Your cat is a member of your family and you want them to live a long and healthy life. We care for them by providing them with clean litterboxes, fresh water, toys and nutritious food. Cats should only be fed food that is specifically for them and should never be fed dog food. If you are cooking fresh food for your spoiled felines, you need to be aware of various supplements that should be included in their dinner.
Taurine is an amino acid that is essential for the digestive process. It is also critical for maintaining a healthy heart and vision and the healthy development of kittens. When cats do not receive enough taurine in their diets, they can suffer from a form of heart disease, blindness and various gastrointestinal disturbances.
A pregnant cat, also known as a queen, with a taurine deficiency can suffer from reproductive failure, low birth weight and inferior growth rates in her kittens.
Cats have digestive issues that differ from dogs and other mammals, and you need to make sure that their food meets nutritional requirements unique to them. According to PetMD, cats require a substantial amount of taurine in their diets.
The Importance of Taurine for Cats
As an amino acid, taurine is found naturally in meat and seafood. In many mammals, taurine can be naturally synthesized from other naturally occurring amino acids.
According to the Feline Nutrition Foundation, cats are unable to synthesize enough taurine naturally and need to get it from their diets. Taurine is essential for the digestive process, specifically the bile acids and bile salts conjugated within the liver.
Bile is responsible for the absorption of nutrients, fats and fat-soluble vitamins in the small intestine.
[Related Article: What Is Chicken Meal in Cat Food?]
What foods Are High In Taurine For Cats?
Cats are carnivores. When cats are in the wild, they can get enough taurine from the prey they catch. Taurine is only minimally present in plants and plant products. Commercially prepared cat food is required to follow requirements set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
Some food high in taurine includes the following
- Chicken liver
- Beef liver
- Beef heart
Taurine is found naturally in muscle and organ meats and fish. While cats in the wild will eat enough prey to meet their nutritional needs, our domesticated house cats are fed smaller amounts of food than that eaten by their wild counterparts who tend to be much more active.
Dietary requirements for cats and dogs are very different and are the main reason that you should never feed dog food to your cat. PetCoach outlines the various nutritional requirements for cat food.
The amount of required taurine for cats’ diets is substantial. If you prefer to prepare fresh food for your cat, you will need to add a taurine supplement to their food.
[Related Article: What is Ash In Cat Food?]
How Long Can Cats Go Without Taurine?
When a cat does not receive enough taurine in their diets or totally does not receive taurine for more than 6 weeks, they can develop a condition known as taurine deficiency syndrome.
A taurine deficiency can manifest itself as a type of heart disease known as Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).
Cats suffering from DCM experience difficulties in the way that their heart muscles contract ultimately leading to congestive heart failure. Fortunately, when the disease is caught in the early stages, taurine provided as a dietary supplement can reverse DCM.
Taurine deficiency can also lead to blindness due to degeneration of the retina. As the deficiency continues, the degradation of the optical structures in the retina is irreversible. While you might not catch deficiency early enough to prevent blindness, providing additional supplements of taurine can save what is left of your cat’s eyesight.
For breeding queens, taurine is essential for the development of kittens while they are still in-utero as well as in their early stages of kittenhood.
Taurine deficiency can also lead to complete reproductive failure. Litters born to taurine-deficient queens tend to be smaller in number, and include kittens with low birth weight who may not have the best chances of survival.
Taurine deficiency does not have early clinical signs. When it is finally diagnosed, the damage might already be significant. The only symptoms of taurine deficiency are the diseases themselves and are therefore hard to catch in the earlier stages.
What is Considered a Healthy Diet for Cats?
Since cats are carnivores, their diets need to be mostly meat or fish and thus high in protein. According to the ASPCA, a healthy diet for kitties should be centered around wet cat food.
Dry cat food does not have high enough levels of protein to be an important part of the feline diet but may be included if it is something that your cats enjoy. Other important nutrients included in cat food are a source of energy and to keep their metabolic processes at a level conducive for growth and maintaining a healthy weight.
Taurine as an Added Nutritional Supplement
In the case of freshly prepared food or in the case of taurine-deficiency ailments, it is recommended that you give your cat a taurine supplement equal to 250 mg for every one pound of meat.
Taurine is not affected by cooking temperature or freezing in the case of home-prepared meals. Since taurine is highly water-soluble, it can be easily lost if the amounts added are not carefully monitored.
[Related Article: How Much Raw Food To Feed Your Cats?]
Not all cat food is made the same. With the current AAFCO guidelines, cat food needs to contain a minimum of 0.2% taurine per serving. Since the amount of taurine is different for meat and fish, it is best to feed your cat commercial canned cat food that ensures the presence of nutrients that meet AAFCO guidelines.
There is something to be said for the more expensive, higher-quality canned foods, and extra money spent on these foods can potentially save you money on future vet bills.
The average house cat can tend to be lazy so overfeeding can easily lead to obesity. Balancing their healthy diet with a level of play that gives them plenty of exercises can help minimize the chances that your cat might become obese.
Laser pointers, fishing poles, and cat trees in addition to balls and fuzzy toys are a great source of exercise for house cats. A healthy cat is a happy cat, and they will be neither healthy nor happy if you fail to provide them with the right nutritionally rich cat food. When cats are healthy, they can provide unconditional love and companionship for many years to come.