Feeding A Cat With Feline Idiopathic Cystitis

Seal point Siamese on grassFeline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC) is a common cause of lower urinary tract disease in cats.  Young to middle-aged cats are particularly prone to this condition.  It is usually caused by an abnormal response to stress.  Click here for more information on the signs and diagnosis of this condition.

There are three main parts of managing this distressing condition:

Wet or dry?

Increasing water intake is a key part of managing FIC.  Wet food has about 80% moisture content, compared with around 7% for dry food.  Therefore it is best to feed wet food to a cat prone to cystitis.

Weight loss

Hills Prescription Diet Metabolic + UrinaryOverweight cats are more prone to episodes of cystitis so weight loss is a key part of managing this condition.  Simply reducing your cat’s food intake is not usually advised.  A commercial diet designed for weight loss with low calories but added essential nutrients is important to prevent any deficiencies and ensure that the weight loss is controlled and sustainable.

A good diet to feed your overweight cat with FIC is Hills Metabolic + Urinary diet.  This diet is formulated for safe weight loss in the home environment, as well as providing the urinary benefits which will be discussed below.

For cats who are only slightly overweight, or are a good weight but prone to gaining, Hills c/d Reduced Calorie, Specific FCD-L or Royal Canin Urinary SO Moderate Calorie may be more appropriate.


Hills c/d Urinary StressAdding some ingredients to the food which reduce stress has been shown to improve cystitis signs and quality of life for cats.  These ingredients are L-tryptophan and a milk protein hydrolysate.  These ingredients can be found in Hills c/d Urinary Stress (which can be combined with Reduced Calorie or Metabolic – see above), or can be added to another diet separately.

Milk protein hydrolysate is the ingredient in Zylkene.

L-tryptophan is found in:

Urinary diets

Cat in hospital cage eatingUrinary diets are generally formulated to reduce mineral content of the urine, reducing the risk of crystals and stones which can cause bladder irritation and blockages.  They are also designed to reduce the concentration of the urine.  Some do this by increasing the salt content of the diet to encourage more drinking, but this can have effects on the kidneys and is not ideal for long-term use, or for cats prone to, or suffering from, kidney disease.  Some are also supplemented with essential fatty acids, antioxidants and glucosamine which can all have a beneficial effect on bladder health.

Low to moderate salt urinary diets
  • Hills Prescription Diet c/d
  • Specific Crystal Management
  • Eukanuba Urinary
High salt urinary diets
  • Royal Canin Urinary SO
  • Purina ProPlan UR Urinary
  • Virbac HPM Urology

Other supplements

Assorted tabletsThere are various other supplements available which claim to have a benefit on bladder health, however many of these (including Chinese herbs, cranberry juice and other home remedies) have no evidence of any benefit whatsoever.

One supplement which has a good theory behind a benefit – although studies proving this in real life are lacking – are glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), including glucosamine.  GAGs are special sugars which form part of the lining of the bladder.  This layer has been shown to be defective in cats with FIC.

Supplements containing GAGs include:


Cat sitting in kitchen dishIn conclusion, the most clear benefit has been shown with moist food, weight loss, stress reduction and a diet formulated to reduce crystals.  The simplest way of doing this would be to use Hills Prescription Diet Urinary Stress c/d pouches combined with Metabolic for overweight cats, or Reduced Calorie for those prone to gaining weight.

If your cat doesn’t like this diet, you could consider trying one of the other urinary diets listed above, and supplementing with Zylkene and one of the L-tryptophan-containing supplements.

If your cat flatly refuses to eat any of the special urinary diets after much persevering, feeding a standard wet food is better than feeding dry food and these supplements can then be added if tolerated.

Related pages

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

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Encouraging Your Cat To Drink

Pet Anxiety Awareness Month

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