Years ago, commercial cat foods weren't necessarily supplemented with taurine. Today, cat foods include taurine, so a certain type of cardiomyopathy -- a heart muscle disease -- resulting from taurine deficiency occurs less often than it used to. A cat fed strictly table scraps might not get enough taurine.
Taurine, an amino acid, is absolutely essential for feline health. It occurs only in animal proteins. Although many mammals, including people, can manufacture taurine within their own bodies and store it, felines produce just a small amount. They must obtain sufficient amounts of taurine from meats to keep their eyes and muscles in good condition. The heart, the most important muscle of them all, would suffer from a cat's taurine deficiency with a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy.
Cats can suffer from several types of cardiomyopathy, but among them dilated cardiomyopathy usually results from taurine deficiency. According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, this type of heart muscle ailment is primarily characterized by "a poorly contracting dilated left ventricle." The walls of the heart become thin and loose flexibility, resulting in "decreased forward flow of blood from the heart." Eventually, affected cats develop congestive heart failure. Because taurine is a supplement in consumer-grade cat food products, taurine deficiency is relatively rare these days.
Cooking for Kitty
If you enjoy cooking for loved ones, including feline family, it's important that you make sure your home-cooked meals contain taurine. That's especially true if your cat's diet consists entirely of homemade foods. Remember that cats aren't vegetarians, even if meatless is your preferred mode of cooking and eating. If you want to make your kitty's meals from scratch, ask your vet or a feline veterinary nutritionist for advice on the most healthy way to do it. You can purchase taurine supplements to add to Kitty's homemade diet, but ask the vet or nutritionist for the proper amounts for your cat.
It's unlikely that your well-cared-for kitty will suffer from a taurine deficiency leading to cardiomyopathy. However, it's entirely possible that you'll find a needy stray cat. Symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy include difficulty breathing, low temperature, cold extremities, fainting, weight loss and crying out in fear or pain. It's possible that a vet can save the cat with taurine supplementation. It might be touch-and-go for a while, but if the cat survives it could take six months or more for his heart muscle to return to a healthy state.
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images