Many owners and holistic vets are promoting homemade or raw diets because of the gastrointestinal improvements and overall benefits seen in cats. Unfortunately, because the diets are usually all natural some pet owners don’t understand or see the need for further supplementation.
For example, your cat is getting exclusively chicken or rabbit muscle meat the diet is extremely unbalanced and can result in health issues and even death. A study done at the University of California, Davis fed cats only rabbit and this resulted in one death and many of the cats having heart issues. Read about the article here.
In order for these diets to be considered balanced, cats should be given a variety of meat choices and other foods like vegetables. For example a balanced raw diet consist of organs, flesh, ground bone and a some vegetation.
In addition to feeding a variety of meats and vegetables, it may be necessary to add other supplements as well otherwise these are three deficiencies that may arise.
Taurine is an amino acid that cats can not produce on their own and must get it from their diet. It is essential for healthy function of the body including the eyes, heart, immune system and gastrointestinal tract. Cats also taurine about 125 milligrams on average in their diets.
Taurine can be found in muscle meats, especially dark meats and organs like the kidney, liver and heart. Plants contain little to no taurine.
While taurine is found in raw meat at higher levels than commercial kibble your cat may still need supplementation. The amount of taurine in your cats food is directly proportional to preparation. Taurine is highly water soluble and things like exposing it to water or boiling it amounts to great loss of the amino acid.
If you do decide to boil your meat prior to feeding which in cases of pancreatitis is suggested, make sure to include the water to retain the taurine lost from the meat. However, the higher the temperature, the more taurine lost so ideally cooking temperatures should remain low.
In addition, if you are feeding cooked homemade meals, you will want to make sure to add the taurine after heat has been applied to retain the most amino acid in the diet.
Clinical signs of taurine deficiency are extremely slow to develop and can take several months before symptoms become appear in some cases. Symptoms can inlude
- feline taurine retinopathy or degeneration of the retina
- dilated cardiomyopathy
- digestive disturbances
Thiamine or vitamin B1, is a water-soluble vitamin necessary for normal carbohydrate metabolism in cats. Cats are unable to produce enough thiamine on their own, and like Taurine they must obtain it from their diet. Cats require three times as much as dogs and the recommended daily allowance per day is 0.33mg.
Heating can significantly decrease the amount of thiamine in foods and this is important to remember when preparing a homemade diet for your cat. Raw foods are not exposed to heat and the thiamine remains intact in these diets.
However, if you are only feeding your cat fish or shellfish, there are some that contain an enzyme called thiaminase which destroys or inactivates thiamine. The fish to watch out for fish and shellfish from the families Cyprinidae (carp, rudd, roach, goldfish, tench, minnow etc), smelt, herring and possibly mackerel and whiting. While there are more, these are the primary ones people choose to use in diets. But don’t worry, trout and salmon are fine to feed!
Thiamine deficiency results in serious neurological symptoms, such as abnormal heartbeats and gastrointestinal signs. Some symptoms include:
- lost appetite
- falling and abnormal gait
- excessive salivation
- head tilt
- weight loss
Calcium is often added to home-prepared meals and raw diets because it is often excluded since meat is naturally deficient. Most vegetables and grains are also deficient. Calcium is found in the bones fed in homemade and raw diets.
Feeding bones can have serious detrimental effects such as becoming lodged in the throat or puncturing the intestinal lining and this is why you should always grind the bones prior to feeding. Some owners opt for crushed eggshells to supplement calcium, but this doesn’t come without its own issues as you will have to worry about food borne illnesses like salmonella.
Signs of calcium deficiency include
- bone defomities
- muscle tremors
- broken bones
It is important to know when to add these supplements and how much to add as cats can get sick from an excess. Always speak to your vet about proper dosing and do a ton of research before giving anything to your precious fur baby!
If you don’t want to prepare your cats food at home or feed raw yourself, you can always opt for a commercially prepared raw cat food. These diets usually do not require any supplementation as they come with a certification from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This can often take the guesswork out your cats diet preparation.
What are some of your favorite supplements for cats?