Cats are obligate carnivores; they need meat to be healthy. Some cat parents serve raw diets, noting the nutritional benefits and closer adherence to cats' natural diets. The diet's quality and variety, along with a cat's specific health condition, can help determine what supplements are needed.
Raw Food Philosophy
Raw food diets are designed to replicate cats' natural diets, and preserve the integrity of the ingredients. The philosophy is that in the wild, cats hunt their prey and consume it as is -- no cooking required. Raw foodies also note that cooking destroys some of the enzymes and other natural components of food. Indeed, cats need a wide range of animal proteins, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and water, and can benefit from additional supplements to address specific health conditions.
Multivitamins and Minerals
Raw food may be more nutritionally intact, but supplements might still be in order. Cat parents must pay constant attention to rotating the diet to ensure enough variety is achieved. But cats are finicky and may not always eat enough of every food on the rotation. Also, freezing, grinding and other forms of processing can compromise the nutritional status of food. Whether to add a multivitamin largely depends on how much variety the cat eats, and the quality of the food.
Supplements for Specific Health Issues
Along with a daily multivitamin supplement, there are other supplements that can have a place in a cat's diet, especially to address or prevent certain health conditions. For example, essential fatty acids such as omega-3 can help preserve heart health, reduce inflammation and boost immunity. Digestive enzymes and probiotics can regulate digestion, which may be helpful for cats with sensitive tummies. Glucosamine and chondroitin can be beneficial to treat and reduce signs of arthritis.
Supplents to Avoid
Some supplements should be avoided. These include anything with garlic, which is toxic to cats. Some herbs such as willow bark, birch and feverfew also are poisonous. Certain nutrients, for example fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K can accumulate in a cat's body and cause overload. Whatever the supplement added to a raw diet, make sure not to exceed the recommended dosage, and keep your vet in the loop to ensure your cat gets the best care possible.
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.