Fatty acids such as omega-3 help give your kitty a shiny coat and well-oiled joints, making that jump from the couch to the counter smooth and easy. Pet foods aren't required to include omega-3, so check the labels carefully to ensure your pet gets the right nutrition.
Types of Omega-3
Reading your kitty's food label might not give you a clear picture of what kind of healthy fatty acids are included. The Association of American Feed Control doesn't recognize omega-3 as an essential nutrient, so commercial food manufacturers aren't required to include it. Most do, but not always in the form that's best for Fluffy. Cats need the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) version of omega-3 instead of the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Even if your cat's preferred fare touts omega-3 fatty acids, check with the manufacturer or your vet to ensure it has the EPA and DHA versions.
According to the University of Connecticut, cats need small to moderate levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Cat food that contains 0.03 to 2 percent of omega-3 should be sufficient for most cats. Omega-3 works in conjunction with omega-6, but the food needs the proper ratio of the two to be truly balanced. Your kitty's dinner should have more omega-6 than omega-3, in a ratio of 5 to 1 up to 10 to 1, according to veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker of Healthy Pets.com.
What To Look For
Cats are carnivores -- their bodies function best with food sources found in their potential prey. Look for fish oil or fish meal in the ingredient list, which means the food has the right kind of omega-3 fatty acids -- EPA and DHA. If you spot vegetable ingredients such as soybean oil, flaxseed meal or canola oil, chances are the food has the unnecessary ALA version of omega-3 instead.
If your cat is healthy and gets omega-3 from her food, she probably doesn't need supplements. However, additional omega-3 from supplements can help if your kitty has medical problems such as arthritis, an auto-immune disease, high blood pressure or liver disfunction. Talk with your vet to determine whether your pet needs an omega-3 supplement.