Taurine is an essential amino acid for cats that plays a crucial role in their nutrition and well-being. In this article, we discuss the consequences of taurine deficiency in cats and how to avoid it.
Taurine, essential for our felines
Unlike other animals, the cat's liver produces very little taurine. This substance is crucial for the functioning of several organs, which is why it is important to include it in the cat's diet. This is why taurine is considered an essential amino acid for these animals.
In addition, cats lose more taurine than other animals. This is because taurine binds to bile acids in the liver to facilitate the absorption of fat. This causes taurine to be broken down in the intestine and partially eliminated in the feces. In other animals, such as dogs, the formation of bile salts also involves another amino acid, glycine, which the body can produce in sufficient quantities. Cats, on the other hand, primarily use taurine, which they cannot synthesize in sufficient quantities, resulting in greater loss.
The functions of taurine in cats
Taurine plays a vital role in cats by participating in various functions:
- Bile acid metabolism
- Retinal function
- Heart health
- Nervous system
- Immune system
- Blood vessel protection
- Fetal development
- Antioxidant action
Understanding these roles will help us understand the effects of taurine deficiency.
Signs of taurine deficiency in cats
Symptoms of taurine deficiency in cats do not appear for some time (a few months to two years). There are four types of disorders or diseases associated with taurine deficiency:
- Irreversible retinal degeneration and vision loss
- Reproductive problems, sometimes reversible
- Severe and irreversible abnormalities in fetal development
- Dilated cardiomyopathy, which can be improved with increased taurine intake
A veterinarian may suspect taurine deficiency if these symptoms are associated with inadequate nutrition. Blood tests may be used to measure taurine, but this method is not commonly used because of its limited reliability.
Should taurine be added to the cat's diet?
To avoid problems associated with taurine deficiency, simply feed your cat a taurine-rich diet. Taurine is present in large quantities in animal tissues and is absent in plants. To ensure adequate taurine intake, follow these four rules:
- The cat must consume animal protein (meat must be the main ingredient, whether in kibble, pate or household rations).
- The animal protein consumed by the cat must be of high quality.
- Do not feed a cat dog food, especially if it is high in grain.
- It is impossible to put a cat on a vegetarian diet. In the wild, cats hunt mice and do not eat grass like cows.
As an omnivorous human, you are free to choose a vegetarian diet, but it is inappropriate and potentially dangerous to impose such a diet on your cat (or dog). By following these rules, it is not necessary to supplement your cat's diet with taurine.