Key Cat Nutritional Supplements and How to Identify Them

by | Oct 27, 2020 | Food & Nutrition

Improving your cat’s well-being with supplements, and understanding how supplements can complement your cat’s diet are key to optimal feline health. Supplements can help your cat live a long and healthy life, but to achieve optimal benefits you’re going to need to understand a bit about why cats need supplements.

A cat’s requirements for all the essential nutrients will vary according to his or her life stage. When kittens go through rapid growth or adult female cats go through reproduction, they will have an increased need for nutrition.

Older cats will also have increased requirements as immune function and bioavailability of all nutrients wane with age. With that said, it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian for the best advice when it comes down to supplements. This is because if you over supplement, it can lead to serious issues, and the same goes for under supplementation. Cats that have health issues will benefit from either a nutritionist or veterinarian’s help.

Where to Buy Cat Supplements?

Today, grocery stores, pet stores, and online stores offer a huge array of pet vitamins and supplements. Veterinarians also carry supplements that can help with gastrointestinal issues, skin problems, as well as joint and mobility issues.

Are Cat Vitamins and Supplements Necessary?

Keep in mind that even if your cat is on a high-quality cat food formula, he’ll benefit from additional supplementation to help optimize his diet. You’ll need to think about the benefits of prebiotics, probiotics, joint supplements, and more. If you have an older cat, essential fatty acids (EFA’s) are important for optimal digestive health, nutrient absorption, and good immune health. You can see this in cats with cancer and do well with therapeutic levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

 Most high-quality cat diets have enough omega-6, with the exception of arachidonic acid, but enough omega-3. Regular cat food that does not contain healthful ingredients will need to be supplemented.

In addition, supplementation is useful for cats of all ages because it can balance a nutritional deficit and allow for a dry cat food diet to be consumed safely for a long period of time. This is important for cats with dietary sensitivities or allergies where higher doses of supplementation and herbs can be beneficial for specific medical issues.

Vegan Cat Food Diets

The same applies to vegan cat food because cats need to be on a high-protein diet. Today, there is still is so much disinformation on vegan cat food because cats are carnivores. A vegan cat food diet is not recommended for cats because they require most of their nutrients from animal sources. Here are some of the vitamins that cats need for optimal health:

  • Vitamin A for vision, fetal development, and optimal immune function (from meat sources, most especially liver sources)
  • Vitamin B12 is necessary for enzyme function can only be found in animal products
  • Niacin from meat products. Cats cannot synthesize niacin from dairy products.
  • Vitamin A is added to vegan cat food formulas in the synthetic form.
  • Taurine

Finding Food Your Cat Will Like

Regardless of the diet that you feed your cat, some cats may have problems with malabsorption. This means that your feline friend is not absorbing nutrients from his food. Sometimes malabsorption can be caused by a lack of adequate digestive enzymes, mostly trypsin. This is an important pancreatic digestive enzyme that helps with the breakdown of protein, fats, and carbs.

If your cat is eating his stool, it may be because a cat’s stool still has plenty of undigested protein. Supplements like cat-digestive enzyme supplements that can be mixed with your cat’s food may help with malabsorption.

By providing the missing enzymes via supplementation to help break down the food and aid in the absorption of all essential nutrients, you’re helping your cat. That said, veterinarians add that supplements that are plant-based are better than those from bovine or porcine sources because cats may be allergic to either beef or pork.

Choosing a high-cat food formula for your cat may seem difficult, but it becomes much simpler if you understand what your cat needs and consult with your veterinarian. Choosing high-quality cat food is difficult because pet food labels may not be 100% accurate, and “complete and balanced” may not be what we expect. 

Fish Diets for Cats

Too much fish is not good for cats, even though the pet food industry seems to market an assortment of fish formula in conventional cat food. Although fish is rich in protein and essential fatty acids, a study by the University of California, Davis, explains that vitamin K deficiency has been seen in cats that consumed canned diets high in salmon and tuna. Vitamin K is beneficial for blood clotting, and deficiencies are linked to increased blood coagulation times and generalized hemorrhage, sometimes resulting in death.

Another study added that “Only 94 recipes provided enough information for computer nutritional analysis, and of those none of them provided all the essential nutrients to meet the National Research Council’s recommended allowances for adult cats,” said lead author Dr. Jennifer Larsen, a veterinary nutritionist with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.”

The study goes on to add, “Recipes lacked nutrients regardless of the source or whether they were written by veterinarians, although those authored by veterinarians had fewer deficiencies in essential nutrients. Most recipes lacked concentrations of three or more nutrients, with some lacking adequate amounts of up to 19 essential nutrients. Furthermore, many recipes had severe deficiencies, providing less than 50 percent of the recommended allowances of several essential nutrients, including choline, iron, zinc, thiamin, vitamin E, and manganese.”

Another study published in UC Davis added, “Of the 24 vegetarian diets the researchers studied, six did not contain adequate levels of one or more amino acids — organic compounds that play a critical biological function, helping to manufacture proteins within the body. “Some of the diets that were below the minimum weren’t just a little bit below,” Larsen says. “Some were as much as 34 percent lower than what was supposed to be there.” Amino acid deficiency is associated with several animal diseases, including skin diseases and dilated cardiomyopathy, a devastating heart condition.”

Vitamin D Insufficiency in Cats

A study published in Plos One says “that vitamin D status is influenced by many factors, including diet, season, latitude, and exposure to UV radiation. In contrast, domesticated cats do not produce vitamin D cutaneously, and most cats are fed a commercial diet containing a relatively standard amount of vitamin D.”

It goes on to explain, “The hypothesis of this study was that vitamin D status would predict short-term, all-cause mortality in domesticated cats. Serum concentrations of 25(OH)D and a wide range of other clinical, hematological, and biochemical parameters were measured in 99 consecutively hospitalized cats. Cats that died within 30 days of initial assessment had significantly lower serum 25(OH)D concentrations than those that survived.” This study supports the hypothesis that low serum vitamin D status is predictive of 30-day mortality in hospitalized cats. The finding that low serum 25(OH)D concentrations are negatively correlated with survival supports the initiation of follow-up clinical trials to examine the influence of vitamin D supplementation on disease outcomes.

Ongoing Efforts to Protect Your Cat’s Health

From kitten food to adult cat food, feeding your cat a high-quality formula is important. Some pet food manufacturers add that there’s no need to supplement if you’re feeding a balanced and complete diet and that it may be dangerous to over-supplement.

Many veterinarians add that cat supplements can help your cat live a longer and healthier life. With numerous supplements only meant for use in cats with an underlying condition, it’s important to consult your veterinarian for the best advice. Supplements are best used to help balance out deficiencies.  Now, let’s explore the most commonly used cat supplements today.

Joint Supplements

 A high-quality joint supplement that incorporates the following ingredients is often beneficial for joint and mobility issues in senior cats. Keep in mind that all supplements need to be specifically for cats to support and create cartilage, and to reduce inflammation, and promote joint health.

  • Chondroitin supports cartilage as well.
  • Glucosamine, together with chondroitin, may be effective in cats with degenerative joint disease (DJD)
  • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is good for post-joint injury or trauma and possibly for long-term DJD treatment.

Vitamins & Minerals

Cat vitamin chews and vitamin powders with essential vitamins have always been hugely popular among pet parents for their feline friends. Vitamins and minerals are required to help with normal growth and nutrition. Kittens and adult cats do well with vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K.

That said, it’s important to look at your kitten or adult cat food, check out all the essential nutrients, and explore what’s already in the ingredients list. You don’t want to give your cat too much of a certain vitamin, such as vitamin C or D.

High-quality cat vitamins like Life Extension Cat Mix provide high-quality nutrients with amino acids, flavonoids, antioxidants, probiotics, essential fatty acids, and more. Older cats do well with this, most especially when their dietary needs cannot be met through nutrition.

 You’ll need to also explore whether sodium, potassium, and chloride are in the cat food that you’re already feeding. Minerals are important in helping the body function. By combining vitamins and minerals, you’re protecting the body from cell damage, helping it to repair and function well.

 It’s best to consult your vet about a good balance of vitamins and minerals for your cat’s life stage because they must be correctly balanced. Too much or too little can be dangerous. So by discussing with your veterinarian what to supplement your cat, you’re avoiding adverse reactions that can happen if you randomly supplement.

If your cat is a senior cat that is losing weight due to illness or after having surgery, supplementing with a cat weight gain supplement may be beneficial. Some cats also have allergies and need a special diet, making it hard for them to gain weight. By combining weight gain supplements via paste, gel, or powder form with conventional cat food, you’ll be encouraging your cat to eat.

Probiotics for Cats

These support your cat’s digestive health and overall immune system health. This is the best supplement to give your pets. It does so many good things and is the least harmful of all supplements. Probiotics generally are available in a powder form and are easily mixed into cat food. Keep in mind that these need to be refrigerated once opened. Probiotics for cats are important together with good nutrition because they do the following:

  • Help prevent constipation and diarrhea.
  • Help to support optimal immune health in pets
  • Alleviates inflammation
  • Good for digestion and nutrient absorption

Try to opt for probiotics that are combined with prebiotics to save you from having to purchase both separately. High-quality probiotics will usually be combined with prebiotics. This helps to stimulate bacteria growth in the colon keeping your cat’s gut health in tip-top shape.


CBD or cannabidiol for pets that is free of THC, may be beneficial as an everyday supplement to enhance overall health for cats. It has been shown to protect against free radicals, and help with the aging process in cats while supporting cats that are under stress, recovering from surgery or illness, or even during old age to make them feel more comfortable. CBD may be beneficial for numerous health conditions in cats as well.

Most cat breeds are healthy, yet some cat breeds may be susceptible to certain health conditions that are common in cats. Because cats are good at hiding illnesses, it’s good to try to prevent them from happening in the first place with the use of cat supplements and vitamins, regular veterinary care, a high-quality diet, and lots of TLC!

Read our other articles to learn more about keeping your pet healthy!

Ideas To Keep In Mind When Considering Cat Supplements

Cats are complicated creatures in many respects, just like any other mammal. They have a lot of nutritional needs that require your attention, but even the best of diets can leave them short of every nutrient that provides them with optimal health. That said, just going to the nearest retail outlet and buying whatever cat supplements seem to “look” the best isn’t necessarily how cat lovers should proceed. As is the case with anything else you give your furry friend, you should consider following some steps before making your decision on cat nutritional supplements. 

First and foremost, speak to your veterinarian about which cat supplements, if any, your pet may need. If your vet doesn’t recommend specific brands, then it’s time to head to the Internet to do some research. After all, you wouldn’t just give your cat any old food you find, as cat nutrition is important to you, so look for brands and products that have earned a top-level reputation and that have had their products openly studied and analyzed. 

Secondly, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with ingredients found on cat supplements. You’ll probably see some on the labels you review that you don’t recognize, but even if what you’re looking for can be considered essential nutrients for cats, you shouldn’t give your pet something with too much risk.

Finally, if you find cat supplements that you think may work well but you’re not sure, you can always contact your veterinarian’s office to ask about that brand specifically. They should be able to provide you with the input you need to make a final decision.

Do you have a pet cat? Here is a simple guide to know how often you should bring your cat to the vet.


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