Pet care has grown increasingly more advanced in recent years. This has helped to improve the health and increase the longevity of cats considerably. The right balance of food and nutrition will ensure that your cat gets all of the vitamins it needs to stay in the best of health.
A cat that eats a high-quality diet will very rarely experience a nutrient deficiency. Good cat food is essential as it provides your pet with everything their body needs. The use of supplements to provide vitamins to cats is less certain, and causes much debate among animal experts.
- 1 Warning Signs of Nutritional Deficiency in Cats
- 2 Recommended Vitamins for Cats
- 3 What Essential Fatty Acids Does My Cat Need?
- 4 Are Supplemental Vitamins Safe for Cats?
Warning Signs of Nutritional Deficiency in Cats
You’ll notice that we mention a high-quality diet. This is because not all pet food is created equal. It’s not as simple as claiming that the costliest food on the shelf will be the best. It is safe to say that you get what you pay for, though.
Cheap cat food is more likely to be loaded with sugars and fillers. These will be tasty for your pet in the short-term, but potentially harmful eventually.
Low-quality cat food will leave your cat with a nutrient deficiency. The exact symptoms may vary, depending on what particular vitamins your cat is deficient in. As AnimalWised explains, general warning signs include:
- Dull, untidy fur that lacks gloss
- Variable eating habits, such as irrepressible hunger followed prolonged disinterest in food
- Skin disorders, including dandruff, dermatitis or seborrhea
- Complications surrounding the litter tray, including constipation or diarrhea
- Drastic fluctuations in weight, whether these leave your cat too thin or fat
- Behavioral changes, including hyperactivity or uncharacteristic aggression
If your cat’s diet is not providing them with what they need, see your vet. A professional will advise upon the ideal diet for your cat’s circumstances. Age, weight, and lifestyle will all be factors that come into consideration.
Recommended Vitamins for Cats
There are eleven essential vitamins and minerals for any cat. The best vitamins for cats are:
- Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and D
Let’s take a look at each of these essential components of a cat’s diet in more detail.
Taurine for Cats
Taurine is an amino acid. However, it’s the single most crucial component of any cat food. Always ensure that the food you offer your cat is high in protein.
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they need meat to survive. The reason for this is that animal fats contain taurine, which cats cannot generate organically.
As VCA Hospitals explains, a cat that lacks taurine will become very unwell. Red or white meat, especially animal hearts or livers, will keep your cat’s taurine levels at an appropriate level.
Blindness and heart failure are the most common results of taurine deficiency. However, a cat with insufficient taurine may also have growth defects, and any kittens may experience congenital disabilities.
Taurine supplements are available, but should only be used upon the advice of a vet. A cat should never be fed a plant-based diet with taurine supplements as a lifestyle choice. This is placing the feline’s health in needless jeopardy.
Vitamin A for Cats
Vitamin A serves two primary purposes for cats. It promotes healthy skin, and ensures sharp vision – especially at night.
Your cat needs vitamin A in their food. Classic signs of a deficiency include unhealthy-looking, unkempt fur, and clumsiness by night. If your cat cannot see in the dark, they are almost certainly lacking vitamin A.
You must be careful, however. It’s possible to provide a cat with excess vitamin A. This leads to toxicity, which damages the liver and bones. Avoid supplementing your cat with additional vitamin A, unless advised by your vet to do so.
Thiamine (Vitamin B1) for Cats
Vitamin B1, aka thiamine, is just as crucial to your cat as taurine. Your cat requires vitamin thiamine to process any carbohydrates they consume.
If your cat lacks sufficient thiamine, they’ll suffer from several neurological concerns. These could include a lack of coordination, loss of control over the head and neck, and even seizures.
Any quality red of white meat-based cat food will contain thiamine. Limit the amount of fish that your cat consumes, however. Fish, especially when raw, can block the consumption of thiamine to your cat’s body.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) for Cats
Riboflavin is another B vitamin that aids with your cat’s digestion. It breaks foods down as they enter your pet’s body, and converts them to energy.
A lack of riboflavin can cause abdominal pain, as well as skin conditions. Any quality cat food will contain all the vitamin B2 that your cat needs. Also, it is impossible for a cat to experience riboflavin toxicity. Your cat would need to consume an absurd amount to experience this.
If your pet does consume this vitamin to excess, it’s filtered and eliminated by the kidneys. This means that supplementation is safe if your cat is unable to process riboflavin through their food.
Niacin (Vitamin B3) for Cats
Niacin serves multiple purposes as part of your cat’s diet. This vitamin ensures that your pet enjoys a healthy digestive tract, and an effective metabolism. Also, niacin improves a cat’s memory and cognitive skills.
Perhaps even more pivotal than the benefits of niacin are the drawbacks of insufficient amounts. A cat that lacks niacin in their diet will be at risk of dermatitis. A lack of this vitamin also encourages the onset of feline cognitive dysfunction in senior cats.
5mg of niacin per day will be sufficient for most cats. Ensure this is found in your pet’s diet, as cats do not generate the vitamin organically.
Vitamin C for Cats
They don’t rely on this vitamin to keep coughs and colds at bay. However, it does boost the production of collagen. This prevents your cat’s joints from becoming arthritic.
Your cat’s body produces vitamin C needed, so supplementation will not be necessary. An excess of vitamin C can cause urinary tract issues, or negatively impact the kidneys.
Thankfully, your cat is unlikely to help themselves to vitamin C-loaded fruit in your home. Foods such as oranges smell terrible to cats, and they’ll give them a wide berth. This means that your cat is highly unlikely to develop vitamin C poisoning. Cats shouldn’t eat oranges as they’re toxic.
Vitamin D for Cats
Vitamin D is often referred to as ‘the sunshine vitamin.’ This is because many animals absorb vitamin D straight from the sun’s rays. Where cats are concerned, however, this is less impactful.
Unlike dogs, feline bodies struggle to absorb appropriate amounts of this vitamin through sunlight. This makes it more critical than ever that your cat gets their vitamin D through food.
As Mercola explains, Vitamin D is among the most problematic nutrients to balance. Debate rages as to how much is needed, and excessive levels of vitamin D can be highly toxic. Look out for these warning signs:
- Drooling to excess
- Vomiting, especially if bloody. Also, check your cat’s stool for discoloration
- Muscle tremors and general weakness
- Abdominal pain
- Lack of interest in food, but increased thirst
- Sudden weight loss
If your cat experiences any of these symptoms, see a vet. Vitamin D poisoning can be fatal. A vet will always be able to check your cat’s levels of vitamin D through a blood test. It is advisable to request this at least once annually, or whenever you change your cat’s food.
Calcium for Cats
Calcium helps your cat to enjoy healthy teeth and bones, but cats cannot get calcium through dairy. Most felines are lactose intolerant, leaving them unable to process cow’s milk or cheese.
You should always have your cat’s calcium levels checked by a vet. If they are correct, then continue what you’re doing. If they’re low and your cat struggles to process calcium in their food, look into supplementation. Your cat could be at genuine risk of developing rickets otherwise.
Excessive calcium is just as dangerous, however. This will result in your cat’s bones growing too dense. This can cause skeletal deformation.
It’s unlikely that your cat will consume too much calcium in a balanced diet, however. High-quality food and a sensible ratio of treats keep felines in a calcium sweet spot.
Magnesium for Cats
Magnesium is pivotal to your cat enjoying a functional, healthy metabolism. The symptoms and repercussions of magnesium deficiency can be severe. These include muscles that waste or become overactive, weakness and lethargy, and even heart problems.
Again, magnesium is found in any reputable cat food. This means that supplementation shouldn’t be needed. If your vet does recommend upping your cat’s magnesium intake, consider Milk of Magnesia.
Ordinarily, cats should never have human medication. One teaspoon of this medicine can provide felines will a boost.
You must also be careful never to provide your cat with excessive magnesium. This can play havoc with their brain function, and several internal organs. Elevated heart rate and difficulty breathing are common side effects of excessive magnesium.
Iron for Cats
Iron is a pivotal mineral for healthy blood in your cat. If your pet is living with an iron deficiency, anemia is a real risk. This will result in your cat needing to make some drastic lifestyle changes.
The typical cat will need around 36.4mg of iron for every lb. of their daily food allowance. Quality cat food will provide this, and supplementation will not be necessary.
You’ll be able to tell if your cat does lack iron, however. They’ll be fragile physically, have a suspiciously weak immune system, and pass deep red stools.
Some cats are unable to process and absorb iron as a genetic defect. In such cases, they’ll need regular injections from a veterinarian.
An inability to process iron will be noted during routine tests, though. Take your cat for regular check-ups, and feed them a quality diet, to avoid iron-related issues.
Potassium for Cats
Potassium is vital for felines, as it keeps their muscles and nerves functioning as they should. As always, ensuring that your cat enjoys appropriate amounts of potassium is a balancing act. Typically, quality cat food will contain around 0.6% potassium.
Cats do generate potassium organically, and any that they consume keeps them topped up. This means that, if you feed your cat a sensible and balanced diet, they’ll be fine.
As your cat grows older, they may start to experience problems with their kidneys. This can lead to lowered levels of potassium, which is known as hypokalemia.
A hypokalemic cat will experience severe muscle weakness. This can become so problematic that a feline is eventually unable to lift their head. In such an instance, a vet will ensure that your cat receives a potassium uptake, possibly intravenously.
It’s also more than possible for your cat to suffer from excessive potassium. This is known as hyperkalemia. This condition can arise as a result of urinary tract infections or blockages, or kidney troubles. The result will be an elevated heart rate, and an uncoordinated gait.
Your vet will need to treat the cause behind hyperkalemia. Your cat will either bounce back from treatment quickly, or require long-term care and lifestyle changes. It depends on what is causing the issue.
What Essential Fatty Acids Does My Cat Need?
It’s not just minerals and vitamins that are pivotal to keeping cats healthy. They need fatty acids, too. Animal Wellness Magazine name checks three fatty acids that are essential to your cat’s diet.
- Arachinodic acid (aka AA)
- Eicosapentanoic acid (aka EPA)
- Docosahexaneoic (aka DHA)
Fatty acids have several health benefits for felines. They aid the digestive tract, reduce inflammation and boost the quality of fur. Fatty acids such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 have also been shown to improve feline cognitive function.
Are Supplemental Vitamins Safe for Cats?
High-quality cat food will contain everything that your cat needs. As a result, supplements could be dangerous. It’s possible to poison your cat’s body with excessive vitamins and minerals.
Sometimes, supplemental vitamins are necessary. It’s possible that your pet is living with a medical condition that necessitates the use of supplements.
Not all felines are capable of processing and absorbing the vitamins found in their food. Also, older cats may need a little helping hand from supplements from time to time.
What are the Best Cat Vitamins for Hair Loss?
Most cats shed fur every day – this is perfectly natural. However, substantial hair loss that leaves bald patches is not. If your cat is losing their fur at a rate of knots, something must be wrong.
It’s possible that this hair loss has nothing to do with nutrition. Allergies, stress and parasitic infections are all common explanations for this ailment. Get your cat checked out, and ensure that they’re not physically or mentally unwell. Your pet may even be tearing their hair out.
If the issue is related to nutrition, however, vitamins A, B, and E boost hair growth and quality. All three B vitamins – thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin –should be absorbed in tandem. Omega-3 fatty acids are also an excellent supplement for a cat suffering from hair loss.
Remember, these vitamins will not stop the cause of your cat’s hair loss. If there is a medical explanation, that must be treated. Vitamins will help your cat’s fur regain its luster once the medical complaint is addressed.
What are the Best Cat Vitamins for Joint Pain?
As cats reach senior status, they often struggle with arthritis. This means that vitamins for older cats are sometimes advisable. Alongside any prescribed mediation such as painkillers, supplements may keep your geriatric cat more mobile.
Any pet store will have a raft of different supplements designed to ease feline joint pain. Arthritis is caused by wear-and-tear on the cartilage of your cat’s limbs.
This leaves the bones painfully rubbing against each other. Supplements can help to rebuild that cartilage, and thus restore an organic cushion between your cat’s bones.
What are the Best Vitamins for a Cats’ Immune System?
You may also wish to consider supplements that boost your cat’s immune system. Be aware that no vitamin or supplement is as impactful as vaccination. Getting your cat their shots will reduce the risk of exposure of feline herpesvirus and calicivirus.
However, some consider vaccination to be dangerous, especially in older cats. If this applies to you, consider supplements, According to Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology, the science holds up.
Can Cats Have Human Vitamins?
Cats should never be provided with human vitamins. Our bodies are very different, in terms of size and requirements. You wouldn’t purchase human supplements from a pet store, so why would the reverse be safe?
The truth is, if your cat consumes human-grade vitamins their little bodies will be flooded. This can cause significant, irreversible organ damage through toxicity.
Cats have a complicated relationship with vitamins. It’s undeniable that felines require several critical vitamins and minerals to flourish. They can easily have too many of these nutrients, though. Too much is as dangerous as too little when it comes to a cat’s delicate body.