Do Cats Really Need Them?
Most conscientious owners want to do whatever they can to give their feline companions a long, happy, healthy life. In the last decade, vitamins and other supplements for cats and dogs have sky-rocketed on the retail pet market. They are promoted as being the cure-all for keeping companion animals in tip-top shape. Many people buy vitamins, minerals and other supplements for their cats, because they believe that those supplements will help boost their pets’ health and increase their longevity. However, that is not necessarily the case. Daily vitamin, mineral and other nutritional supplements are only recommended for cats in specific circumstances, where they have a known illness or medical condition that involves a specific nutritional deficiency. In many cases, vitamin and mineral supplementation can actually cause harm to the animal.
Vitamins are organic substances found in foods that are essential, in small quantities, for an animal’s overall growth, health and survival. An animal’s body needs vitamins and other nutritional constituents, such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and water, to maintain and sustain health. A deficiency in one or more vitamins can cause illness and disease. Minerals are naturally occurring, non-organic solid substances. There are more than 18 minerals that are considered to be essential to a mammal’s life. Minerals must be supplied in a cat’s diet in balanced ratios. Minerals that are required in large amounts in a cat’s diet include calcium, phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, potassium, chloride and sulfur. Minerals that are needed in trace amounts include iron, zinc, copper, iodine, selenium, manganese, cobalt, molybdenum, fluorine, boron and chromium.
As long as a cat is fed a high-quality commercial diet that has a seal of approval from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), it should not need extra nutritional supplementation. These quality foods have been extensively researched and formulated by skilled veterinary nutritionists, and they contain all of the minerals, vitamins, calories and nutritional support that a companion cat needs to stay healthy and fit. Commercial cat foods are fortified to meet an animal’s specific nutritional requirements for a given stage of life.
It is very difficult, if not impossible, to concoct a home-made diet that satisfies all of the unique nutritional requirements of domestic cats. Nonetheless, some owners elect to feed their cats a meat-only diet, which is not recommended by most veterinarians. Cats fed only meat will need supplemental vitamin and mineral nutritional support. While cats are true carnivores, in the wild they get additional nutrients by chewing on grasses and other non-meat nutritional sources. To ensure that your cat is receiving all the necessary nutritional requirements from a home-made or meat-only diet, consult with your veterinarian. You probably will need to give your cat a vitamin supplement that contains Vitamin B, calcium, phosphorus and taurine. In some cases, a veterinarian may recommend nutritional supplements for a cat that is suffering from an illness, recovering from an illness or has an infectious disease. Cats that have a poor hair coat, are losing weight or seem disinterested and lethargic, should be seen by a veterinarian, before turning to vitamins, minerals or other nutritional supplements as a potential cure. Many different conditions in cats, such as parasite infections, can cause symptoms similar to those seen in cats with nutritional deficiencies.
If your cat is pregnant, nursing, recovering from an illness or actively participating in any kind of strenuous activities, it may benefit from nutritional supplementation. Talk with your veterinarian about which vitamins, minerals and/or other supplements to use, in what dosage and for how long, based on its current dietary support.