Cat Vitamins and Supplements: Do They Work?
Cat supplements spark a big debate. Find out if your feline really needs them.
Types of Cat Supplements
- General vitamins and minerals: A variety of single or multivitamin
products are available for cats. Most cat foods contain all the necessary
vitamins and minerals that a cat needs.
- Essential fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids
are touted for their ability to keep a cat’s coat shiny and to prevent shedding. They also protect a
cat’s immune system, liver, eyes, brain, and joints. And, just like in humans,
omega-3 fatty acids boost heart health and fight high cholesterol. Cat
foods contain a lot more omega6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids, so
some think supplementation is needed. But not everyone is sold on the
- Probiotics: Probiotics are healthy, “good” bacteria that help
improve digestive health. They contain microorganisms such as Lactobacillus
acidophilus or Lactobacillus casei (also found in some
yogurts), which control the overgrowth of "bad" bacteria in the large
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
- Milk thistle extract helps remove toxins from the cat’s liver. It may be
used for cats with liver disease.