Cat Kidney Stones: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Solutions

cat kidney stones

When it comes to our beloved feline companions, their health is paramount. One health issue that often remains under the radar is cat kidney stones. Although common, this condition can pose significant discomfort and potentially life-threatening to your pet. What causes these stones to form in a cat’s kidney? How can you spot the telltale signs, and more importantly, what can be done to treat and prevent them?

Dive into this article, where we unravel the mysteries surrounding cat kidney stones and arm you with the knowledge to safeguard your furry friend’s health.

Causes of kidney stones in cats

When a feline friend begins to exhibit common signs of discomfort or pain, as pet owners, our immediate instinct is to understand the root cause to provide the best possible care. One such condition that has perplexed many is kidney stones in cats. But what triggers the formation of these often painful stones in female cats?

Dietary Factors:

One of the primary culprits behind the formation of kidney stones in cats is their diet. Cats that consume a low-moisture diet, primarily dry kibble, are often more susceptible. These diets may lead to more concentrated urine, increasing the risk of stone formation.

Urinary Tract Infections:

Bacterial infections in the urinary tract can change the urine pH balance of a cat. Altered pH levels can create an environment where certain stones, like struvite stones, can thrive.

Genetic Predisposition:

As humans may be genetically predisposed to certain health conditions, so are cats. Some feline breeds may have a higher genetic likelihood of developing kidney stones than others.

Metabolic Disorders:

Certain metabolic disorders can alter the composition of a cat’s urine, making it more conducive to forming urinary stones. Conditions like hypercalcemia, with an elevated calcium level in the blood, can contribute to calcium stone formation.

Environmental Factors:

Dehydration is another significant factor. Cats that don’t drink enough water – whether due to a lack of fresh water availability, or personal preference – will produce more concentrated urine, amplifying the risk of stones.

In conclusion, while kidney stones in cats can arise from various sources, understanding these root causes is the first step towards proactive prevention and timely treatment. Awareness of your cat’s diet, constant access to fresh water, and regular vet check-ups can ensure their renal health remains in top shape.

Causes of bladder stones in cats

small animal medicine

Oxalate bladder stones, or uroliths, are hardened, rock-like formations that develop in a cat’s bladder, causing discomfort and potentially severe health complications. Delving into the causes behind these troublesome formations can offer insights into prevention and treatment options for our feline companions.

  1. Dietary Imbalance: An imbalanced diet, especially one high in certain minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium, can lead to the formation of bladder stones. Diets that cause overly acidic or alkaline urine can also predispose cats to stone development.
  2. Urinary Tract Infections: Some bladder stones can form or grow larger when a urinary tract infection occurs. The bacteria involved in the infection can produce substances that encourage stone formation.
  3. Urinary Stasis: When a cat’s urine remains in the bladder for extended periods, it can become concentrated, allowing minerals to crystallize and form stones. This can be due to infrequent urination or partial bladder emptying.
  4. Genetic Factors: Certain cat breeds might be genetically predisposed to developing bladder stones due to metabolic differences that affect urine composition.
  5. Dehydration: Insufficient water intake can lead to concentrated urine, which increases the risk of crystal and stone formation.

Understanding the causes of the urinary bladder and stones in cats is crucial. With proper knowledge, cat owners can take proactive measures, such as dietary adjustments and encouraging regular water intake, to minimize the risk and ensure their pets lead a comfortable and healthy life.

Symptoms of kidney stones in cats

Kidney stones, or nephroliths, are hard mineral deposits inside a cat’s kidneys. While some cats may show no overt symptoms, especially in the early stages, the presence of these small stones can cause significant discomfort and health complications if left untreated. Recognizing the symptoms is essential for early detection and effective intervention.

  1. Frequent Urination: Affected cats might visit the litter box more frequently than usual, often passing only small amounts of urine each time.
  2. Blood in Urine: Hematuria, or blood in the urine, can clearly indicate kidney stones or other urinary tract issues.
  3. Painful Urination: Cats may vocalize or appear visibly distressed when urinating, indicating pain or discomfort.
  4. Lethargy: Cats with kidney stones may exhibit decreased energy levels, appearing more tired or uninterested in regular activities.
  5. Loss of Appetite: Affected cats might eat less or avoid meals altogether due to nausea or discomfort.
  6. Vomiting: Some cats may vomit periodically, especially if the stones interfere with kidney function or cause significant pain.

In summary, while some symptoms of kidney failure can be subtle, cat owners need to be vigilant and seek veterinary consultation if they notice changes in their pet’s behavior or physical well-being, especially concerning urination patterns. Early detection and treatment can greatly improve outcomes for cats with kidney stones.


Diagnosis of kidney stones in cats

Veterinarians usually adopt a comprehensive approach to confirm these stones’ presence, size, and type.

  1. Physical Examination: The initial assessment often begins with a thorough physical examination, where the veterinarian might palpate the cat’s abdomen to feel for any abnormalities or signs of discomfort.
  2. Urinalysis: A urinalysis can provide valuable information about the concentration, pH, and presence of blood or crystals in the urine – all potential indicators of kidney stones.
  3. Blood Tests: These tests include a complete blood count, assess the cat’s urinary system kidney function, and might reveal increased levels of certain compounds that suggest compromised kidney health.
  4. Radiographs (X-rays): Many kidney stones are visible on X-rays, making this a commonly used diagnostic tool to identify their size, shape, and location.
  5. Ultrasound: An ultrasound can provide a more detailed image of the kidneys, helping detect stones that might not be visible on X-rays and giving insights into their composition.

In sum, diagnosing kidney stones in cats is a multi-faceted process, combining various tests and assessments. Early and accurate diagnosis of small kidney stones is key to devising an effective treatment plan and ensuring a cat’s long-term health and well-being.

The best ways to treat kidney stones in cats

When it comes to our feline companions, maintaining their optimal health is always a priority. One health concern that might arise in cats is kidney stones, also known as nephroliths. These solid deposits can form within the kidneys and potentially cause discomfort, infection, or even blockages. Addressing this issue promptly and effectively is essential to ensure the cat’s overall well-being. Let’s delve into the best strategies for treating kidney stones in our furry friends:

Dietary Changes:

    • Special Diet: Veterinarians often recommend therapeutic diets to dissolve certain kidney stones. These diets can also promote a urinary environment that discourages stone formation.
    • Increasing Water Intake: Hydration can assist in diluting the urine, reducing the concentration of minerals that form stones. Wet cat food or water fountains can encourage cats to drink more.


    • Antibiotics: If an infection is present, antibiotics might be prescribed.
    • Pain Management: Pain relievers can help manage discomfort, although using only those specifically approved for feline use is vital.

Surgical Removal:

    • In cases where the stones are too large to be dissolved or are causing severe problems, surgery might be deemed necessary. This process involves physically removing the stones from the kidney.

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL):

    • A non-invasive procedure, ESWL uses sound waves to break larger stones into smaller pieces, making them easier for the cat to pass or be dissolved through dietary measures.

Regular Monitoring:

    • After initial treatment, routine check-ups and urinalyses are crucial. This ensures that the stones have been effectively treated and helps in early detection if they begin to reform.

In conclusion, treating cat kidney stones requires medical interventions, lifestyle adjustments, and vigilant monitoring. Cat owners can ensure their pets lead comfortable, healthy lives by understanding the available treatment options and collaborating closely with a trusted veterinarian.

How to prevent stones from building in your cat’s kidneys

cystic calculi

The kidneys play a critical role in a cat’s overall health, filtering waste products and excess substances from the blood. One potential health issue that can arise in this organ is the formation of kidney stones. While certain factors might predispose some cats to develop these stones, there are proactive steps owners can take to minimize the risk. Here’s how to prevent stone formation in your cat’s kidneys:

  1. Hydration is Key: Ensuring your cat remains well-hydrated helps dilute the urine, reducing the concentration of minerals that might form stones. Always provide fresh water, consider investing in a cat water fountain, or incorporate wet food into their diet to increase their water intake.
  2. Dietary Management: Feed your cat a balanced diet. A prescription diet is specially formulated to maintain a urinary pH that discourages stone formation. Always consult a veterinarian before significantly changing your cat’s diet.
  3. Regular Veterinary Check-ups: Routine veterinary visits can help detect conditions conducive to stone formation early. Periodic urinalysis can monitor urine composition, ensuring it remains in the optimal range.
  4. Manage Underlying Health Conditions: Conditions like urinary tract infections or certain metabolic disorders can increase the risk of stone formation. Addressing these underlying conditions promptly can be a preventive measure.
  5. Weight Management: Obesity can exacerbate many health conditions, including those affecting the kidneys. Ensure your cat maintains a healthy weight through proper diet and regular exercise.

Proactive measures, from dietary choices to regular vet visits, can significantly reduce the likelihood of kidney stone formation in cats. As always, partnering with a veterinarian is crucial to tailor prevention strategies to each cat’s unique needs.


In navigating the complexities of feline health, understanding the nuances of cat kidney stones is essential for every cat owner. Whether it’s prevention, early detection, or effective treatment, staying informed about this condition can make all the difference in ensuring your feline friend’s well-being. Remember, with the right knowledge and proactive measures, you can help safeguard your cat from the discomfort and potential complications of kidney stones, promoting a healthier, happier life.


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