Because of the state of the economy we are, like most people, in survival mode. We cut corners everywhere we can. So, the question of whether to spend money on expensive prescription cat food often becomes part of family budget discussions.
We have two cats on special diets – our Burmese, Little Neal, and the cat we call our “grampy” cat, Philipo. Burmese are prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs). Even though Neal is relatively young (7), he has already had a couple of serious bouts with UTI. In cats, urinary tract infections are not only painful; they can be deadly. If the UTI turns into a urinary blockage, a cat can die in a matter of days. So, watching out for the symptoms in cats that are especially prone, like Neal, is a constant process. Neal was put on Purina’s UR diet several years ago. This is a cat food specifically designed to help prevent urinary tract infections. Neal has not had a uremic episode since he started the diet. The most serious attack he had was just after we moved in 2006. But when we moved in 2008, while he was on the prescription diet, he seemed to weather the stress just fine and had no episode. This is not conclusive evidence, of course, but it’s impressive.
Our “grampy” cat, Philipo, is 18 and he has a whole host of ailments that come with old age. He is thin, frail, has cataracts in both eyes, and suffers from arthritis and renal failure. We figure Philipo is living on borrowed time as it is, and we want to do everything we can (within reason) to prolong his life. We have enjoyed his company for two decades and old as he is, he’s still a trooper. I think Philipo’s longevity can be directly attributed to the Hill’s K/D diet he was placed on by our vet who regards herself as a specialist in senior cats and how to keep them alive and healthy.
Recently, due to some medical problems of our own, we ran out of both the prescription foods. I picked up a couple of bags of Meow Mix to tide us over. By the time we got to the vet it had been three weeks. Philipo’s had started to walk around the house yelling all the time. I suppose he was trying to tell us we needed to go to the vet’s office and get his food. He seemed unable to fill himself up. He would eat and eat and still ask for more, like the food wasn’t satisfying him. Our little Burmese, Neal, became much less active and his coat started to have that look of not being cleaned. Since cats clean themselves primarily after they eat, the condition of their coat is a good indicator of how much they are eating. I suspect that Neal just wasn’t eating as much because we had run out of his special food.
Neal also started being more affected by his allergies when he was off the prescription diet. His eyes watered more and left him looking as if he had been crying. Needless to say, we were all relieved when we got back on track with the right food.
A week after we put them back on the prescription diets, they were both better. Peep stopped yelling so much. Neal perked up and started eating again and cleaning his fur more often.
That one experience convinced me. I think the prescription cat food is well worth the price. Also, vet bills are so high now that it may well be less expensive to keep them on the prescription food than it is to make a costly trip to the vet. We’ve never had a cat emergency during vet business hours. They seem always to come on weekends and holidays. Also, it takes years off my life every time there is something wrong with one of my cats. The extra money is worth it just to avoid the emotional stress.
One search on the internet showed me that there are a lot of people out there who also swear by the prescription diets. And, I found one clinical study to back up the anecdotal evidence. In a study done at the University of Minnesota, experimenters tested an adult feline maintenance diet with a renal diet (a diet designed to be beneficial to cats with renal problems). Cats were randomly assigned to diets and a control group was used. The experimenters found “a significantly greater percentage of cats fed the maintenance diet had uremic episodes compared with cats fed the renal diet.” They also found a significant reduction in renal-related deaths in the cats eating the renal diet.
So, if your vet thinks it’s appropriate for your cat, my advice is to spend the extra money for the prescription food. You and your cat will be happier and healthier.