Image via Zoran Photographer/Shutterstock
By JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM
Cat urine is produced by the kidneys and has several important functions. It carries waste out of the body so that toxins, like ammonia, don’t accumulate in the blood, and it also helps regulate the body’s pH.
The pH of cat urine measures the acidity level and is an indication of urinary tract and overall health. It is influenced by a cat’s diet and can even change while urine is stored in the bladder. Because cats are so vulnerable to changes in pH, testing and understanding what cat urine pH levels mean will help you gain a better understanding of your cat’s health.
Collecting Cat Urine
There are several methods for collecting cat urine for pH testing. For example, the ‘free catch’ method collects urine during natural urination. This method can be tricky, though, because cats squat low in their cat litter boxes and may stop urinating during a collection attempt.
As a solution, you can use non-absorbent cat litter. You could use Tidy Cats Breeze litter pellets with the Tidy Cats Breeze litter box system without putting the pad in the bottom tray to collect urine. After your cat urinates, collect the urine by pouring the urine out of the kitty litter box.
Other methods must be performed by a veterinarian. These methods include manual bladder compression, catheterization (threading a tube into the bladder through the urethra) and cystocentesis (withdrawing urine directly from the bladder with a needle).
Testing and Interpreting Cat Urine pH
Regardless of the method, the urine’s pH should be tested immediately. Cat urine that has been sitting for a long time can accumulate ammonia, which can artificially increase the pH.
The pH of cat urine is typically tested using a urine reagent strip, also known as a dipstick. If you are collecting the urine at home, you can use strips like the Solid Gold pH test strips, or you can have your veterinarian collect the sample at the vet’s office.
The normal pH range of cat urine is approximately 6.0 to 6.5. Various cat diseases can lower or raise the urine pH.
Low pH (acidic urine)
Kidney disease in cats, particularly chronic kidney disease, can lower the pH. Diabetic cats, especially those with uncontrolled diabetes, can have a low urine pH because of a buildup of substances called ketoacids. Chronic diarrhea can also lower a cat’s urine pH.
A low urine pH in cats can increases the likelihood of calcium oxalate stone formation in the bladder. These stones cannot be dissolved through diet, so they must be removed in other ways. For example, the stones can be removed surgically. Small stones can be removed by a process called voiding hydropropulsion, which pushes the stones through the urethra and out of the body.
High pH (alkaline urine)
Cat urinary tract infections are the most frequent cause of increased urine pH values in cats; the bacteria that’s causing the infection can increase the urine pH. Thyroid problems in cats can also cause high urine pH values. For example, cats are especially susceptible to developing hyperthyroidism, which is caused by an overactive thyroid gland. Hyperthyroidism in cats can increase the urine pH.
Elevated urine pH levels in cats can increase the risk of struvite stone formation in the bladder. The stones can be dissolved through diet, but this can take up to six weeks. Other treatment options for struvite stones include surgical removal and voiding hydropropulsion. Antibiotics for cats are often used to prevent the stones from causing an infection.
Overall, testing the pH levels of cat urine is very important for assessing a cat’s health. To stay on top of your cat’s health and catch diseases early, take your cat to your veterinarian for regular checkups and urine testing.