8 Best Urinary Cat Foods (Non-Prescription Substitutes)


urinary prescription substitute

Note: This article is NOT a substitute for veterinary advice and is for informational purposes only. Diet and nutrition are extremely important, especially if your cat has a pre-existing condition like FLUTD, and you should always follow the advice of your veterinarian. 

If you’re here, you probably have a cat that’s suffering from some kind of urinary issue or you’re trying to get ahead of any potential problems by making sure your cat has a crystal-reducing diet.

And you’re certainly not the only one.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, or FLUTD, is among one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases in our feline friends, and according to Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine FLUTD is the number one reason that cats visit veterinary clinics.

Because FLUTD is really a broad set of conditions, the exact cause can vary between cats. Still, many forms of FLUTD, specifically those caused by crystal and stone formation, can be managed with special and sometimes prescription diets.

These diets reduce the development of crystals by balancing urine pH levels along with reducing minerals like phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium. Some of the most popular urinary cat foods require a prescription but there are many cat foods that can help despite not being specifically labeled as urinary diets.

Prescription diets work, and they have the studies to prove it, but these diets aren’t always easy on the budget and many feature less than ideal ingredients that can leave cat owners stressed out and confused.

That’s why we decided to create a list of alternatives to commonly prescribed diets like Hills Science Diet C/D, Royal Canine Urinary SO, and Blue Buffalo W+U.

We do not recommend making any switch without your veterinarian and instead the goal is to help you be a more informed pet parent. I’m not a veterinarian and this isn’t veterinary advice. 

We’ll cover everything you need to know about why these diets made the list and why they could be a good alternative or substitutes to prescription diets but if you want to just skip ahead and see what make the list you can check it out here:

Best Urinary Wet Foods:

  1. Best Overall: Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau
  2. Runner Up: Weruva Canned Classic Recipes
  3. Best On A Budget: Purina Pro Plan Urinary Tract Health
  4. Prescription Brand Alternative: Hill’s Science Diet Urinary & Hairball Control Wet Food

Best Urinary Dry Foods:

  1. Best Overall: Dr. Elsey’s Clean Protein Dry Food
  2. Runner Up: Farmina N&D Functional Quinoa Urinary Dry Food
  3. Budget Alternative: Wysong Uretic Natural Dry Food
  4. Prescription Brand Alternative: Hill’s Science Diet Urinary & Hairball Control Dry Food

But first, we need to ask ourselves if we really want to find an alternative in the first place.

Should You Find A Non-Prescription Alternative?

I really want to emphasize that I’m not a veterinarian and this article isn’t veterinary advice. If your cat has been treated for crystals, blockages or stones already then you know how serious that condition can be.

So while a non-prescription diet may be cheaper, if it doesn’t help with your cat’s condition you’re going to end up with another huge veterinary bill and a lot of pain for your cat- or worse.

That’s not a good scenario for your cat or your budget.

But prescription diets are a very complicated subject and the ambiguity of FDA guidelines doesn’t help the situation. These diets also don’t contain prescription drugs– which can certainly be confusing to the typical consumer that would (reasonably) associate a prescription diet with a prescription drug.

So what’s the point of these diets in the first place?

While it’s not a perfect system, in most cases therapeutic diets have clinical trials backing up the effectiveness of their diet. You can see one such study backing up Hills C/D Multicare here. Most alternatives, unless they’re also a prescription diet, won’t have a clinical trial supporting them.

It’s important to make any decision with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be aware of the fact that there aren’t any prescription drugs in these diets and you both want what’s best for your cat.

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at a few reasons why you’d pursue an alternative.

Price

Price is probably the biggest factor for most people that are on the search for a C/D or other urinary prescription diet alternative.

But it’s critical to think long-term about the health of your cat and the cost of treatment. Saving money on the monthly cost of cat food just isn’t going to be worth it if it puts your cat’s health at risk. You’ll also end up paying the difference with the veterinary bill in many cases too.

That doesn’t mean you and your veterinarian can’t find an effective alternative but it does mean that you need to consider the nutritional value of the food and not just go for price above all else! There are plenty of ways to find cheap cat foods without sacrificing quality and it’s no different when it comes to urinary diets.

Ingredient Quality

While it might surprise some people, Hills Science Diet C/D includes ingredients that some cat parents may want to avoid. While there’s plenty of debate in the world of feline nutrition, some of these ingredients fall into the category of filler by some standards.

Let’s take a quick list of the first 7 ingredients:

Pork By-Products, Water, Pork Liver, Chicken, Brewers Rice, Corn Starch, Soybean Meal

Not only do we see by-products but we also see two very clear carbs (brewers rice and corn starch) and an often undesirable soy product on top of it all. As I’ve said many times, this list alone doesn’t mean the food is bad but it is worth exploring all the options with your veterinarian.

Cat Preference

I’ve written a lot of food reviews at this point which also means reading thousands and thousands of cat food reviews across dozens of different brands.

In fact, I’ve read more than 100,000 cat food reviews at this point and the number one reason why cat parents leave a bad review is because their cats don’t like the food! That’s a big reason why I created an entire guide to finding the best tasting cat food for picky eaters but just like any other creature, cats have their likes and dislikes and for whatever reason, they just don’t like certain foods.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the food is bad but if your cat just won’t eat Hills C/D, or any other urinary prescription diet, then you may need to find an alternative.

Proactive

In other cats, you may just want to be proactive and make sure your cat’s urine pH is in a healthy range before any problems occur. The proactive approach doesn’t necessarily justify getting a prescription or opting for ingredients that you’d prefer to avoid.

Instead, considering urinary benefits could just be a part of your overall approach to your cat’s diet.

The Bottom Line

Your cat trusts you to make the best decision for them and it bears repeating that you should consult your veterinarian before taking on any diet changes.

Why Are Cats Recommended Hills Science Diet C/D, Royal Canin Urinary SO or Other Urinary Prescription Diets?

Cats suffering from FLUTD (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease) are commonly recommended Hills C/D but what makes things confusing is that FLUTD is a generic term that describes several different disorders. Some of these disorders are absolute emergencies (like a urethral obstruction) and others cause discomfort over time but aren’t immediately life-threatening.

Many of these conditions are also closely related. For example, bladder stones are part of the FLUTD definition and while they may pass or even dissolve on their own they can also cause urethral blockages.

While FLUTD can certainly be confusing, the most common reason for a C/D recommendation are crystals in the urine. Because of a pH imbalance in a cat’s urines, crystals are able to accumulate and eventually form a stone. There are two commons types of crystals (and resulting stones): struvite and calcium oxalate.

VCA Hospitals explains that both of these crystals are normal to find in cat urine but “In some pets, however, these struvite crystals come together to form an actual stone within the urinary tract. These stones can irritate the urinary tract and have the potential to cause urinary obstruction.”

While this may seem like too much detail, it’s critical to understand why cats are recommended Hills C/D before we can figure out how to find an appropriate urinary diet.

How Do Urinary Prescription Diets Work?

The folks at Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine explain that the most important considerations for stone prevention are:

  1. Diluting the urine by increasing the amount of water the pet drinks (feeding canned food only and/or adding water to both dry and canned food)

  2. Reducing the amount of the compounds that make up the stones in the diet

The compounds that make up the stones can also impact the pH of your cat’s urine and we know that stones form when pH is outside of a healthy range. Hills C/D works by changing the pH of your cat’s urine but also by reducing minerals like magnesium and phosphorous which have also been found to contribute to stones.

While you won’t always find these minerals specifically listed on the cat label, they usually show up in some form or another. Often they’re part of the overall ash content. Ash describes several leftover minerals in your cat’s food including phosphorus and magnesium but also zinc, calcium, and several others.

It’s also important to point out that diluting the urine (aka keeping your cat hydrated) is highlighted as extremely important as well. Wet food is one of the best ways to keep cats hydrated, but cats can drink a lot more than just water so you can also consider other ways of creatively increase your cat’s hydration. In the wild, cats would get much of their hydration from eating mice and rats but that’s not an option for most of our feline friends.

We’ll be looking at both wet and dry food on this list but it’s still important to stress how much wet food can help the overall health of your cat’s urinary tract.

Are Prescription Diets the Only Low Magnesium Foods?

Absolutely not! In the 1970s, scientists and veterinarians “made between urinary tract disease in male cats and too high an ash content in cat food. Later, it was determined that only magnesium–one particular mineral in that ash content–was responsible.”

Since then, more and more companies have jumped on the low mineral bandwagon which has helped cats.

So prescription diets are far from the only choice when it comes to finding low magnesium foods.

How Can I Tell How Much Magnesium Is In The Food?

Some cat food brands will display the amount of magnesium right on the label while others won’t. In those cases, you’ll need to look at the ash content but even then it’s not always available. For the alternative options on this list, we’ll list either the ash content, magnesium content, or both.

What Is Considered Low Magnesium or Low Ash?

Looking back to the guidelines from Tufts, we know that increasing hydration and decreasing the stone-causing compounds in the diet are the best options. We also know that one of the main culprits is magnesium.

But what is considered low in terms of these minerals?

For this article, we’re going to go with the guidelines set by veterinarian Dr. Debra Primovic who explains “the best low magnesium cat food is one that has less than 0.12% magnesium on a dry matter basis.”

Establishing a baseline for low ash is more difficult and even after months of research, I wasn’t able to find an industry standard for low ash. And after consulting some veterinarian friends it sounds like there isn’t one. So for this list, we’ll be considering 2.6% ash content as low which is the same number we used in our list of the best cat foods with low ash.

How Much Magnesium and Phosphorus Is In Hills Science Diet C/D?

The last thing we need to consider is how much ash, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus is in the Hills diet. While there’s much more to this diet than just these three metrics, it’s important to keep them in mind as we review our alternatives.

Here’s what the Hills website has to say for the canned version of C/D:

  • Magnesium: 0.067 %
  • Phosphorus: 0.74 %
  • Calcium: 0.78%

When it comes to the dry version of C/D we see the following:

  • Magnesium: 0.08%
  • Phosphorus: 0.8%
  • Calcium: 0.8%

Again, these aren’t the only factors to consider but they will help point us in the right direction and find comparable products at least in terms of minerals.

How Much Magnesium and Phosphorus Is In Royal Canin Urinary SO?

Now let’s take a look at another of one of the biggest prescription diets out there and see what’s inside Royal Canin.

Here’s what’s inside the canned version of Urinary SO on a dry matter basis (with water removed):

  • Magnesium: 0.4%
  • Phosphorus: 0.8%

Here’s what the Royal Canin website has to say for the dry version of Urinary SO:

  • Magnesium: 0.1%
  • Phosphorus: 1.26%
  • Calcium: 1.26%

How Much Magnesium and Phosphorus Is In Blue Buffalo W+U?

Here’s what’s inside the canned version of Blue Buffalo W+U :

  • Magnesium: 0.1%
  • Phosphorus: 1.45% (dry matter basis)

Best Wet Urinary Prescription Diet Alternatives

Okay, at this point you should have a good understanding of how urinary prescription diets work so let’s take a look at our favorite alternatives.

Best Overall: Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau

Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau
  • GRAIN FREE NUTRITION – Cats are carnivores, so give your cat the meat and seafood she craves with each...
  • HIGH MOISTURE CANNED FOOD – Count on the high moisture content of each can of Luau to give your cat the...

Tiki Cat doesn’t actually market itself as a urinary diet but still meets many of the standards we’d want to see with a low ash content and even has less magnesium than Hills Science Diet C/D. I’m a big fan of the Tiki Cat brand and I think they’re one of the more underrated cat foods on the market. Their branding can be a little silly but their cat food is anything but and their founder has a long history in the pet food industry.

When you open a can or see a picture, you’ll notice that this food looks like a can of chicken- which is great news for our carnivorous kitties. There’s really no guesswork as far as what’s inside (at least for the major ingredients) and you can easily understand most of the ingredients.

This cat food is also one of only a handful on the market that doesn’t feature any of the common thickening agents like guar gum or xanthan gum. While some folks might not have an opinion on these ingredients, it’s a great quality for others.

However, this is a premium cat food and if the price is the major motivator this might not make a great option. But if you want high-quality cat food without a prescription this Tiki Cat flavor could be a great option.

Low ash, low magnesium, and low carbs combined with a focus on quality protein sources make this cat food a great choice for many felines. As always, consult your veterinarian before replacing any veterinarian-recommended diet.

You can see the latest price and read more reviews on Amazon by clicking here.

As with all our cat food reviews, let’s take a deeper look at the first 5 ingredients to get a better idea of what’s inside this food:

1. Chicken

No surprise here. Take a look at any of the pictures of this food and it’s clear that chicken is a primary ingredient. It looks more like a can of shredded chicken than cat food and I’m not the only one that thinks so. You can see the founder of Tiki Cats take a bite out of her cat food in this video!

2. Chicken Broth

We see broth in most wet foods so it’s no surprise to see it here. Cats need all the help they can get when it comes to hydration so a little broth is never a poor addition.

3. Sunflower Seed Oil

While I’d much prefer to see an animal-based source of fats for your cat, sunflower seed oil can still provide some valuable fatty acids and keep the price under control.

4. Tricalcium Phosphate

Tricalcium phosphate is an anti-caking agent that also helps balance the overall pH of your cat’s food. A balanced pH profile is another important component to overall urinary health but this ingredient also allows Tiki Cat to avoid more common agents like guar gum and xantham gum.

5. Taurine

Taurine is an amino acid and an absolute requirement for your cat.

Here’s the complete list of ingredients in the Puka Puka Luau recipe:

Chicken, Chicken Broth, Sunflower Seed Oil, Tricalcium Phosphate, Taurine, Choline Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Niacin (Vitamin B3), Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Calcium Iodate, Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin K3 Supplement.

Here’s the guaranteed analysis.

  • 16% Protein
  • 2.6% Fat
  • 0% Fiber
  • 80% Moisture

 

Runner Up: Weruva Canned Classic Recipes

Weruva Mideast Feast
2,804 Reviews
Weruva Mideast Feast
  • More than 10 unique flavors to pick from
  • 1.5% Max Ash Content (Mideast Feast)
  • 0.02% Magnesium (Mideast Feast)
  • 0.15% Phosphorus (Mideast Feast)

While it may surprise you to see another cat food on this list that isn’t labeled or heavily marketed as a urinary-specific diet…don’t let that fool you.

Not only is there a wide range of cat food that meets our criteria but foods like Weruva still have urinary health in mind without slapping it on their main label. Weruva explains on their website that the high moisture content combined with high-quality meats and low magnesium is very urinary tract friendly.

They specifically explain that “As obligate carnivores, cats must eat meat, and quality meat helps promote healthy urinary pH levels. The proper urinary pH for cats skews slightly acidic which, along with appropriate hydration, may help prevent crystal formation.”

To be clear, that’s far from a clinical trial that you’d expect from a prescription diet but it does line up with what we know about urinary tract issues.

But what really makes Weruva stand out is the variety of flavors you and your cat can pick from- including some ingredients and varieties that you’re not likely to see anywhere else which is why this brand also shows up on our list of the best cat foods for picky cats.

For example, the Marbella Paella flavor features seafood ingredients such as calamari, shrimp, and mussel. While variety certainly isn’t a requirement, and the goal here is to find the best urinary food, it’s a nice bonus in this case.

All of the Weruva Canned Classic Recipes are low in phosphorus, magnesium, & ash but some recipes will have more or less animal-sourced proteins in the first five ingredients so double check that you’re happy with the specific flavor you’re looking at. I generally recommend the Mideast Feast, Mack & Jack, and Marbella Paella flavors if you’re not sure.

You can check out all the flavors, along with 10+ flavors along with the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.

But if you’re interested in learning more, we’re going to take a closer look at the first five ingredients in the Mideast Feast recipe:

1. Tuna

We’re always happy to see an animal-based protein without any qualifiers on it. No by-products here and this is simply tuna that our feline friends love.  Weruva also tells us that all their tuna is ocean-caught and eco-friendly.

2. Water Sufficient For Processing

Water (and sometimes broth) is a typical ingredient in any wet food so there’s no surprise here. The use of water instead of broth can help reduce the overall cost. When it comes to urinary diets, water is always a good thing as moisture is a key factor in reducing and eliminating urinary tract issues.

3. Tilapia

Another protein source is always good and even better that there are no qualifiers on this either. I’m also happy to see a second great source of omega fatty acids for our feline friends.

4. Potato Starch

While carbohydrates aren’t ideal, potato starch isn’t the biggest offender compared to lower glycemic products like corn. I’m happy to see that this ingredient isn’t at the top of the list here and products like this do help keep the overall cost down.

5. Sunflower Seed Oil

Animal-sourced fats are always going to be a better pick, but more fatty acids even if they’re from plants, isn’t a bad thing.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients in the Weruva Mideast Feast recipe:

Tuna Whole Meat, Water Sufficient For Processing, Tilapia, Potato Starch, Sunflower Seed Oil, Dicalcium Phosphate, Xanthan Gum, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Nicotinic Acid (Vitamin B3), Ferrous Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Potassium Iodide, Manganese Sulfate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Folic Acid, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source of Vitamin K), Vitamin B12 Supplement.
  • 10% Protein
  • 7% Fat
  • .05% Fiber
  • 78% Moisture

 

Best On A Budget: Purina Pro Plan Urinary Tract Health

Purina Pro Plan Urinary Tract Health
7,724 Reviews
Purina Pro Plan Urinary Tract Health
  • Budget-friendly with flavors that are popular with our feline friends
  • 0.024% Magnesium
  • 0.26% Phosphorus

I typically don’t recommend Purina since they frequently include controversial ingredients but when we need to find low magnesium and low phosphorus budget wet food our options can sometimes be limited.

This Purina recipe does include two types of meat by-products, which we typically consider as filler,  but I promise you it isn’t as bad as that sounds!

Turning back to the Association of American Feed Control Officers for some definitions we can see that meat by-products are the parts of the animal “other than the muscle tissue, including the internal organs and bones. It includes some of the parts people eat (such as livers, kidneys and tripe), but also parts that are not typically consumed by humans in the US.”

But in many cases, the label of not being appropriate for human consumption is more of a cultural definition than a nutritional one.

AAFCO goes on to say that “some by-products, like udders and lungs are not deemed “edible” by USDA for human consumption, but they can be perfectly safe and nutritious for animals not inclined to be swayed by the unappealing nature of these parts of animals.”

We’ve also already looked at the benefits of organ meats but the short version is that your feline’s wild ancestors wouldn’t have turned their nose up at some of these less-than-desirable meats.

That doesn’t mean we would want to see an entire diet of organ meats but it also doesn’t mean we have to avoid them at all costs.

This recipe is specifically made to help manage urinary stones and while it may not have the clinical studies that earn it a prescription label, it does have more than 6,000 five-star reviews backing it up on Amazon.

There are also 3 different flavors to choose from and while that normally wouldn’t be especially noteworthy, in the world of urinary diets it’s kind of a big deal since most urinary diets have very few flavor choices.

Overall, Purina Pro Plan Urinary Health is a solid alternative to prescription diets, and while the ingredient list isn’t perfect, the fact that the first 5 five ingredients are either water or sourced from animals should go a long way to making a decision. Of course, it also helps that it’s easy on the budget.

You can read some of those 6,000 five-star reviews, see all the flavors and see the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.

It’s worth pointing out that with the exception of water, all five of the first ingredients are sourced from animals even if that includes some by-products. But let’s take a closer look at just what’s inside the Beef & Chicken recipe to get a better idea for this recipe.

1. Meat By-Products

We just looked at how meat by-products may not be as bad as they sound and it’s a reasonable compromise when it comes to staying budget-friendly. Unfortunately, it’s still very much a catchall term so we can’t say for sure what exact by-products this includes but it is, at least, species-appropriate for our carnivorous cats in that these are ingredients sourced from animals.

2. Water

It’s normal to see water or broth of some kind in just about every wet food recipe. I always prefer to see broth since it’s another animal-based ingredient but the addition of water isn’t terrible either. It also helps bring the price of the recipe down.

3. Chicken By-products

According to the AAFCO, “Poultry By-Products must consist of non-rendered clean parts of carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as heads, feet, viscera, free from fecal content and foreign matter except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice.”

So overall, it’s quite similar to the meat-by products we saw previously.

4. Beef

Beef is a great addition and not something you see regularly in cat food. While this diet does include chicken, and it can be hard to find recipes without any chicken, the addition of beef does add some variety to this recipe that some felines will appreciate.

It’s also an excellent protein source and an improvement from the by-products we’ve seen so far.

5. Chicken

It’s great to see another straightforward animal-based ingredient, especially after two by-product ingredients. By putting these quality ingredients further down the list, Purina is able to keep prices down while maintaining competitive quality.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients in the Purina Pro Plan Urinary Tract Health Beef & Chicken Recipe:

Beef & Chicken Entree: Meat By-Products, Water, Chicken By-products, Beef, Chicken, Rice, Tricalcium Phosphate, Guar Gum, Potassium Chloride, Minerals [Potassium Chloride, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide], Salt, Carrageenan, Taurine, Added Color, Choline Chloride, Vitamins [Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vitamin K), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Biotin, Folic Acid, Vitamin D-3 Supplement]. B474018.

  • 10.0% Protein
  • 7.0% Fat
  • 0.5% Fiber
  • 78.0% Moisture

 

Prescription Brand Alternative: Hill’s Science Diet Urinary & Hairball Control Wet Food

Hill's Science Diet Urinary & Hairball Control Wet Food
4,798 Reviews
Hill's Science Diet Urinary & Hairball Control Wet Food
  • This is Hill's version of a urinary diet that doesn't require a prescription
  • 0.14% Magnesium
  • 0.16% Phosphorus

If you’re looking for a prescription substitute that’s as close possible to prescription diets then sticking with the same brand may be a good place to start.

So what’s the difference between Hill’s Science Diet C/D and their Urinary & Hairball Control wet food?

The biggest difference is that C/D is clinically proven to support urinary health and even though their Urinary & Hairball control diet hasn’t gone through the same clinical trials it’s still designed to support urinary health with a balanced pH and low mineral content- and that’s coming straight from Hills.

The ingredients are different but there are still quite a few similarities. I’d expect cats that readily eat C/D to also like this recipe as ingredients like pork by-products, chicken and liver are prominent in both.

Of course, the Urinary & Hairball control recipe does not require a prescription and you’re free to order it off Amazon anytime.

Despite the potential similarities,  you should consult your veterinarian before making any decision on this and this isn’t medical advice.

Outside of the scope of urinary diet, the list of ingredients in the Urinary & Hairball recipe isn’t exceptional but they’re also far from bad. While it does include some by-products, the first 5 ingredients in this diet are all either animal-based or water. That’s a good start for any diet!

But the big problem with the ingredients is that despite many additions to bring down the cost, the overall diet isn’t easy on the budget.

Still, there are more than 3,500 five-star reviews on Amazon backing this food- which goes a long way. You can read all those reviews and check the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.

Before moving on, let’s take a closer look at what’s inside this urinary cat food by reviewing the first 5 ingredients:

1. Water

Water is a critical part of any wet food but we usually want to see this in the second spot on the list of ingredients. However, when it comes to urinary-specific diets it’s certainly forgivable since added moisture is such an important part of reducing stones and crystals.

2. Chicken

Even though it’s in the second ingredient spot, we’re always happy to see an animal-based protein without any additional qualifiers. In this form, chicken suggests it’s similar to what we’d see in the grocery store though it likely includes some lower quality cuts.

3. Turkey Liver

Liver may be considered by some to be a by-product but it’s certainly a step above the ingredients that usually earn that label. In the wild, your cat would happily eat liver and it’s also a great source of vitamin A and other nutrients.

4. Pork By-Products

We looked closely at by-products when we reviewed our budget pick from Purina, and while it’s not ideal, by-products in moderation can be a reasonable addition to cat food especially if the goal is to cut costs.

5. Pork Liver

More organ meat isn’t a bad addition and while it’s species-appropriate it’s, unfortunately, the second source of liver in this diet. At this price point, I’d prefer to see another quality meat product.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients in the Hill’s Science Diet Urinary & Hairball Control Wet Food Savory Chicken recipe:

Water, Chicken, Turkey Liver, Pork By-Products, Pork Liver, Turkey Heart, Powdered Cellulose, Corn Starch, Rice, Soybean Meal, Dried Beet Pulp, Chicken Liver Flavor, Egg Flavor, Fish Meal, Titanium Dioxide color, Guar Gum, Brewers Dried Yeast, L-Tryptophan, Monosodium Phosphate, Potassium Citrate, Calcium Carbonate, Fish Oil, Choline Chloride, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Niacin Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (source of Vitamin K), Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), L-Lysine, Taurine, L-Carnitine, minerals (Zinc Oxide, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate), Beta-Carotene.
  • 7.0% Protein
  • 3.5% Fat
  • 1.5% Fiber
  • 78% Moisture

 

Best Dry Urinary Prescription Diet Substitutes

Now that we’ve reviewed the wet cat food options, let’s look at the options for dry food.

Best Overall: Dr. Elsey’s Clean Protein Dry Food

Sale
Dr. Elsey's Clean Protein Dry Food
2,041 Reviews
Dr. Elsey's Clean Protein Dry Food
  • High quality ingredients with an extreme focus on protein
  • 0.07% Magnesium
  • 0.99% Phosphorus

The Dr. Elsey brand started as litter (and they still make amazing cat litter today) but over the last few years they’ve been building up a strong reputation as a cat food company too. As you’d expect from a brand with CleanProtein in the name, this dry kibble focuses on quality protein sources and a lot of them.

High-quality animal-based proteins are always a good starting point for a carnivorous kitty and the first 5 ingredients are all sourced from animals if you include gelatin. While that’s not always difficult to find in wet foods, it can be quite difficult to pull off when it comes to kibble.

Beyond quality ingredients, we also see a low magnesium content of 0.07% and low phosphorus of 0.99%.

Even though it doesn’t change what’s in the bag, I love the story behind Dr. Elsey’s brand and the real-life Dr. Elsey has been a committed cat lover and feline advocate for decades. The company regularly donates to shelters and focuses on solving big problems like feline house soiling.

Again, that’s not a reason to buy and we wouldn’t include this diet if they didn’t fit the bill of a urinary diet but it is nice to know who’s behind the brand.

We’re going to take a closer look at the first 5 ingredients inside the chicken recipe to get a better feel for this recipe but if you want to read more reviews and see the latest price on Amazon you can click here.

Let’s take a closer look at the first 5 ingredients to get a better idea of what’s in the chicken recipe.

1. Chicken

As we’d expect from a recipe with chicken in the name, the first protein is chicken. When we see poultry or meat source without any qualifications on it AAFCO guidelines tell us that it’s similar to what we’d expect from the grocery with some less-than-ideal cuts thrown in but it’s still a great start to this dry food.

2. Dried Egg Product

Eggs are a great source of highly digestible proteins and amino acids for cats. When found in cat food, this ingredient describes dehydrated eggs (with the shell removed). Because this product is dried, it can be easier to store and can often reduce the overall cost.

3. Pork Protein Isolate

While this ingredient may sound complex if we break it down into smaller pieces it becomes pretty straightforward. Everyone is already familiar with pork and this is specifically pork protein that’s been isolated. It’s a highly concentrated protein with high biological availability and part of how this dry food is able to achieve such high protein content.

4. Gelatin

The manufacturing process for dry food requires some kind of binding ingredient and you’ll often see vegetables, starches and grains includes for this reason (in addition to reducing cost).

But Dr. Elsey takes a different route and uses gelatin which is most often sourced from animals. Gelatin isn’t going to make much of an impact in terms of protein but it does help the first five ingredients stay species-appropriate as they’re all sourced from animals which is more closely aligned to the natural diet of your carnivorous kitty.

5. Chicken Fat

Another great addition to this recipe is chicken fat. A simple to understand ingredient, fat is a critical nutrient for cats and adds additional flavor.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients in the chicken recipe:

Chicken, Dried Egg Product, Pork Protein Isolate, Gelatin, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Flaxseed, Natural Flavor, Salmon Oil, Potassium Citrate, Calcium Carbonate, Fructooligosaccharide, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Acetate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Calcium Carbonate, Manganous Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Cobalt Carbonate, Ethylenediamine Dihydroiodide), Potassium Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative), Taurine, Salt, Rosemary Extract.

Here’s the guaranteed analysis:

  • 59% Protein
  • 18% Fat
  • 4% Fiber
  • 12% Moisture

 

Runner Up: Farmina N&D Functional Quinoa Urinary Dry Food

Farmina N&D Functional Quinoa Urinary Dry Food
169 Reviews
Farmina N&D Functional Quinoa Urinary Dry Food
  • Duck can add some variety to your feline friend's diet
  • Includes cranberry which may help prevent feline UTI's
  • 0.08% Magnesium
  • 0.90% Phosphorus

Farmina is a lesser-known brand with a wide range of specialty diets including this urinary tract health dry food. With a focus on duck, this recipe could be more interesting for particular picky felines.

While this food may not have the same commitment to animal proteins as our best overall pick Farmina has included a variety of other interesting ingredients including urinary tract supporting cranberry. Cranberry is well known in the human world for supporting urinary health and managing UTI’s but it has the same benefits for our feline friends too.

Farmina doesn’t just focus on urinary health however and also turns a lot of attention to digestive health with the inclusion of quinoa which we’ll look at more closely in our review of the top 5 ingredients.

As we’d expect, Farmina keeps appropriate levels of magnesium at 0.08% and phosphorus at 0.9% which is comparable to many other urinary diets, including some prescription diets.

Overall, this recipe for Farmina is a solid choice but still deserves the runner-up spot because it doesn’t stay as species-appropriate as other options on this list. We’re going to look at the first 5 ingredients to get a better idea of what’s inside but if you want to see more reviews along with the latest price on Amazon you can click here.

Let’s take a deeper look at the first 5 ingredients to see what’s inside the N&D Urinary recipe from Farmina.

1. Boneless Duck

As always, we want to start the list of ingredients with a high-quality animal-based protein and duck is a great start. The fact that it’s boneless doesn’t change much according to AAFCO definitions.

2. Dehydrated Duck

A second, and matching, protein source is a great addition to this recipe. Dehydrated duck is similar to the above but in this case, it’s gone through a different type of processing.

3. Pea Starch

Pea starch isn’t my favorite ingredient since it’s not species-appreciate but it’s still a better choice than other carbohydrates. Because dry food has a different manufacturing process it’s also difficult to avoid the addition of some kind of starch or binding agent. As we saw with Dr. Elsey’s dry food some recipes use gelatin instead.

4. Chicken Fat

Animal-based proteins are great…and so are animal-based fats! I’m happy to see another animal-based ingredient in the top five ingredients.

5. Quinoa Seed

The value of quinoa seed could be debated and I’d usually prefer to see an animal-sourced protein. However, there is a strong argument to be made that quinoa seed could provide some digestive benefits to cats. It’s also well known for its low glycemic index so as far as plant additions go, it’s far from the worst.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients in the duck recipe:

boneless duck, dehydrated duck, pea starch, chicken fat, quinoa seed, dried whole eggs, dehydrated herring, herring oil, dried cranberry, chamomile, fructooligosaccharide, yeast extract, psyllium seed husk, calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, brewers dried yeast, salt, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, ascorbic acid, niacin, calcium pantothenate, riboflavin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, biotin, folic acid, vitamin B12 supplement, choline chloride, beta-carotene, zinc methionine hydroxy analogue chelate, manganese methionine hydroxy analogue chelate, ferrous glycine, copper methionine hydroxy analogue chelate, DL-Methionine, taurine, aloe vera gel concentrate, green tea extract, rosemary extract, mixed tocopherols (a preservative).

Here’s the guaranteed analysis:

  • 33% Protein
  • 16.5% Fat
  • 2.1% Fiber
  • 8% Moisture

 

Budget Alternative: Wysong Uretic Natural Dry Food

Sale
Wysong Uretic Natural Dry Food
1,632 Reviews
Wysong Uretic Natural Dry Food
  • Easy on the budget with a solid list of ingredients
  • 8.91% Max Ash Content
  • 0.09% Magnesium
  • 0.81% Phosphorus

Wysong Uretic dry food which features a magnesium and phosphorus profile that’s comparable to Hills Science Diet C/D and many other prescription diets. Again, this doesn’t make the diets equivalent but it can be a good start.  Even better, Wysong Uretic is easy on the budget, doesn’t require a prescription from a veterinarian and is specifically marketing as a urinary food.

Overall, Wysong Uretic is a great balance of price and quality which makes it a reasonable alternative to Hills C/D. This recipe also has more than 1,000 five-star reviews that support it on Amazon and you can read them (along with checking the latest price) by clicking here.

Let’s get a better feel for what’s inside this diet by taking a look at the first 5 ingredients.

1. Chicken

Animal-based protein is always a good start to any diet and it’s no different here. According to the AAFCO, when we see poultry listed without any additional qualifiers “it is the parts of the bird as you would find if you purchased a whole chicken or turkey at the grocery store.”

They go on to say that you should also expect some additional cuts that you wouldn’t find in the store but that’s still great for your feline friend.

2. Chicken Meal

Meal, of any kind, is the ground-up meat after it’s been treated with heat and had the water removed. Meals are high protein but generally lack the healthy fats that are good for cats. Still, Wysong makes up for this with other ingredients and overall the diet has a 15% fat content which is on the higher end of most dry foods.

Overall, meal is a solid ingredient that provides high protein even if we wouldn’t want to see too much of it.

3. Chicken Fat

Fat is another solid ingredient because it’s species-specific for our carnivorous kitties. It also helps balance out the lower fat meal that we saw in the previous ingredient.

4. Potato Protein

This is our first non-animal ingredient and while I’d love to see more animal-sourced proteins it’s at least in ingredient number 4. Studies suggest that even though they may not contain the same amino acid profile, cats are able to digest and absorb plant-based proteins.

5. Brown Rice

My least favorite ingredient on this list but ingredients like brown rice do help bring the overall cost of this diet down. Cats don’t really need carbs but there are certainly worse options and worse recipes.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients in the Wysong Uretic Natural Dry Food:

Chicken, Chicken Meal, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Potato Protein, Brown Rice, Peas, Flaxseeds, Meat Protein Isolate, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Natural Flavor, Sesame Seeds, Dried Cheese, Dried Whey, DL-Methionine, Salt, Dried Tomato Pomace, Taurine, Calcium Carbonate, Cranberry Extract, Calcium Propionate (a preservative), Choline Chloride, Coconut Oil, Organic Barley Grass Powder, Dried Blueberry Powder, Dried Kelp, Dried Yogurt, Citric Acid (a preservative), Dried Kale, Dried Spinach, Dried Carrots, Apple Pectin, Fish Oil, Yeast Extract, Mixed Tocopherols (a preservative), Rosemary Extract, Inulin, Yeast Culture, Minerals (Potassium Chloride, Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate), Vitamins (Ascorbic Acid [source of Vitamin C], Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride [source of Vitamin B6], Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), Dried Aspergillus oryzae Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus subtilis Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus lactis Fermentation Product, Pepper.

  • 42% Protein
  • 15% Fat
  • 5% Fiber
  • 10% Moisture

 

Prescription Brand Alternative: Hill’s Science Diet Urinary & Hairball Control Dry Food

Sale
Hill's Science Diet Urinary & Hairball Control Dry Food
8,158 Reviews
Hill's Science Diet Urinary & Hairball Control Dry Food
  • This is Hill's version of a urinary diet that doesn't require a prescription
  • 0.077% Magnesium (by dry matter)
  • 0.62% Phosphorus

Many prescription urinary diet brands also make non-prescription diets as well.

While these non-prescription versions don’t have clinical trials backing them, they often have a similar ingredient profile considering that they’re made from the same brand and if you’re looking for a close substitute they can be a good place to start.

That’s where Hill’s Science Diet Urinary & Hairball Control dry food enters the picture.

But what’s the difference between the C/D prescription diet from Hills and this recipe?

The biggest difference is, of course, the lack of clinical trials supporting this diet when it comes to urinary health, and as we’ve already discussed that’s what really sets prescription diets apart from the rest.

Beyond that, the list of ingredients is quite similar. We can see that the first 8 ingredients for the prescription C/D diet are:

Chicken, Whole Grain Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, Whole Grain Wheat, Brewers Rice, Pork Fat, Chicken Meal, Egg Product

Compared that to the first 8 ingredients in the non-prescription urinary and & hairball diet and we see:

Chicken, Whole Grain Wheat, Corn Gluten Meal, Pork Fat, Powdered Cellulose, Wheat Gluten, Chicken Liver Flavor, Dried Beet Pulp

While some smaller ingredients have been shifted, the big protein sources are similar across both recipes. But as I’ve said before, there’s more to these diets than just the first 8 ingredients and this is only to give you an idea of what’s inside.

However, I want to point that outside of finding a comparable recipe to urinary prescription diets, this food isn’t for everyone or for every cat.

While the grain-free movement has plenty of valid criticism, many folks will want to skip ingredients like wheat and corn in favor of more animal-based ingredients that line up with your little carnivore’s natural diet.

Still, if you’re looking for a reasonable alternative sticking with the Hill’s line is worth exploring. There are also more than 5,900 five-star reviews supporting this diet on Amazon so despite not fitting into the grain-free movement there are still plenty of happy cat parents.

You can read some of those reviews and check the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.

Now let’s take a closer look at those first 5 ingredients to get a better idea of what’s inside this recipe.

1. Chicken

As you’d expect, chicken is a great first ingredient. Since this doesn’t have any additional qualifiers (like by-product or meal) it’s similar to what you’d expect at the store with some less-than-appetizing, at least for humans, cuts thrown in. It’s a great source of protein a solid start to any cat food.

2. Whole Grain Wheat

If you’re part of the grain-free pet food movement then this second ingredient might be a deal-breaker. While cats certainly wouldn’t be foraging for wheat in the wild, there are plenty of veterinarians who argue that isn’t reason alone to not feed grains to cats.

My personal opinion falls somewhere in the middle and while wheat does help reduce cost, I wouldn’t want to feed my feline friend more grains than I need to.

3. Corn Gluten Meal

The third ingredient is another plant-based ingredient that provides a high amount of protein. Again, ingredients like this may not be the most popular when it comes to cat food but some studies suggest that he may be a great addition to a urinary diet.

One study compared meat meal to corn gluten meal and found that “Urinary pH, struvite activity product, and number of struvite crystals in urine were lower for the [corn gluten meal] group.”

It just goes to show how complex nutrition really can be and while it’s not the animal-based proteins that we look for, it appears that corn gluten meal may still have a place in a urinary diet.

4. Pork Fat

Port fat is a more straightforward ingredient, at least compared to others we’ve looked at is simply the isolated fat from pork. It’s species-appropriate for your carnivore cat and great source of fat.

5. Powdered Cellulose

Powdered cellulose is another controversial ingredient and is essentially wood or plant pulp. This is intended to add additional fiber and fiber is part of what helps reduce hairballs and smelly poops in cats but not everyone is excited about the idea of powdered wood in their cat’s diet. Again, it’s worth looking at the big picture goal of the diet and not getting to focused on just one ingredient.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients in the Hill’s Science Diet Urinary & Hairball Control Dry Food:

Chicken, Whole Grain Wheat, Corn Gluten Meal, Pork Fat, Powdered Cellulose, Wheat Gluten, Chicken Liver Flavor, Dried Beet Pulp, Soybean Oil, Lactic Acid, Calcium Sulfate, Fish Oil, Choline Chloride, Potassium Chloride, L-Lysine, Iodized Salt, Dicalcium Phosphate, Taurine, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Potassium Citrate, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), L-Carnitine, Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Natural Flavors, Green Peas, Apples, Cranberries, Carrots, Broccoli, Beta-Carotene
  • 29.5% Protein
  • 16% Fat
  • 9.5% Fiber
  • 10 to 15% Moisture

 

Closing Thoughts

That’s it!

While finding an alternative to urinary prescription diets might seem like a straightforward process, there’s actually quite a bit that needs to be covered before you can really make an educated decision.

As I’ve already mentioned several times, this is a decision that you should make with your veterinarian so that you can consider the entire health perspective of your cat and not just urinary concerns.

Logan M.

Logan has always loved everything about cats! Growing up with a family full of pets and a lifelong passion for animals he pursued work in the veterinary industry. After 10 years, he started BetterWithCats.net to help cat owners learn more about their feline friends.

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