If you feed your cat a well-balanced diet — of foods specially prepared for cats — your pet should get all the nutrients it needs to maintain the balance of its metabolism. However, there may be times when a supplement of vitamins and minerals are necessary to improve your cat’s health. In such cases, it is advisable to take the same precautions as you would when giving medicines, as an excess of vitamins and minerals can be toxic, or cause other forms of ill-health.
If you have any concerns about your cat’s vitamin and mineral requirements, discuss the matter with your vet. Long-term overdosing, in particular, can be dangerous to a cat’s health.
Cats are not able to rid their bodies of toxins as quickly and readily as other animals, which is why poisonous substances are more apt to build up and cause illness or even death.
The food preservative benzoic acid is extremely toxic to cats. It is therefore important to read the labels of commercially-manufactured foods not specially prepared for cats before including them in your cat’s diet.
Commercially-prepared catfoods may lose some of their nutrients during storage, and should not be kept beyond their `use by’ date.
Unlike many other carnivores, cats have particular needs for particular nutrients. For example, their bodies cannot manufacture the B vitamin niacin, or vitamin A from the carotene found in some plants, and therefore their requirements for these vitamins is higher than that of some other animals. It is for this reason that many people prefer to feed their pets exclusively on commercially-manufactured catfoods so that they can be confident that their pet is getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals in adequate quantities.
However, there are certain circumstances, such as pregnancy, in which a cat will benefit from supplements to its normal diet. For example, a pregnant or nursing queen may need additional supplies of calcium, especially if she has a lactose intolerance and cannot drink milk.
HANDLE WITH CARE
Although a large number of cat vitamin and cat supplements are readily available over-the-counter in pet shops and supermarkets, there is every reason to get advice before administering any of them to your pet. For example, vitamin A that is not immediately required is stored in the liver, and can cause damage to bones and joints when given in excessive amounts. Iron, which is frequently given for anaemia, can also be toxic. Your veterinarian, or a nutritionist specialising in feline health, are the best people to consult for advice on supplements for your pet.
The vitamins C, E and the B complex are easily excreted from the body if they are not needed, so there is no danger of giving excessive amounts. Vitamin C is extremely useful for accelerating the healing process either when a cat is injured, or recovering from diseases that damage tissues, and it helps to maintain healthy immune and circulatory systems. Vitamins B and E also help to fight infections, and vitamin E is a valuable antioxidant which also promotes a healthy, shiny coat. Natural sources of vitamin E (d-alpha), such as wheatgerm oil, are best because they are more easily metabolised than manufactured sources.