Does your cat need supplements?

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How many times have you seen the words “complete and balanced” on a pet food label? Would this lead you to believe that the food baring this claim is all your cat will ever need to be in perfect health? If so, you may be wrong.

The claim of “complete and balanced” simply means that the pet food company making that claim for any particular food is stating that when a sample of that particular product was subjected to a chemical analysis, that sample was found to contain the currently “known to be essential” nutrients at the currently recommended levels according to the currently accepted provisions laid down by AAFCO. (Source: Dr. Billinghurst’s BARF Diet).

Sounds like a mouthful? What it means in plain English is that commercial pet food contains every nutrient that our pets require. It does not necessarily mean that it also contains all the nutrients our pets need to be in perfect, healthy balance.

I think the concept that a cat can thrive on the same food, day after day, no matter how high a quality, simply doesn’t make sense. Human nutritionists tell us that food variety is an important part of maintaining a healthy diet, and yet, we don’t think twice about feeding our pets the same food, day after day. I can’t imagine that they enjoy this lack of variety any more than we would, and I can’t imagine that it’s any better for their health than it would be for us.

Variety helps ensure balance. Feeding a quality varied diet is one way to make sure your cat receives optimum nutrition. So where do supplements come in?

If you are feeding a variety of quality canned grain-free or raw food, and your cat is young and healthy, you probably don’t need supplements. If you  have an older cat, or one with health challenges, supplements may contribute to better health and improved well-being.

Even though Allegra and Ruby are young, healthy cat, I do give some supplements.

Common supplement for cats

Probiotics. I recommend daily addition of a good probiotic to your cat’s food. Probiotics have numerous benefits, including preventing digestive upsets and strengthening the immune system.

Digestive enzymes. Some cats, especially those with sensitive digestive tracts, may benefit from digestive enzymes. I like Dr. Goodpet’s Feline Digestive Enzymes, a combination of enzymes and probiotics.

Multi-vitamin supplements. Just like I think taking a good daily multi-vitamin supplement is important for humans, I also believe that my cats should get one. I like Rx Essentials for Cats. Do not exceed recommended amounts; fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body and vitamin toxicity can be a concern.

Essential Fatty Acids. The processing of commercial pet food renders DHA and EPA inactive, so in order for your cat to get sufficient amounts, supplementation may be necessary. Omega-3 DHA essential fatty acid supplements help prevent inflammation and slow down the aging process. I like the Nordic Naturals brand.

Joint supplements. These supplements become increasingly important as your cat ages. Glucosamine chondroitin supplements are one of the safest treatments for early arthritis in cats.

How to choose supplements

With the vast array of supplements available in stores and online, how do you choose the right one? There is no FDA approval process for nutritional supplements, so do your homework. Look for a name you recognize. Make sure that there’s been some clinical research before the product was brought to market. Some brands I like and trust are Rx Essentials, Standard Process, and Thorne Research.

Supplements to avoid

The following supplements may be toxic to cats and should be avoided

  • Garlic (destroys red blood cells and can lead to anemia)
  • Onions and onion powder (destroys red blood cells and can lead to anemia)
  • Calcium (too much can lead to toxicity)
  • Vitamins A and D (too much can lead to toxicity)

It’s always a good idea to check with your cat’s veterinarian before giving supplements.

Photo: istockphoto


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16 Comments on Does your cat need supplements?

  1. Angela
    September 9, 2017 at 12:54 pm (2 years ago)

    I just put my 8 and 3 year old cat on a fresh/raw diet, twice a day. I alternate meals so they eat one chicken and one type a fish a day. In one meal I add chicken or beef liver and for the other meal I dice up some chicken hearts! I also give beef heart and some raw shrimp for snacks every so often, but not too much. I feel like I am covering most of what they need but worried about not giving all of the B vitamins so I put them on Rx Vitamins Amino B-Plex for Pets, 1 ML twice daily. Is this covering everything?! It seems way too good to be true that a fresh diet has been so easy to maintain, I worry I’m doing something wrong or leaving something out.

    Reply
      • Angela
        September 10, 2017 at 9:40 am (2 years ago)

        Thank you for this article! Very informative. I would love to find an integrated vet around here, would make me feel better. This article made feel much better, I think I’ve followed the diet pretty well 🙂

        Reply
  2. Emilio
    December 12, 2013 at 1:18 pm (5 years ago)

    I recently bought my cat Pet Naturals’ Daily Best For Cats on Amazon USA.

    So far in three days, my buddy likes it (phew!). Too soon to see any benefits but I guess it will not hurt it. I only give 1 per day to quite frankly stretch it for 45 days instead of 22.

    I give my friend a combo of sardines, cans (cheap and premium) and raw bony meat.

    Don’t give your cat dry food -> http//catinfo.org

    Reply
  3. Bernadette
    July 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm (7 years ago)

    I’m still trying to figure out how to mix these into the bulk raw food, since adding them at feeding time is not acceptable with six cats climbing my legs, even taking time to just sprinkle, and obviously I want the stuff to be fresh. For now, the raw food alone is wonderful, and perhaps they will calm down at some point.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 11, 2012 at 7:31 pm (7 years ago)

      You could try premixing the supplements so it would only mean adding one thing, rather than several different supplements, Bernadette. I’m so glad your guys all love the raw food so much!

      Reply
  4. Erik Jay
    July 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm (7 years ago)

    Thank you for the excellent article. I recently started using Nordic Naturals fish oil along with a quality pro-biotic. He has a sensitive system and this has enhanced his well being considerably. He also has a few ulcers with IBD, so I also use ‘slippery elm’ which I would like to mention in the event any of the kitty parents here own a kitty with similar circumstances. Especially since the fish oil, he is in better spirits, more playful, sleeps better and has some healthy litter box moments. The pro-biotics seem to actually stimulate motility for him too.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 10, 2012 at 1:51 pm (7 years ago)

      Thanks for sharing your experience with Nordic Naturals and the probiotic,Erik. I’m happy to hear your kitty is doing so much better.

      Reply
  5. MaxtheQuiltCat
    July 9, 2012 at 11:13 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks for the article. Very good information.

    pawhugs, Max

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 9, 2012 at 2:11 pm (7 years ago)

      I’m glad it’s helpful, Max.

      Reply
  6. Deborah Julian Cat Art DeborahJulian.etsy.com
    July 9, 2012 at 10:17 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks for this article Ingrid. I’ve been looking into supplements for my cats. I looked at the supplements you recommend. My problem is that my cat Billy has become very finicky with food–so I am reluctant to add anything to his canned food. He prefers dry and it took me a LONG time to get him to eat canned so I don’t want to turn him off of it by putting something in his food. I’ve been looking for supplements in treat form that Billy will like. I tried Pet Naturals Daily Best vitamin and he loves it. They offer other types of “treats” like those with glucosimine/condroitin. I was wondering if you knew anything about this company.

    Thanks so much for helping me take good care of my boys!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 9, 2012 at 2:19 pm (7 years ago)

      The digestive enzymes I use have no flavor, so you should be okay with those for Billy, but I completely understand your reluctance to change anything about his food! I’m not familiar with the Pet Naturals brand but took a quick look at the ingredients of the Pet Naturals. At first glance, it looks like a good brand.

      Reply
  7. Anna
    July 9, 2012 at 6:56 am (7 years ago)

    Thank you Ingrid for this very helpful artcle! I’m going to do some research for Zoe!
    By the way, in case you are wondering, during my stay on Rhodes she’s happy and pampered with her Granddad (my father), who adores her and spoils her to pieces! 🙂
    Life is pretty busy here in Rhodes, but I’m going to visit your wonderful blog more regularly now, I missed it!
    Lots of love

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm (7 years ago)

      I was wondering whether you take Zoey to Rhodes with you, Anna. So happy to hear she’s so happy at your father’s! Hugs to you from me and the girls!

      Reply
      • Anna
        July 10, 2012 at 7:28 am (7 years ago)

        I miss her a lot, Igrid, but I think it would be way too stressful to take her away from her safe and usual environment. It’s better to miss her but know she’s safe and happy!
        PS: my Dad and I live in the same house, so she didn’t even have to move houses! 🙂

        Reply

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