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Cat Vitamins and Supplements: Do They Work?

Cat supplements spark a big debate. Find out if your feline really needs them.

Cat Supplements vs. Nutraceuticals

Nutraceuticals are herbal or natural remedies that fall in a bit of a gray area where supplements are concerned. Advocates for pet nutraceuticals say such products simply supplement the cat’s natural diet. They’ve referred to them as “more than feed additives but less than pharmaceuticals."

But the Pet Food Institute’s Nancy Cook says “nutraceuticals are intended to treat or prevent a disease and are therefore a drug, not a supplement.” The AVMA defines nutraceutical medicine as “the use of micronutrients, macronutrients, and other nutritional supplements as therapeutic agents.”

“It is necessary for the consumer to be aware that natural does not always mean safe or effective,” Cruz says.

Types of Nutraceuticals

Nutraceutical products are found in the supplement section in pet stores and online. Some of the top sellers for cats are:

  • Glucosamine helps increase joint mobility and is often touted as a treatment for arthritis, although Cruz says it doesn't relieve its pain.
  • Chondroitin is also for healthy bone and joints. It is often found with glucosamine.
  • Milk thistle extract helps remove toxins from the cat’s liver. It may be used for cats with liver disease.


Cat Supplements to Avoid

Experts say there are a lot of unsafe supplements, but the biggest ones to avoid include:

  • Garlic: destroys red blood cells, leading to anemia
  • Onion: destroys red blood cells, leading to anemia
  • Calcium: too much can be toxic
  • Vitamin D: too much can be toxic
  • Vitamin C: too much can cause overly acidic urine, which can lead to crystal formation and a lifethreatening blockage


Where to Buy Cat Supplements

Before buying a supplement, ask your veterinarian which kind, if any, is best suited for your cat’s life stage and medical condition.

“It is best to keep your vet in the loop on any supplements you are thinking about giving to your cats,” Sanderson says. She recommends asking your vet about a reputable seller of cat supplements, adding that she would not buy them online unless she had confidence in the company selling them.

Cruz says, “Don’t believe everything that you read on the [Internet].” Cruz says she has seen some great nutritional breakthroughs in the past 20 years, but she’s also seen an abundance of fad supplements.

More Is Not Always Better

It's important to remember that you can harm your cat by giving her too many supplements.

Cats of different ages and lifestyles have very different dietary needs. Do not use different supplements together, as they may contain the same or similar ingredients.

Always talk to your vet before giving your cat any type of supplements. “Over-supplementation can have ill side effects,” Cruz says. “Remember, more is not always better.”

Reviewed on May 04, 2010
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