What is Taurine For Cats – Why Do They Need It In Their Diet?

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What Is Taurine For Cats?

In a nutshell –

Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid that is important for the health of your cat’s cardiovascular system, nervous system and eyes. It also plays a role in skeletal muscle function. While taurine is found in meat, it is not as easily absorbed by cats as it is by dogs. This is why most commercial cat foods contain added taurine.

Cats who do not get enough taurine in their diet can develop a condition called feline central retinal degeneration (FCRD). FCRD leads to blindness and currently there is no cure. Taurine deficiency can also cause other health problems such as cardiomyopathy (weak heart muscle), reproductive problems and growth retardation.

Dr Ali Raza, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine goes on to explain how the lack of Taurine can have major negative health implications for a cat. He explains the role Taurine plays in the everyday health of our cats and how a lack of Taurine can be avoided in the first instance, by following some dietary rules.

Taurine is not found in cereals and grains. However, it is a major constituent of animal-based proteins, meat and fish.

what is taurine for ccats
A cat eating meat. Meat contains Taurine.

Taurine is crucial for vision, digestive health, heart functioning, and maintaining a healthy immune system. It has a major role in foetal development and maintaining a healthy pregnancy.

Taurine was recognized as an essential component of cat food in the late 1980s. What is Taurine for cats and it is essential?

Do Cats Need Taurine to Live?

The nutritional requirements of a cat include high levels of proteins and specific type of amino acids. One of these amino acids is Taurine. 

It is essential for cats to get Taurine from their food as it keeps cats happy and healthy by supporting nerve and cell function. Taurine maintains a healthy digestive system by combining with bile acids. Taurine is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier and supports nerve function.

Why Is Taurine in Cat Food?

Although humans, canines, and felines have similar nutritional requirements, there are certainly major differences too. 

Unlike humans and dogs, cats cannot synthesize taurine in their bodies. So, cats need to get this essential amino acid from their diet.

chemical composition of taurine

Can Cats Live Without Taurine?

Being an essential amino acid, it is mandatory for cats to get Taurine through their diets. 

Not getting enough Taurine in the diet leads to Taurine deficiency. After six weeks of insufficient availability of Taurine, the symptoms of deficiency are noticeable. 

These symptoms become irreversible if the deficiency occurs for a longer period. For example, deficiency of this amino acid can degenerate the retinas of the eyes of cats which can cause irreversible blindness.

When not getting sufficient Taurine, this can mess up the heart muscles which leads to dilated cardiomyopathy. This condition causes the heart to enlarge and heart muscles are unable to pump the blood efficiently. The inability of the heart to pump blood to the body leads to congestive heart failure.

Lack of Taurine can affect the immune system of your feline friend and she might not be able to resist infections and toxins. This leads to frequent illnesses.

Does It Take A Long Time, Months, Or Years to See A Taurine Deficiency?

Taurine deficiency occurs when cats are unable to absorb Taurine from the diet. The signs of taurine deficiency are slow to develop and depend upon the cat’s life stage. Poor coat and skin condition, feline central retinal degeneration (FCRD), dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) are slow to develop and it may take several months are even years to notice Taurine deficiency.

A Taurine deficient pregnant cat is unable to deliver a healthy kitten as it may face foetal abnormalities and low birth weight.

a pregnant cat needs Taurine for the health of her kittens
A pregnant cat needs Taurine in her diet.

Can Cats Eat Synthetic Taurine?

The inability to synthesize Taurine by themselves should be compensated by providing synthetic Taurine in diets. Cats cannot produce a significant amount of Taurine and it gets lost in their bile. 

Regular supplementation of Taurine is essential as it does not get stored in the body and needs to be provided on daily basis.

Does Canned Tuna Have Taurine?

Tuna is a great source of Taurine whether it is fresh or canned. It contains all the necessary minerals and vitamins that your cat needs. When used in moderation as treats, it provides your cat with omega 3-fatty acids EPA and DHA which play an important role in maintaining good skin and coat health.

It benefits the cat by improving inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, allergies, and inflammatory bowel disease. However, excessive use of canned tuna can lead to poisoning because it contains mercury.  

How Do You Add Taurine To Cat Food?

Food containing animal sources of protein for example, meat or fish has sufficient Taurine required for a cat’s body. So, the inclusion of meat in the regular diet can prevent Taurine deficiency.

Cats that are fed homemade or vegan diets are most likely to suffer Taurine deficiency.

Dairy products have a low amount of Taurine while shellfish, mussels, and scallops contain the highest amount. 

Almost all commercially available diets contain an adequate amount of Taurine. Pet food regulatory authorities have listed Taurine as a necessary nutrient in cat food. 

The cat should not be allowed to eat dog food as it does not contain Taurine. 

dog food is not okay for a cat
I love you but I can’t eat your food!

When cats are given diets that are formulated for their specific needs such as growth and development, taurine should be added to the food as a supplement.

Can Cats Have Too Much Taurine?

The minimum daily requirement of taurine for an adult is about 10 mg/kg/ body weight per day. 

Taurine should not be given in excess as the cat’s body cannot store it. So, it should be provided on regular basis.

How Did Cats Get Taurine In The Wild?

Cats are obligate carnivores. In wild, cats hunt for rodents and small mammals which include mice, squirrels, and rabbits, and consume fresh meat. 

cats with a mouse
Cat with a mouse!

Animal tissues or fresh animal meat contains enough Taurine for cats. So, in the wild they did not require Taurine supplementation and did suffer from a Taurine deficiency.

Best Taurine Supplement for Cats

Before buying Taurine supplements for your cat, make sure to read the labels carefully to ensure quality. Taurine supplements can be in different forms i.e., liquid, powder, and tablet. The recommended form is a white powder which is the purest form of Taurine. However, it might be unappealing to cats due to its unpleasant taste. Different flavors are added to make it enticing for cats.

Following are some of the best Taurine supplements.

Thomas Labs Felo Taurine Cat Supplement Powder

Thomas Pet Felo Taurine - Taurine Supplement for Cats - Taurine for Cats - Supports Heart, Vision, Digestion, & Immune Health - 16 oz (454 g) Powder

It is an easy-to-use water-soluble formula that can be given during and after the meal by mixing with food or water.

 PetAg Taurine Tablets Chews

This chewable taurine supplement contains soy protein, yeast, and whey along with taurine. They are palatable and cats can eat them whole or crushed. Each tablet contains 250 mg and recommended dosage is half a tablet per day.

How Taurine Deficiency Affects Different Organs?

When not getting an adequate amount of taurine, a cat may suffer from the following illnesses.

EYES: The photoreceptor cells in the retina of the eyes start degenerating. Once damaged, these cells cannot be repaired or replaced. This leads to irreversible blindness in cats.

HEART: The muscles of the heart become weakened and cannot pump blood efficiently. This results in an enlarged heart, a condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy.

TEETH: Taurine is necessary to maintain oral health. A taurine deficient cat is more likely to develop cavities.

HAIR AND COAT: Taurine promotes hair and coat health which is affected by taking a diet that does not has a sufficient amount of taurine supplements.

IMMUNE SYSTEM: immune system plays a vital role in fighting off viruses and other toxins. When not getting enough taurine, the immune system of the cat may be compromised as it affects the responsiveness of the immune system. This results in recurring infections and other frequent illnesses.

DIABETES: Taurine is important in regulating the blood sugar levels in the body. Cats that do not receive enough taurine are more likely to develop diabetes.

GASTROINTESTINAL ISSUES: Taurine conjugates with bile salts that are required for fat digestion. Lack of taurine can develop certain digestive health issues like diarrhoea.

DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUES:A taurine deficient cat is more likely to deliver a kitten that will have developmental issues and frequent bone fractures.

Diagnosis Of Taurine Deficiency

Taurine deficiency is diagnosed by a veterinarian on the basis of the presence of clinical signs and symptoms.

Diet information is discussed, whether it is a homemade food or commercial diet being fed to the cat. In addition, to look for retinal degeneration, the eye of the cat is examined. If there is Taurine deficiency, lesions in the retina can be seen.

Radiograph images can help diagnose the dilated cardiomyopathy and rule out other genetic defects if present. X-rays help to identify skeletal abnormalities. An electrocardiogram is another helpful tool to monitor the electrical function of the heart is monitored.

The Taurine level in blood plasma helps to confirm the diagnosis.

Prevention Of Taurine Deficiency In Cats

A Taurine deficiency can be prevented by feeding your cat a balanced, high-quality commercial diet that has added Taurine to it. Since the recognition of Taurine as an essential amino acid for cats, it is included in all balanced commercial diets.

If you are feeding your cat a homemade diet, supplementing with synthetic Taurine is essential.

A healthy cat with no Taurine deficiencies.
A healthy cat!

Can Taurine Deficiency Be Treated?

Due to slow progression, Taurine deficiency is usually not noticed early. However, if caught early, nutritional supplementation of Taurine is provided to treat the disease. 

Nutritional management for Taurine deficiency is only effective in slowing the progression of the disease and often fails to reverse the damage that has already been caused especially the impairment of heart and vision function.

funny image - cats discussing eyesight
We’ve got great sight dear!

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