Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: June 26, 2023 by Crystal Uys
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.
Featured Image Credit: inxti, Shutterstock
About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.