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 idea.
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 intestine.
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.