Most folks think that all cats require vitamin and mineral supplementation. Unfortunately, the same vitamins and minerals that are presented as standalone supplements can actually be found in high quality cat food. This is not to say that you shouldn’t give your kitty these supplements either. What we’re saying is for you to understand what supplementation really means so you’ll be better equipped with the correct knowledge in making a decision as to which supplement to buy for your kitty.
What Vitamins and Minerals Do Cats Need?
If you look at the shelf of your favorite pet supplies store, you’d be greeted with a lot of products that look a lot similar with one another. This can be tricky since you would want to give your pet only the best vitamins and minerals that it really needs. But what vitamins and minerals do cats really need, anyway? Here are some of the must-haves.
- Water-soluble vitamins
There are 2 vitamins that belong to this category: Vitamin B complex and Vitamin C or ascorbic acid. The B vitamins are numerous although cats have very specific needs for thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin for their role in the enhancement of the feline immune system. When used in combination with ascorbic acid or Vitamin C, a known antioxidant, the immune-boosting effects of these B vitamins can be further enhanced. One of the most important functions of vitamin C, aside from its antioxidant benefits, is its ability to affect the synthesis of collagen. This substance is a very important component of tissues such as the skin, cartilage, and other connective tissues. Other water-soluble vitamins include choline and biotin.
Deficiencies in these vitamins can lead to poor wound healing, increased susceptibility to infections, poor reflexes, and generalized weakness.
- Fat-soluble vitamins
These vitamins pose the greatest risk to your cat since they can easily reach toxic levels. These vitamins which include vitamins A, D, E, and K are generally stored in the cat’s fatty tissues and require fat for better absorption and utilization. However, if these are not mobilized and utilized by the cells, they can cause toxicities leading to a variety of health problems. That is why even before you give your feline friend a fat-soluble vitamin, it is imperative that you check with your vet first.
Vitamin A is important for vision while vitamin D is generally useful in bone mineralization. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and is also well-regarded for its immune-boosting effects. Vitamin K, on the other hand, is useful in blood clotting mechanisms so your kitty will not bleed profusely in the event that it injures itself.
- Iron or ferrous sulfate
This mineral is primarily useful in promoting optimum tissue oxygenation especially in cats that may have intestinal parasites. One of the most common complications of intestinal parasitism is anemia whereby there is a generalized reduction in the ability of the blood to carry oxygen. Since iron is needed in the formation of the heme component of hemoglobin, increasing the levels of iron in the blood can help facilitate the production of more hemoglobin, allowing for more oxygen molecules to be carried to the cells.
Everyone knows what calcium does. However, this is especially useful for pregnant cats since the natural hormonal changes associate with pregnancy mobilizes calcium stored in the bones into the blood. This makes the bones a little bit brittle. Supplementing with calcium can help preserve the calcium in the bones. Lactating cats can also benefit with calcium supplementation since their growing kittens will need the calcium they can to form their bones. Calcium in this sense will be supplied by the mother’s milk.
Calcium and magnesium actually go hand-in-hand. More specifically, magnesium is what enhances the absorption of calcium in the cat’s body. Unfortunately, giving magnesium more than what your cat needs can also lead to urinary tract infections.
Why Cats Benefit from Vitamins and Supplements?
There is an ongoing debate whether cats – or pets in general – really do need vitamins and minerals and other supplements. The source of the debate is that a good quality pet food will already contain all the necessary micronutrients such as minerals and vitamins including amino acids and essential fatty acids. Some high quality pet foods also contain prebiotics, probiotics, antioxidants, and joint health-friendly substances. If all of these nutrients are already found in high quality pet food, do you still need to give your cat or your pet supplements?
The answer is quite simple. If your cat is generally healthy and is receiving the proper care that all felines should receive including being fed only highly nutritious, high quality pet food, then there clearly is no need to give it supplements. Your cat will not benefit from vitamins and supplements. On the contrary, these might actually be harmful to your kitty especially the fat-soluble vitamins.
Now, if your kitty is sick or is suffering some form of micronutrient deficiency such as a reduction in circulating iron or calcium or even potassium, then supplementation with these minerals can provide the much-needed benefit. If your cat’s diet doesn’t include essential fatty acids or even essential amino acids, then supplementation with these substances will bring more good for your feline friend. The same is true if your kitty is suffering from some form of vitamin deficiency, then supplementation with the deficient vitamin will help correct the problem. In some cases, your kitty might have problems absorbing certain vitamins such as vitamin B12 and folic acid. In such situations your vet may have to recommend supplementing your kitty’s diet with these two vitamins.
So you see cats can really benefit from vitamins and supplements if and only if they have an existing condition that calls for such supplementation. Otherwise, if you give these supplements to a healthy cat, you’re just simply wasting your money on something it can already obtain from the high quality cat food that it eats. Or you might actually cause more harm by increasing the levels of these substances inside your cat’s body.
To summarize, the following cats can benefit from vitamins, minerals, and other nutrient supplementation.
- Pregnant and lactating or nursing kitties
- Kitties with intestinal problems that prevent the effective absorption of nutrients
- Cats that may have nutrient deficiencies
- Cats that are currently ill or are recovering from an illness
- Cats that have a veterinary-diagnosed need for supplementation
- Cats that are not being fed high quality, nutritionally-complete cat food
As a general rule, if you’re giving your cat high quality pet food and it has no significant health problems, then you can skip giving vitamin and mineral supplementation. If, however, your kitty has some form of health problems or is not getting the correct nutrition it needs, then it will benefit from vitamin and mineral supplementation.
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Different Types of Cat Vitamins and Supplements
You’d be glad to know that there are several types of supplements that you can give to your feline pet. This makes it a lot easier to customize the kind of nutrients that you’re giving to your furry pal.
- Vitamins and minerals
As the name implies these supplements contain mostly vitamins and minerals such as those that we have already mentioned above. The problem with such supplements is that these vitamins and minerals are already found in many high quality pet foods. So you may not really need to supplement your cat’s diet with these anymore.
- Essential fatty acids
There are some vitamin and mineral supplements that add essential fatty acids in their formulation. Again, if your pet is already eating high quality cat food, there really is no need for vitamin and mineral supplementation. Some cat foods also come with essential fatty acids especially EPA and DHA. If the food you’re giving your pet doesn’t contain fatty acids, then these should help especially in improving its immune system, cardiovascular system, central nervous system, and integumentary system.
If your feline friend is suffering from digestive issues, then supplementing its diet with probiotics or supplements that contain good bacteria should be a wise choice. These formulations are excellent in negating the activities of ‘bad bacteria’ in the cat’s gut.
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These come from natural or herbal remedies that provide benefits other than those offered by other supplements. Examples of nutraceuticals include glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM, substances that are valued for their effectiveness in promoting optimum joint health.
Your pick of the best vitamins or supplements for your kitty cat should reflect your understanding of its healthcare needs. If your kitty is generally healthy and you’re feeding it excellent quality pet food, then there’s no need for supplementation. However, if your vet says to go ahead, then, by all means, give your pet cat only the best.
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- Dr. Ernie Ward, DVM, Study Shows Supplement Improves Feline Immune Function, Pet Health Network