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How I Realized My Stoic Cat Had Bladder Stones? Two Words: Pretty Litter

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The day after we celebrated our five-year adoptaversary with our cats, Foxy and Jacques, we noticed some red crystals in their litter box—we use Pretty Litter, a cat litter I’d read rave reviews about that changes color based on the alkalinity of feline urine, aka something could be up with your cat’s health if the color changes. But since both cats were acting totally normal, we watched them closely for the next 24 hours and tried to pinpoint which cat’s pee was turning red. By the time we determined it was Foxy, we already had a vet appointment lined up. And thank goodness we did, because the cat litter was right: Foxy had bladder stones.

Cats Have Amazing Poker Faces

The thing about cats is they keep secrets from us. Felines notoriously pretend like everything is OK until they are in severe distress. Even then, the only indication that something is wrong could be peeing outside the litter box or urinating in tiny amounts, which is difficult to monitor if you work all day and aren’t around to observe all their litter box behavior. Again, cats may wait until the last minute to let you know they’re in pain. Foxy expressed no discomfort or behavioral problems leading up to her vet visit. The day of her diagnosis (three days after Pretty Litter first turned red), she finally began having trouble urinating. We would never have known to watch her using the litter box, and thus would never have watched her straining if we hadn’t seen red crystals and gone to the vet! Luckily, after painkillers, an antibiotic and prescription wet food, Foxy peed more easily, and we could breathe again.

But catching bladder, kidney and urinary tract problems early is key

Many feline bladder, kidney and urinary tract issues can take weeks or months to develop. Catching bladder stones early makes it easier to dissolve them through less invasive treatment (changing your cat’s diet instead of performing surgery). If we hadn’t caught Foxy’s bladder stones when we did, they could have grown larger, caused more pain and eventually blocked her urinary tract entirely, which is life threatening and could have cause a ruptured bladder. Early detection can often mean the difference between life and death.

Product image of a black and white cat in front of a bag of Pretty Litter.

How does Pretty Litter detect health problems?

Basically, Pretty Litter contains a special formula that reacts to the acidity and alkalinity of cat urine (chemistry is cool, folks!). Different reactions cause Pretty Litter’s silica gel crystals to change color after they absorb pee. Depending on what’s going on in your cat’s body, the colors can indicate some potential problems. 

An ideal pH for cat urine is between 6.3 and 6.6. Pretty Litter turns light yellow or olive green if the pH is nice and healthy within this range. Infections can cause pH levels to increase (if you recall high school chemistry, a high pH is more alkaline) or decrease (low pH is more acidic). Here’s how to interpret the colors:

  • Dark green or blue: This is a high pH alert which could mean your cat is in the beginning stages of a urinary tract infection (UTI) or they are at risk for developing struvite bladder stones.
  • Yellow to orange: This is a high acidity alert which could mean a full blown UTI, kidney disease, metabolic acidosis or that calcium oxalate crystals are forming.
  • Red: This means there is blood in your cat’s urine. Blood can be present when your kitty has bladder stones, bladder cancer, an untreated UTI or inflammation, all of which are serious problems.

These issues are dangerous and can be painful. The thing about cats is they keep secrets from us. Felines notoriously pretend like everything is OK until they are in severe distress. Even then, the only indication that something is wrong could be peeing outside the litter box or urinating in tiny amounts, which is difficult to monitor if you work all day and aren’t around to observe all of their litter box behavior.

This is why Pretty Litter is so awesome. We knew something was up before our cat was in a dire situation or needed to clue us in at the eleventh hour.

Something to note: Pretty Litter is non-clumping, which may not work for all cats. We’ve found it works exceptionally well for our kitties. It absorbs urine well and doesn’t smell. Plus, it weighs much less than even the lightweight versions of clumping litter we used to buy. (But if your kitty needs the clump, here's my favorite clumping litter picks.)

Remember: Vets know best

Think of Pretty Litter as a red flag. It cannot diagnose your cat with anything. What it can do is alert you to the possibility that a storm is a-brewing. Something is off, go see your vet sooner rather than later. Our vet diagnosed Foxy’s bladder stones with a urinalysis and an X-ray. She then prescribed Hill’s Prescription Diet wet food (they make treats too!) to help dissolve the stones. On our first follow-up, the stones were smaller, which we love to hear.

Bottom line

My cats may not ever express their true feelings to me, but at least I can have my own little window into their health via their litter box. (Cat people things.)