently full, that’s an initial clue, too. I still check George’s bladder regularly. I hope you don’t have to go through this with your kitty!!

  3. Kay
    | Reply

    My son has a 3 year old male cat named sneezy whom I just adore. He had a complete blocked ureter and was hospitalized for 3 days. It was very traumatizing for the cat and for us. It was a very costly experience since it happened on July 4 and our regular vet was not available. We paid a total of 807.35 for sneezy that weekend. I have tried everything from changing his food to giving him more things to drink, and he keeps having a recuring problem. What am I going to do, we both love the cat dearly and cannot part with him. Any suggestions?

  4. Joline
    | Reply

    This past week my poor Kitty had to be put down because of the crystals. We live in a small town where the closest vet is 4 hours away. We are looking into getting my son a new kitty but don’t know if male or female would be better. Also does it make the crystals show up more so in fixed males or not??? Does anyone know??? Thanks.

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    | Reply

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