Many cat supplements and all commercial cat food contain the amino acid taurine as an ingredient.  This is because cats cannot synthesize their own taurine, whereas dogs and humans can.  Therefore, it is required to be provided in the cat’s diet.  Taurine plays a number of important roles in cats that include a role in fat digestion, eyesight, cardiac function, reproduction and other roles.  In cats, taurine is indispensable for the formation of biliary salts that are necessary for the good digestion of fats in the small intestine.  Taurine is indispensable to maintain the completeness of the retina of the eye.  Problems will occur when cats don’t get the required taurine from their diet.  A chronic deficiency of taurine induces a progressive degeneration of the retina, leading to a total blindness within 2 years.  A relationship has been established between taurine deficiency in the diet and the occurrence of specific cardiac troubles. Taurine deficiency has multiple consequences on the reproduction function including lack of fertility, foetal resorptions, abortions, abnormalities in newborn kittens, growth diseases in kitten.  Because of these issues, Taurine is now a requirement of the Association of American Feed Control Officials(AAFCO) and any commercial dry or wet food product labeled approved by the AAFCO should have a minimum of 0.1% taurine in dry food and 0.2% in wet food.  It is widely agreed upon that cats should consume 1000mg (1 gm) or taurine per 2.2 lbs of food.  This means a typical cat should get 75-100 mg taurine a day in their diet.

But cats may not be getting enough taurine if they are on homemade diets.  Taurine is supplied mostly by meat and seafood although eggs and dairy products are good sources of taurine.  Vegetables contain little to no measurable taurine.  However, taurine is broken down by heat and cooking of meats.  This is a situation where supplements containing taurine should be used.  There are many supplements containing taurine available.  Most cat vitamin and health products such as Pets Prefer Adult Maintenance for Cats and Pets Prefer Urinary Health for Cats contain taurine at a maintenance level.  Taurine is not stored by cats and would be very difficult to overdose even if giving these supplements with maintenance levels of taurine and a commercial cat food.  However, giving therapeutic levels of taurine found in specific high concentrate taurine supplements on the order of 500mgs/dose or more should be done in consultation with a veterinarian.

Dr. Dan DuBourdieu

Dr. Dan holds a Ph.D. and M.S. degree from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. from Macalester College.  He has been involved in basic cell biology, biochemistry and immunology research at Hoffmann La Roche Inc., ImmuCell Inc. and other research companies.  He has worked with Bomac Vet-Plus Inc for a number of years doing animal nutrition product research and development.