The feline body is a unique piece of organic engineering. A cat’s body requires a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals to function optimally. These should always be found in a cat’s food.
Vitamins A, D, E, and K are essential fat-soluble vitamins required by cats. Felines also require water-soluble vitamins from the Vitamin B family. Cats also need minerals, such as potassium and magnesium.
Sometimes, ill-health means that a cat’s body cannot derive vitamins from food. If so, supplementation is advisable. Avoid supplements in otherwise healthy cats as excess vitamins and minerals can be toxic.
Cat Nutritional Requirements
Healthy skin, fur, and bones, alongside functional organs and a sharp mind, all come from the diet. Alongside protein, fat, and amino acids, vitamins and minerals are essential to feline health.
High-quality food will provide the vitamins and minerals that a cat needs in appropriate quantities. Supplementing this intake can be dangerous as excessive vitamins and minerals can be toxic to cats.
Check the label on your preferred cat food to ensure that it has all the vitamins and minerals that a cat needs. If not, consider switching to a different brand.
What Vitamins Do Cats Need?
Cats need 14 different vitamins to thrive. These should all be found in your cat’s food. If this is the case, further supplementation is not required. If your cat shows any sign of vitamin deficiency, your cat may have a medical condition that prevents vitamin absorption.
Vitamin A is linked to healthy skin and vision in cats. If your cat has injured itself, Vitamin A promotes self-healing. By consuming this vitamin, the skin will close up and regenerate. Vitamin A is also critical to good night vision. A cat that lacks Vitamin A will struggle to see in darkness. As cats like to patrol at night, this can be dangerous.
Vitamin D binds calcium to your cat’s body. This means that your cat retains as much calcium as it needs. This prevents a cat’s bones from growing brittle. Cats do not absorb much Vitamin D from the rays of the sun, so it is a key component of your cat’s diet.
Your cat’s immune system relies upon Vitamin E. If a cat lacks sufficient Vitamin E, it will become more susceptible to viruses and allergens. The Journal of Nutrition notes that Vitamin E is important for cats that enjoy a fish-based diet. Fish is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can cause oxidation.
Vitamin K helps a cat’s blood to coagulate. Without it, a cat risks becoming anemic as the blood becomes increasingly thin. Vitamin K deficiency has been linked to hemophilia in cats.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Vitamin B1 is one of the most vital components of any cat food. Unfortunately, as discussed in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, many foods lack this vitamin. These brands issued recalls but ensure thiamine is found in your cat’s food.
Vitamin B1 is essential as it metabolizes carbohydrates. This is critical for cats, as the feline body struggles to process carbs. Also, thiamine promotes brain health. Without this vitamin, your cat’s brain will struggle to send messages to the nervous system.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
While primarily found in dairy, which is cat-unfriendly, felines need riboflavin. Vitamin B2 is what promotes healthy fur growth in a cat. Without this vitamin, your cat is more likely to get alopecia.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
The main benefits of Vitamin B3 in cats are to the skin and fur. Niacin will ensure that your cat’s skin is robust and its coat remains glossy. Also, this vitamin breaks down sugar and fat and turns them into energy.
Sugar is less of a concern for cats as they’re disinterested in sweet tastes. Fat is a key element of any cat’s diet, though. As your cat ages, it will become less active. Higher levels of Vitamin B3 in the diet will reduce the risk of obesity.
Vitamin B4 (Choline)
Vitamin B4, alongside Vitamin B8, helps maintain healthy skin in cats. These vitamins hydrate the skin, protecting it from dehydration.
Perhaps more importantly, The Journal of Small Animal Practice also connects Vitamin B4 to brain function. A deficiency of choline has been linked to feline cognitive dysfunction. Vitamin B4 can also reduce the risk of seizures in epileptic cats.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Pantothenic acids take their name from the Greek word, “pantos.” This loosely translates into English as “found everywhere.” The reason for this is that Vitamin B5 will flood your cat’s entire body. While Vitamin B5 does not perform a particular task itself, it sparks reactions in the cat’s metabolism. Pantothenic acids are the sparks that light a fire within your cat’s body.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Vitamin B6 serves the same purpose as Vitamin B5. It is another coenzyme that keeps your cat’s metabolism healthy.
Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
The impact of Vitamin B7 is almost identical to that of Vitamin B3. Biotin will boost your cat’s fur and skin. It also works to break down glucose. This means that your cat will be more energetic and will maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
Vitamin B8 (Inositol)
Inositol works alongside Vitamin B4 to ensure that your cat’s skin is healthy. This vitamin strengthens the cell membranes, turning your cat’s skin into a protective shield.
Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)
According to The American Journal of Veterinary Research, folic acid creates red blood cells. These cells are essential for distributing oxygen around the cat’s body. Folic acid is also essential for pregnant cats. The fetuses growing inside a female cat thrive on Vitamin B9. This means that a pregnant cat should consume a little more folic acid than she ordinarily would.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
The main role of Vitamin B12 is encouraging a healthy gut and digestive tract. If your cat has sufficient levels of cobalamin, it will process food naturally and efficiently. Cats do not generate B12 organically. It must be consumed through food. A Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to sudden weight loss and a lack of energy.
Essential Minerals for Cats
As well as vitamins, cats require particular minerals with which to flourish. Vitamins and minerals are both micronutrients, but there is a key difference between them.
Vitamins are organic structures. They break down inside a cat’s body, absorbed by fat or water. Minerals are inorganic. They hold their structure, even when consumed. This means that minerals are easier for cats to obtain. It also means that minerals need only be consumed in small, often trace, quantities.
It’s no secret that kittens need calcium to develop healthy teeth and bones. It remains just as important as cats age, though. Calcium acts as an electrolyte, which maintains healthy kidney function in adult cats.
Never offer cats milk to increase their calcium intake. Aside from the fact that most cats are lactose intolerant, excess calcium causes hypercalcemia. According to the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, hypercalcemia leads to abnormal tissue growth (neoplasia), urinary tract infections, and renal failure.
Phosphorous works alongside calcium in your cat’s body. This means the two minerals must be balanced. The more calcium a cat consumes, the less phosphorous it requires.
Potassium is found throughout your cat’s body. It is a critical element of feline nutrition, especially once a cat grows older. Low levels of potassium in the blood cause a range of issues.
As cats age, potassium levels naturally start to drop. This can lead to lethargy, depression, and dull fur. This is why specialist food for older cats is essential. Senior cat food is high in potassium, replacing less essential minerals.
Most cat foods contain an appropriate amount of sodium chloride. As this is essentially table salt, it will encourage your cat to drink water. Cats often need a little encouragement to rehydrate.
After drinking, the cat will need to urinate. This will clear waste from the kidneys and prevent the formation of bladder stones. This makes sodium a key mineral. Just don’t sprinkle salt on your cat’s food.
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in a cat’s diet. Other than potassium, it is the most plentiful mineral in a cat’s cells. Magnesium is the ferryman of a cat’s body. It transports critical hormones and enzymes throughout a cat’s organs and nerves.
As the Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research explains, magnesium deficiency can lead to feline cardiomyopathy. Muscle twitches and uncoordinated movements are also linked to magnesium deficiency.
Excessive magnesium can have the same impact, though. Do not feed your cat an additional magnesium supplement unless necessary. A healthy cat will have a plentiful supply of this mineral within its body.
The primary function of zinc is to promote good-quality skin and fur. Zinc is also key to the reproductive function of female cats. A cat with a zinc deficiency is unlikely to carry a litter of kittens to the full term.
Iron amplifies oxygen levels in the body. This means that blood pumps around the cat’s body, ensuring the maximum performance of muscles and internal organs. Iron is only required in trace amounts. If your cat has an iron deficiency, this will invariably be due to a medical condition.
Manganese strengthens and solidifies bones and cartilage. According to The Journal of Inflammation, manganese may provide some relief to an arthritic cat.
The meat in your cat’s food will only contain tiny traces of this mineral. It is more commonly found in grains. Most senior cat foods will not contain many carbohydrates due to the high number of calories. This makes supplementation of manganese in senior cats a solution for arthritis and joint pain.
The influence of copper in a cat’s diet is felt in the fur and the blood. Copper helps the body to metabolize iron, preventing a cat from becoming anemic. Copper also helps to synthesize melanin. This is the hormone that gives a cat’s fur its color. If a cat’s body lacks copper, its coat will become dull and lifeless. It could even change shade if the copper deficiency is prolonged.
Iodine only needs to be consumed in trace amounts. Up to 80% of a cat’s iodine consumption makes its way to the thyroid gland. This stimulates the gland, encouraging a healthy release of the hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).
Iodine deficiency can lead to hypothyroidism, which is a below-standard release of these hormones. This will cause your cat to rapidly gain weight, opening it up to a range of health risks.
Selenium is also linked to a cat’s thyroid gland. A deficiency could lead to hypothyroidism. As The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health explains, selenium is valuable if your cat enjoys tuna fish. Tuna is a tasty treat for cats, but it can cause mercury poisoning. Selenium can inhibit the absorption of mercury.