What Does Each Vitamin Do for Your Cat?
Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential for metabolism regulation and normal body growth and function. Raw and minimally processed cat food can fulfill a cat’s vitamin requirements naturally. Dry foods add synthetic vitamins to restore the natural vitamins that were destroyed during processing.
Therefore, regardless of what the label displays, processed cat food often lacks necessary vitamins. Bearing in mind that vitamin deficiencies cause a plethora of health problems, vitamin supplementation is a good way to ensure your cat meets all of their nutritional requirements. Some vitamins can be synthesized within the body, while others must be ingested with food.
Vitamins are classified as fat-soluble and water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E and K and they are deposited in the cat’s fat tissues. Excessive amounts of fat-soluble vitamins can be harmful. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamins B and C. They are easily excreted in the urine and do not have deposition tendencies.
However, cats are programmed to drink small amounts of water which leads to increased urine concentrations. Therefore, cats have limited ability for eliminating water-soluble vitamins.
Vitamin A is important for good vision, proper growth, immune function, cellular differentiation and fetal development. Cats cannot convert beta-carotene from plants into vitamin A, so they need preformed vitamin A from an animal source.
Lack of vitamin A causes eye disorders (cataracts, conjunctivitis and retinal degeneration), deterioration of the skin and coat quality, weight loss, muscle weakness and reproductive and developmental disorders. On the flip side, too much vitamin A leads to skeletal lesions.
Vitamin D regulates the body’s mineral status by balancing the levels of calcium and phosphorus. Lack of vitamin D leads to impaired skeletal structure (rickets and osteoporosis), progressive paralysis, ataxia, decreased food intake and weight loss. Excessive amounts of vitamin D cause anorexia, lethargy, vomiting and soft tissues calcification.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and works to defend the organism from oxidative damage. Lack of vitamin E leads to cell damage, reproductive issues and ‘’Brown Bowel Syndrome’’. Since vitamin E is essential for normal fat metabolism, deficient cats develop a so-called ''Yellow Fat Disease’’. There are no known vitamin E toxicities for cats.
Vitamin K is a precursor for activating blood clotting factors. Lack of vitamin K causes prolonged clotting time and hemorrhage. Vitamin K can be synthesized by bacteria in the intestines.
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B vitamins are of paramount importance for maintaining a strong immune system. Cats need vitamins B1, B2 and B3. Vitamin B1 is important for energy and carbohydrate metabolisms and proper functioning of the nervous system. Vitamins B2 and B3 initiate and enable enzymatic reactions.
Decreased amounts of B vitamins lead to general weakness, increased illness vulnerability, impaired wound healing and slow reflex function.
Vitamin C is the body’s primary water-soluble antioxidant. Besides being an important weapon in the immune system’s arsenal against infective agents, vitamin C protects unsaturated fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins from being oxidized.
Additionally, vitamin C aids the synthesis of collagen and maintains healthy skin, promotes the healing of wounds, fractures and scar tissues, supports the thymus gland and strengthens the blood vessels.
Cats are capable of manufacturing vitamin C in their livers through glucose metabolism. However, in cases of liver disease, vitamin C synthesis is disrupted, thus requiring external supplementation. Moreover, vitamin C is beneficial in treating certain toxicity syndromes and feline immunodeficiency virus infections.
Since vitamin C is easily excreted, it is highly advisable to divide the daily dose in half and give it twice a day.
Cat supplement manufacturers advocate that their products are a crucial addition to a cat’s diet. On the other hand, cat food manufacturers claim that their food contains all the essential nutrients. Probably the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Vitamin supplementation is particularly important if your cat is a picky eater, during periods of illness, recovery periods, pregnancy and lactation and if more than 10% of your cat’s diet is something other than commercial cat food.
It should be noted that vitamin supplements are meant to correct or prevent potential disorders and should not be used without the vet’s permission. The vet will assess the cat’s health status and decide which vitamins should be supplemented.
Unfortunately, when it comes to vitamins for cats, there is no universally accepted intake requirement. Nevertheless, all scientific data supports the theory that vitamin supplements, when properly used, play an important role in maintaining a cat’s overall nutritional health and wellness.