Is it Possible to Force a Cat to Eat a Specific Food?
A comment that was posted recently to the article entitled Is Tuna Safe for Cats? caught my eye.
Andy A posted a comment on July 6th, 2008 at 2:10 pm
My cat has been diagnosed with struvite crystals and my vet wants me to feed her Hills c/d diet. She absolutely hates it no matter how long I try to wait her out or how I try to hide it in her regular food. She loves Figaro Albacore Tuna Cat Food by Bumble Bee. According to the label It has vitamins and minerals along with 1.0g Omega-3 fatty acids and Taurine added. If I continue to feed her the Cat Food Tuna, will it worsen her condition? I think her not eating anything while I try and wait her out may dehydrate her possibly leading to concentrated urine which does not help her flush out her bladder. Am I wrong in this line of thinking?
Struvite crystals are common in cats. They, along with abnormal urine pH, are associated with a disease called feline urologic syndrome, or FUS (pedantic types prefer the name feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD). In females, FUS/FLUTD leads to chronic bladder pain and discomfort. FUS/FLUTD is more serious in male cats, because it may lead to a life-threatening situation in which they are unable to urinate.
FUS/FLUTD appears to be hereditary in nature. It is generally treated by modifying the cat's diet to promote a change in urine chemistry. Hill's c/d is the most frequently prescribed diet for FUS/FLUTD. Most cats are willing to eat it. However, as Andy points out, there are exceptions.
I do not recommend fighting battles of will with cats when it comes to food. (Actually, I find that battles of will with cats are losing propositions in general.) Trying to coerce your cat to eat one type of food can have dangerous consequences if she refuses to consume it. I have heard of cats who refused to eat for weeks on end when they took offense to the food on offer.
Starvation is the last thing that your cat needs. And yes, refusal to eat can lead to dehydration and increased urinary problems. If she won't eat the prescription diet, your best bet is to offer something that she finds more palatable.
Several companies make foods that are comparable to c/d. Your cat may be willing to eat one of these. Talk to your vet about these alternatives.
If your cat refuses to eat all of the available prescription diets, you still have options. As I mentioned in the tuna post, cats cannot survive on tuna alone. Tuna flavored cat food, however, is generally nutritionally replete. It might make her urinary issues worse. Or it might not. There is only one way to find out: test her urine while she is on the food. If no crystals are present and the urine's pH is in the proper range, then you won't have much to worry about.
If crystals and pH problems occur when your cat is on her preferred food, you may be able to resolve the situation with dietary supplements. D,L-methionine is a natural amino acid that can be administered each day. It lowers urine pH, and reduces the risk of struvite crystals.
No matter what food you offer, your cat should have her urine tested regularly to make sure that the crystals and pH are under control. This is the key to dealing with FUS/FLUTD