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.
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.
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.
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.