The amino acid taurine is an essential component of your cat's metabolism. But exactly why do they need it? Our animal health practitioner explains why cats can't cope without taurine and how you can prevent symptoms of deficiency.
What exactly is taurine?
Why is taurine so important for cats?
Like most mammals, your cat synthesises taurine in her liver − but this is a very slow process which yields only small amounts. At the same time, your feline loses a lot of taurine in bile acid circulation, which is necessary to digest food fats. In this process, only a small part of the required taurine can be reused − most of it is expelled through the intestine. So it is important that your cat absorbs enough taurine from food
How could your cat start suffering from taurine deficiency?
Taurine deficiency happens when your pet's diet does not contain enough sources of taurine, i.e. animal tissue. For the same reason, dog food and vegetarian dishes are not suitable for your cat. Taurine is also heat sensitive and is partly destroyed during feed production, so it's worth paying close attention to the packaging information. Symptoms of taurine deficiency often only appear after a few months or even years. The majority of cats won't show any symptoms despite suffering from a deficiency.
How does taurine deficiency manifest itself?
Taurine deficiency is a serious matter − unfortunately, once a deficiency becomes noticeable, it is often too late. It can make cats sterile, for example, or their kittens may be stillborn or survive only a short while after birth. Young cats can show developmental anomalies: the retina is degenerated and eyesight deteriorates, often causing lasting damage. Your kitty's heart may also show abnormalities. Animals may also lose their hearing or suffer from clotting disorders or a weak immune system. The problem is that the deficiency often goes undetected to start with. The only way to check if your cat is getting enough taurine is to take a good look what you're feeding them.
How much taurine does a cat need?
Healthy adult cats need about 50 mg of available taurine a day per kilogram of body weight. Depending on the cat and your feeding regime, that's between 200 mg and 500 mg of taurine in their food. If your cat suffers from unbalanced intestinal flora or has a lot of fibre-rich food, i.e. loaded with carbohydrates, these are factors that can even double the need for taurine.
Taurine can be given pure or in the form of high-quality animal tissue (e.g. heart and liver). Complete feeds usually contain the right amount of taurine. Wet food with a high proportion of meat, i.e. plenty of natural taurine, requires fewer supplementation than wet food with a low meat content. If you keep this in mind, you can easily cover the daily needs of your furry friend without having to worry about their wellbeing.