Cats need a broad spectrum of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to function optimally. These should already be included in cat food. But which vitamins and minerals are essential for cats?
Cats need fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and various water-soluble vitamins from the vitamin B family, particularly vitamin B12. Cats also need minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and sodium chloride. The cat’s own body produces vitamin C, so it doesn’t need to consume it.
Sometimes, due to illness, cats cannot absorb vitamins and minerals from their food. In such cases, food supplements can help.
However, avoid supplements in otherwise healthy cats without first consulting your vet, as an excess of vitamins and minerals can lead to illness.
What Nutrients Do Cats Need?
Healthy coat, skin, and bones, as well as functioning organs and an alert mind, are the result of a cat’s proper diet.
In addition to protein and fat, vitamins and minerals are also important for a cat’s health.
High-quality, protein-rich cat food provides the vitamins and minerals that cats need in adequate quantities.
Providing vitamins and minerals through additional supplements can be harmful to cats. This is because an excess of vitamins and minerals can make cats ill.
Therefore, never give your cat supplements containing vitamins or minerals without first discussing this with your vet.
You can check the cat food’s label to ensure it contains all the vitamins and minerals a cat needs. If this is not the case, you should switch to a different brand.
Which Vitamins Do Cats Need?
Cats need 14 different vitamins to live a healthy life, and these should all be included in your cat’s food. If this is the case, no further supplementation is necessary.
If your cat shows signs of vitamin deficiency, there may be a medical condition preventing vitamin absorption.
Let’s take a look at the vitamins that cats need for their health and what function the vitamin has for the cat’s health.
Vitamin A contributes to healthy skin and good vision in cats. If your cat is injured, vitamin A supports self-healing. If it receives enough vitamin A, the skin can heal and regenerate.
Vitamin A is also vital for good night vision. Cats that have a vitamin A deficiency have difficulty seeing well in the dark.
This can be a risk because cats are crepuscular and like to roam at night.
Vitamin D allows the cat’s body to absorb calcium and prevents the cat’s bones and teeth from becoming brittle and porous.
Cats do not absorb much vitamin D from sunlight, making it an integral part of your cat’s diet.
Your cat’s immune system is dependent on vitamin E. If cats don’t get enough vitamin E, they are more susceptible to viruses and allergens.
Vitamin E is also crucial for cats that like to eat fish. Fish contains many polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can lead to protein oxidation.
Vitamin K supports blood clotting in cats. Without vitamin K, there is a risk that a cat will become anemic as its blood becomes thinner and thinner.
Vitamin K deficiency in cats is also associated with hemophilia, a hereditary blood clotting disorder.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Vitamin B1 is one of the most essential components of cat food. Make sure that vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, is included in your cat’s food.
Vitamin B1 metabolizes carbohydrates, which is crucial for cats as their bodies have difficulty processing carbohydrates.
Thiamine also promotes brain health. Without vitamin B1, your cat’s brain has difficulty sending messages to the nervous system.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Although it is mainly found in dairy products, which cats cannot tolerate because they are lactose intolerant, cats need vitamin B2 or riboflavin.
Vitamin B2 promotes healthy coat growth in cats. Without this vitamin, your cat is more likely to develop alopecia, i.e., fur loss.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, is good for the skin and coat and ensures healthy skin and a shiny coat.
Vitamin B3 also breaks down sugar and fat and converts them into energy.
A higher vitamin B3 content in the diet, therefore, also reduces the risk of obesity.
Vitamin B4 (Choline)
Together with vitamin B8, vitamin B4 contributes to maintaining healthy skin in cats. These vitamins moisturize the skin.
Studies have shown a link between vitamin B4 and brain function. Choline deficiency has been linked to cognitive dysfunction in cats.
For epileptic cats, vitamin B4 can reduce the risk of seizures.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Pantothenic acid plays a central role in energy metabolism. As a component of coenzyme A, it is necessary to break down fats, carbohydrates, and various amino acids.
It is also vital for forming fatty acids, cholesterol, and steroid hormones.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Vitamin B6 has the same function as vitamin B5. It is another coenzyme that keeps your cat’s metabolism healthy.
Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
The effect of vitamin B7 is almost identical to that of vitamin B3.
Biotin improves your cat’s coat and skin and breaks down glucose. This results in your cat having more energy and maintaining a healthy blood sugar level.
Vitamin B8 (Inositol)
With vitamin B4, inositol ensures your cat’s skin is healthy. This vitamin strengthens the cell membranes and turns your cat’s skin into a protective shield.
Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)
Vitamin B9, or folic acid, forms the red blood cells essential for oxygen distribution in the body.
Folic acid is also crucial for pregnant cats, as the growing kittens need vitamin B9. This means a pregnant cat should consume more folic acid than usual.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Vitamin B12’s primary role is to promote a healthy gut and digestive tract. If your cat has sufficient cobalamin levels, it can process food naturally and efficiently.
Cats cannot produce B12 themselves but must obtain it from their food. A vitamin B12 deficiency can result in sudden weight loss and lack of energy.
Which Minerals Do Cats Need?
Vitamins and minerals are both micronutrients, but there is a crucial difference between them.
Vitamins are organic structures that dissolve in the cat’s body as soon as they are absorbed by fat or water. Minerals are inorganic and retain their structure when ingested.
Minerals are more readily available to cats and are only needed in small amounts.
Young kittens need calcium to develop healthy teeth and bones. However, calcium remains an essential mineral as the cat grows older.
In addition, calcium is an electrolyte that helps to support healthy kidney function in adult cats.
However, never offer cats milk to increase their calcium intake. Besides the fact that most cats are lactose intolerant, excess calcium leads to hypercalcemia.
Hypercalcemia, or too much calcium in the blood, can be very damaging in the long term and can lead to kidney stones, gastrointestinal problems, and vascular disease.
Hypercalcemia can also cause abnormal tissue growth (neoplasia), urinary tract infections, and kidney failure.
Phosphorus is involved in the formation of teeth and bones and also influences energy conversion in the body.
Potassium is crucial to a cat’s diet, especially as they age. Low potassium levels in the blood can cause several problems.
As cats age, potassium levels naturally decrease, leading to lethargy, depression, and dull coats. This is why special food for older cats is so important.
Special senior cat food is rich in potassium and contains less of the minerals that are no longer so important in old age.
Most cat foods contain a sufficient amount of sodium chloride. As this is essentially table salt, it encourages your cat to drink.
After drinking, the cat must also urinate at some point. This rids the kidneys of waste products and prevents the formation of bladder stones. In moderation, sodium is, therefore, an essential mineral.
Magnesium transports essential hormones and enzymes through the cat’s organs and nerves.
A magnesium deficiency in cats can lead to cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease. Muscle twitching and uncoordinated movements are further symptoms of a magnesium deficiency.
Zinc’s primary function in cats is to promote good skin and coat quality.
However, zinc is also crucial for the reproductive capacity of female cats.
Iron increases the oxygen content in the body. This means that blood is pumped through the cat’s body to ensure maximum performance of the muscles and internal organs. Iron is only needed in small amounts.
Manganese strengthens and reinforces bones and cartilage. Studies have shown that manganese can provide relief for arthritic cats.
The meat contained in cat food contains only tiny traces of this mineral. It is more likely to be found in cereals, which are usually also included in cat food.
The copper a cat consumes is noticeable in the coat and blood.
Copper helps the body to metabolize iron and thus prevents a cat from becoming anemic.
Copper also ensures the synthesis of melanin. This hormone is responsible for a cat’s coat color.
If a cat has copper deficiency, its coat becomes dull and lifeless. With prolonged copper deficiency, it can even change its color.
Cats only need small amounts of iodine.
Up to 80 % of the iodine a cat ingests ends up in the thyroid gland. This stimulates the thyroid gland and encourages an adequate release of triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).
Iodine deficiency can result in an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), in which the release of these hormones is too low.
Selenium also affects the cat’s thyroid gland, so that a deficiency can lead to hypothyroidism.
If your cat likes to eat tuna, selenium is vital for him. Although tuna is a treat for many cats, it can cause mercury poisoning. Selenium inhibits the absorption of mercury.
Conclusion: Which Vitamins and Minerals Do Cats Need?
Cats need a whole range of vitamins and minerals for good health.
Fortunately, these are already contained in the right quantities in high-quality cat food. Therefore, providing cats with these nutrients using food supplements is unnecessary and even harmful.
You should only ever give supplements after consulting your vet, as an overdose of many vitamins and minerals can lead to health issues in cats.
A healthy cat gets the nutrients it needs from high-quality cat food. So please pay attention to the nutritional information on your food to find out whether it contains all the essential vitamins and minerals.