The Benefits of Omega-3 Supplementation for Cats

omega-3-for-cats

Guest post by Jodi Ziskin

Cats, like humans, require both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for optimal health. Both are considered essential fatty acids, meaning they cannot be manufactured in the body and therefore need to be obtained through diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce swelling, relax blood vessels and airways, improve circulation and reduce blood clotting. Omega-6 fatty acids help increase swelling, constrict blood vessels and airways, reduce circulation and increase blood clotting. This is important when the body is injured or develops an infection.

Omega-6 and omega-3 fats need to be balanced in the body. Optimal amounts of EPA and DHA have not yet been determined for cats, but a report from the National Research Concil on nutrient requirements of cats and dogs shows that there is a reasonable margin of safety to supplement most pet foods with fish oil.

Omega 3’s and whole body health

Omega-3s include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is prevalent in plant-based sources, including seeds and nuts. EPA and DHA, the two health-promoting omega-3s, are found in animal sources, most notably in fish oil.

EPA and DHA support:

• Skin and coat health
• Joints
• Cell formation
• Heart and kidney health
• Digestive health
• Healthy aging and cognition
• Immune function

Note: DHA is important for kittens, as it is crucial for the development of tissue in the brain and retina of the eye.

Commercial cat food diets often contain an unbalanced ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s. Even cats on the highest quality raw or home-cooked foods can benefit from having their diets supplemented with omega-3 oils. The source and quality matter as much for them as they do for us.

Why fish oil is the best source of Omega-3’s for cats

Although ALA from plant sources may be converted into EPA and DHA, Cats can only convert a very small percentage. Fish oil is a much better choice.

Not all fish oil is the same

Wild caught, sustainable fish like sardines and anchovies from cold waters with low levels of mercury and other heavy metals are excellent sources of EPA and DHA for cats.

The bioavailability of omega-3 oil supplements is equally important. Oils are more easily absorbed and assimilated when in the triglyceride form. Studies show that this form is 70% more absorbable than in the ethyl ester form.

Another thing to keep in mind is that when fish oil has been exposed to oxygen and is becoming (or has become) rancid, the result is an overwhelming fishy odor. Fish oils produced in a 100% oxygen-free environment result in a pleasant smelling, mild oil that cats find appealing. Never underestimate the importance of palatability.

The fish oil should also be human grade, meet or exceed international standards for purity and freshness, third-party tested and contain no flavorings.

While it is very important to give your cat human grade fish oils, it is equally important to give one made especially for pets. Both federal and state regulations dictate special requirements for pet supplements, which are not required for their human counterparts.

Fish oil products for humans often contain rosemary as a natural preservative. This ingredient may not be well tolerated or safe for cats. Many omega-3 products for humans also contain flavorings that may not be safe for animal consumption.

More is not better

There is a risk for ‘too much of a good thing’ when it comes to omega-3 oils. Please follow the manufacturer’s suggested dose according to your cat’s weight.

Although rare, health problems can arise from over supplementation including:

• Peroxidation of EPA and DHA (free radicals attacking the lipids) that can manifest as a vitamin E deficiency
• Loose stools due to poor digestion of fatty acids
• Changes in immune function from fatty acids suppressing the inflammatory response

Proper supplementation of omega-3 oils can make a positive impact on the overall health of cats throughout all stages of their lives.

Editor’s note: Jodi and I both recommend the Nordic Naturals* line. Allegra and Ruby get 0.5 ml of Nordic Naturals Omega 3 Pet* once a day. They lap it straight up as if it was a treat.

Healthy Pet Coach Jodi Ziskin empowers pet guardians with information on nutrition, enrichment, environment and care so they can make the best choices for their cats and dogs. She is a Certified Pet Nutrition Consultant with a master’s degree in Holistic Nutrition. Jodi is also the nutrition consultant for Lap of Love, a national veterinary hospice group. For more information, visit HealthyPetCoach.com.

It is always a good idea to talk with your veterinarian
before adding supplements to your cat’s diet.

*FTC Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Associate links. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves.

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28 Comments on The Benefits of Omega-3 Supplementation for Cats

  1. Hollie
    March 7, 2019 at 5:46 pm (4 months ago)

    OK, so I’m confused. If Omega 3 & Omega 6 are important to be balanced in the body, why do you only give your cat Omega 3. Is the Omega 6 IN the Omega 3 supplement ? Where do you get am Omega 6 supplement ?

    Reply
  2. bkjan
    September 20, 2018 at 11:16 pm (9 months ago)

    Somewhat confusing, in your article you said: “While it is very important to give your cat human grade fish oils, it is equally important to give one made especially for pets”.
    Can you please explain what brand of oil to use. I’m in Australia, can I use olive oil instead. Thank you

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      September 21, 2018 at 5:27 am (9 months ago)

      “Human grade” refers to the quality of the oil. Since olive oil is plant based, it’s not a good choice for cats. I believe Nordic Naturals, the brand I recommend for cats, is available in Australia.

      Reply
      • bkjan
        September 21, 2018 at 6:30 pm (9 months ago)

        Thank you for your reply. Yes we have Nordic naturals in Australia but it is extremely expensive $65 per botttle!!. I’m on a disability pension and so is there a cheaper way to add oil to a cats diet. Can I use canned fish in oil). PS I love your website and constantly recommend it to many cat owner Facebook groups via my Facebook page, especially your article about dry cat food, I learnt a great deal from it, I’m sure you have saved extended cats lives by educating their owners. Thank you.

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          September 22, 2018 at 3:43 pm (9 months ago)

          You don’t just want to add oil to your cat’s diet, you want to add oils rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon and krill oil are good sources, but follow the guidelines offered in this article if you’re looking a products not designed for cats.

          And thank you for your kind words about our site, and for sharing it with your friends!

          Reply
  3. Julia
    August 18, 2018 at 8:08 pm (10 months ago)

    My 20 year old cat has had a stroke. I was wondering if giving him my krill oil supplement would help his circulation. The vet put him on a blood pressure medicine and he seems to be improving. They couldn’t believe how good his blood work was, nothing but kidney function was a bit high 6.4. I am buying lower phosphorus food for him so that should help. Is there anything else to do?

    Reply
  4. Rebecca
    August 11, 2017 at 10:59 am (2 years ago)

    Hi Ingrid,

    I recently bought nordic naturals for my two cats, one who was having trouble with hairballs and I had been giving laxatone regularly. I stopped the laxatone (I knew this was not a great solution but at the time it was working with the almost daily hairballs) That cat seemed to really like the Nordic Naturals and the hairballs stopped but over the course of 2 weeks he stopped liking it and recently seemed to get not hungry and throw up some stomach bile a bit. He also was itching his ears a bunch/caused a scab. I am now pretty certain he is allergic to fish as he has had problems similar to this with other fish products/tuna juices that went away when I went back to his normal LID food. Do you still recommend Emu oil as an alternative? I saw that in a comment below but I know it was a while back.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 11, 2017 at 11:46 am (2 years ago)

      I’m not familiar with Emu oil, so that must have been a reader who recommended that, Rebecca. You may want to consider something with green lipped mussel, although I’m not sure whether a cat with a fish allergy would also react to mussels.

      Reply
  5. Tina mann
    April 30, 2017 at 10:44 am (2 years ago)

    My 21 year old, tiger, was just diagnosed with kidney disease. The vet gave us some hard and soft food samples, but she is just not eating much.
    We are devistated. What can we do?

    Reply
  6. William
    September 28, 2015 at 7:16 am (4 years ago)

    Am confused. The article states the dosage is 0.5 ml. The directions on the bottle state give 2.5 ml for my 28 pound cat. Which is correct? Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • Jodi
      September 29, 2015 at 6:26 am (4 years ago)

      Hi William:
      You are providing the correct suggested amount for your cat. In the article, Ingrid simply states how much she provides for her cats, not what the suggested dosage is.

      Best,
      Jodi

      Reply
      • William
        September 29, 2015 at 6:37 am (4 years ago)

        So I should be giving her the 2.5mls then…

        Thanks, Jodie

        Reply
      • Jodi
        September 29, 2015 at 7:36 am (4 years ago)

        Hey William – actually, I take that back. 1.25 – 1.5 ml per day would be appropriate for a 28 lb cat. The suggested dosage for dogs is higher as they metabolize nutrients at a different rate. I’m so sorry for the confusion.
        Best,
        Jodi

        Reply
        • William
          September 29, 2015 at 7:43 am (4 years ago)

          Thanks, Jodie!

          Reply
          • Chikka
            July 5, 2018 at 5:39 am (12 months ago)

            Hi! I use Beaphar Salmon Oil and the dosage suggestion is 7.5ml/day for cats and small dogs. Do you guys think it’s too much?

            Thanks in advance!

  7. clare
    September 22, 2015 at 12:06 am (4 years ago)

    how about coconut oil for cats ? good or bad

    Reply
  8. Lynette
    September 21, 2015 at 12:38 pm (4 years ago)

    Nordic Naturals is the only fish oil that my boys will eat. I pour it in drops out of the bottle to avoid contamination.

    Reply
  9. Fur Everywhere
    September 21, 2015 at 9:24 am (4 years ago)

    Thank you for sharing this information.

    Jodi or Ingrid – do either of you know if a cat who cannot eat fish can have fish oil? Omega-3 fatty acids sound like a good idea for Lita who has asthma since Jodi says they can help relax airways, but she cannot eat anything containing fish. I will, of course, ask our vet as well about it when we see her next week, but I wanted to see if either of you had any thoughts on this.

    Reply
    • Jodi
      September 21, 2015 at 9:54 am (4 years ago)

      Hi there!

      From the experience I’ve had with clients, cats that cannot tolerate fish often have an issue with fish oil, too. As an alternative, Emu oil is an excellent choice for omega-3s.

      I hope this helps.
      – Jodi

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        September 21, 2015 at 12:42 pm (4 years ago)

        Thanks, Jodi!

        Reply
      • Lisa
        September 21, 2015 at 2:56 pm (4 years ago)

        I thought it was the protein in fish that some cats are allergic to versus e.g., salmon or krill oil which may contain the fatty acids and not the protein (although I’ve noticed some salmon oil has protein).

        Reply
        • Jodi
          September 21, 2015 at 4:12 pm (4 years ago)

          Hi Lisa:

          It really depends on the cat. Some have true allergies and some have intolerances. Sometimes this is to the protein, sometimes there are other factors. Also, some of the better companies, like Nordic Naturals, use the whole fish in their fish oil products.

          Reply
          • Cheri Collins
            September 26, 2015 at 5:31 pm (4 years ago)

            Thank you! I have cat who’s allergic to fish, so I was wondering about the oil. My other, older cat loves fish, so I’m going to try offering the Nordic Naturals oil. My vet recommended fish oil, but the first two I offered were considered (by the cat) unacceptable.

          • Ingrid
            September 27, 2015 at 5:55 am (4 years ago)

            Let me know how your cats do with the Nordic Naturals, Cheri. Allegra loves it “straight up,” I need to mix Ruby’s in with her food.

  10. Sue Brandes
    September 21, 2015 at 7:36 am (4 years ago)

    Thanks for the informative post.

    Reply

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