Taurine is an amino acid that is essential in a cat’s diet because they cannot synthesize it adequately like most other mammals. The feline heart, platelets and retina require Taurine for both structure and function. Your cat’s liver, gallbladder, central nervous system, skeletal muscles and bones also utilize Taurine, and it may assist in electrolyte balance.
Taurine deficiency may result in:
- Retinol degeneration leading to vision impairment or blindness
- Dilated cardiomyopathy leading to heart damage, enlargement or failure
- Impaired fetal development
- Abnormal skeletal growth
- Fur loss
- Tooth decay
Manufactured cat food is required by the Association of American Feed Control Officials to be supplemented with synthetic Taurine. With home-made cat food becoming more common, concern and awareness of the essential amino acid Taurine for cat diets has increased.
We recommend natural sources of Taurine for cats whenever possible, including:
- Shellfish – Excellent sources of Taurine, with high levels in clams, scallops, krill and shrimp.
- Fish – Cold water fish such as sardines or salmon are excellent, natural sources of Taurine that cat’s love.
- Meat – All meat contains Taurine, with dark poultry meat being one of the best sources.
- Dairy products
- Natural Taurine supplements suitable for cats – Fresh or low-temperature dried seaweed, freeze-dried krill, and brewer’s yeast. Our senior cat is fed both freeze-dried krill and a seaweed/algae mix on a regular basis.
Because Taurine is a free amino acid, it is easily lost with cooking (over 50%). If meat must be cooked, make it as ‘rare’ as possible, searing the outside to lock in the juices. Avoid cooking in water. We personally recommend heating fish to safe temperatures (140°F) for the purpose of killing parasites, or use freeze-dried seafood. Contrary to popular belief, freezing is not a reliable method of killing parasites and their eggs.
Those who feed a variety of raw meat to their cat shouldn’t have to worry about Taurine deficiency due to insufficient intake. If your cat’s home-made diet is primarily cooked, experts recommend adding a Taurine supplement. Taurine supplements for cats are relatively inexpensive and the money we save in veterinarian expenses through premium health more than pays for itself. Of course, we’re also rewarded with a healthy, long-lived feline friend.
There are manufactured Taurine supplements available specifically for cats, such as the one we currently use for our adopted feline, Thorne Research TaurineVET. Some combined natural cat supplements also contain smaller amounts of Taurine, such as the popular Nu-Pet Feline Granular with Antioxidants. We like the convenience of pre-measured capsules and simple scooping.
You may be interested in trying this easy cat food recipe, Old Fish Bones in a Pumpkin, which is a good source of Protein, Taurine and Calcium.
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Committee on Animal Nutrition, National Research Council. Nutrient Requirements of Cats, Rev Ed. 1986.
Lima L, Obregon F, Cubillos S, Fazzino F, Jaimes I. Taurine as a micronutrient in development and regeneration of the central nervous system.
Strombeck, Donald, DVM, PhD. Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets: The Healthful Alternative. 1999.
Little, Susan, DVM DABVP (Feline). The Cat: Clinical Medicine and Management
Messonnier, Shawn DVM. Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats: Your A-Z Guide to Over 200 Conditions, Herbs, Vitamins, and Supplements. 2001.
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