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What Is Taurine and Does Your Cat Need It?

Posted by Bridget Reed on

Like any pet parent, you want only the best for your cat, and that includes their diet. The best food will nourish their mind and body, keeping them active, playful, curious, and cuddly for many years to come.

To support your kitty’s happiness and health, picking the right food is critical, but that doesn’t make it easy. If you’ve ever compared lists of primary ingredients, combed through nutrition requirements, or browsed the aisles at your local pet store, you might have been overwhelmed by all the options. 

Between different types of food, manufacturing processes, and competing advertisements, it’s hard to tell what your cat actually needs to live their life to the fullest.

You’ve probably also seen the word taurine used a lot, since it’s present in most cat foods sold in the United States. If you check your cat’s food, you can always find taurine in the guaranteed analysis section, represented as a tiny percentage. 

However, you might not be sure what taurine is, or whether your cat actually needs that little bit of taurine in their diet. If you’re looking for answers and want to make an informed decision for your kitty’s wellbeing, we’re here to help.

Where Does Taurine Come From?

Taurine is an amino acid found in animal proteins. Plenty of creatures rely on taurine to function, humans included. Like most animals, our body produces taurine naturally in small quantities, which are supplemented by the taurine in our food.

While we don’t need a lot of it (it makes up about 0.1% of the total body weight), it’s a vital compound that plays a number of important roles. Among other things, it’s responsible for digestion, vision, and the healthy functioning of the heart and skeletal system.

Does My Cat Need Taurine?

Taurine is absolutely necessary to keep your cat healthy. However, unlike most animals, cats can’t produce taurine on their own. They lack the enzymes required to create it, and depend on their diet to provide all the taurine they need.

Wild cats typically eat small birds and rodents, which contain plenty of taurine. Your cat relies on their food bowl to provide the same essential nutrients. Without taurine, your pet can develop serious vision problems which can even escalate into blindness, and a dangerous heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. When left untreated, taurine deficiency is eventually fatal.

What Does Taurine Do?

The right amount of taurine will support the health of your kitty’s stomach, heart, and eyes. It keeps their immune system strong, protecting them from bacteria and viruses. Taurine is also important in pregnancy, and it helps both the mother and the kittens. Low taurine levels increase the risk of birth defects, small litter sizes, and delayed growth.

If you want your cat to remain bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, making sure they get enough taurine is critical. Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy food options with the right amount of taurine to keep your cat in tip-top shape.

How Much Taurine Does My Cat Need?

Like every pet parent, you probably think your cat is one of a kind — and you’re completely right. Since every cat is different, no one can tell you exactly how much taurine your kitty should have. However, there are some guidelines.

Since the compound is water-soluble and non-toxic to cats, it’s almost impossible to feed your kitty too much taurine. However, as a rule of thumb, the average cat needs between 35 mg and 250 mg of taurine per day. If they usually eat four ounces of food every day, 250 mg of taurine would make up around 0.2% of their diet. You can check the nutrition label on your cat food, which notes the percentage of taurine in the guaranteed analysis section.

Cheaper cat food might use supplemental taurine added during production, while the best cat food usually relies on a high meat content to provide enough taurine for your cat. These carnivore-based recipes are closer to your cat’s natural diet, since wild felines fulfill all of their taurine needs by eating prey animals.

What Are the Best Sources of Taurine?

It’s important to pick a cat food that provides all the taurine your fuzzy friend needs. Since they can’t synthesize it on their own, they need your help to find tasty, healthy choices. Along with their daily meals, there are plenty of foods which make a great treat for your cat on special occasions, and give them an extra helping of taurine in the process. 

Here are a few options we recommend:

Fish

Convincing your cat to eat seafood shouldn’t be too hard. After all, nearly every feline loves fish. Not only are they tasty, but they’re packed with omega fatty acids, which aid your cat’s health and longevity. Most fish also contain plenty of taurine. If you’re searching for the highest taurine content, whitefish is an excellent choice, followed by cod and tuna.

Always cook your fish thoroughly before you feed it to your cat, since raw fish can cause thiamine deficiency. Avoid preserved, smoked, or salted fish — these seasonings aren’t good for cats. If you’re giving them fish as a treat, always feed them in small quantities, and don’t use it as a substitute for their regular meals.

If you’d rather incorporate seafood into their daily diet, there are plenty of high-quality cat foods which use fish as a main ingredient. Our Salmon & Brown Rice Recipe is guaranteed to contain at least 0.19% taurine, and uses fresh salmon as the first ingredient. Filled with plenty of nutrients, salmon is especially good for your cat’s fur, keeping their coat soft and shiny.

Chicken

Chicken is a feline favorite with a lot of health benefits. Along with its high taurine content, chicken contains lots of other amino acids, and a decent helping of protein as well. If you want to feed your cat a bit of chicken as a treat, make sure it’s cooked and free of seasonings. 

If you’d like to feed chicken to your cat on a regular basis, there are plenty of chicken-based cat foods available. Our Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe is a great choice, specifically designed to support healthy digestion with a blend of natural fibers. It’s also guaranteed to contain a minimum of 0.19% taurine, so you can be sure your cat is getting all the nutrients they need.

Beef

If you’re looking for another healthy cat treat, try a nice chunk of beef. It’s delicious and offers a good amount of taurine to any hungry kitty. Like any other meat, you should always cook it before serving it to your pet, and avoid using any seasoning or additives.

When it comes to cat food, beef is a very popular flavor. In the right quantities, it provides enough protein and taurine to keep your cat happy and well. Our Beef & Rabbit In Savory Sauce was designed for complete and balanced nutrition. As part of our Tender Morsels series, it’s easy on the digestive system, and contains Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids to support your cat’s skin and coat health.

Why Taurine Matters

When it comes to taurine, a little goes a long way. It’s only a fraction of a percent of every meal, but that tiny amount makes all the difference.

Your choice to research taurine also makes an enormous difference to your kitty. By looking into your cat’s nutrition and giving them everything they need to be healthy, you’re supporting your fuzzy companion through every stage of life.


Sources:

Taurine in Cats | VCA Animal Hospital

Adding Taurine To a Raw Cat Food Diet | Feline Nutrition Foundation

Top 7 Natural Sources of Taurine for Your Cat | Excited Cats

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