Monday, October 12, 2009 3:11 PM

Does Your Cat Need Nutritional Supplements?

Vitamin and mineral supplements are a big industry. Many people take them, and any store that sells aspirin will usually stock a large variety. Do pets need these supplements, too? In many cases, yes, they do.

Let's start with the cat (and dog) that doesn't need supplements: Young, but mature; in good health; eating a homemade or premium diet; and, in the case of cats at least, lives indoors only. Every other pet could most probably benefit from some nutritional supplementation, and it doesn't have to be complicated.

Kittens and cats younger than 2 years are growing and maturing very rapidly. Since there are really no commercial foods available to meet their needs entirely (no matter what the label says), it couldn't hurt to supplement. There are many pet vitamins on the market; read the label and research the product before you buy. If you want to keep it simple, a little brewer's yeast sprinkled on their food daily is a good nutritional booster; use kelp as an alternative if kitty doesn't like or tolerate the yeast. A few sprinkles of ground flaxseed meal is also good, as well as a few drops of olive oil (extra virgin, of course).

Older cats and those with health issues will also benefit from supplementation. If you don't find a pet supplement you like, buy a good quality adult multi (no added iron), grind it up, and give about one-tenth per day to your cat in his food. Give a little added taurine, too, since cats can't synthesize this amino acid from food. The flax, olive oil and kelp are all good, too, particularly for older cats with skin problems. As cats age, they are less able to absorb nutrients from food, so giving them a little extra is definitely beneficial.

Of course, any cat that eats a commercial diet (even many of the premium ones) will need supplementation. The high heat necessary to kill all the nasties present in the ingredients also destroy any nutrients. The manufacturers add vitamins and minerals back in, but they are probably poorer quality than what you will provide. All the added chemicals such as preservatives, emulsifiers, colorants, etc. also stress your cat's system. Supplementation can take some of the pressure off by providing an easily accessible source of nutrients to keep your cat's health at optimal levels.

People food (particularly prepared foods) also have a lot of additives, so you might want to pick out a supplement or two for yourself while you're shopping for your pet!
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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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