Cats need taurine in their food to prevent blindness and certain kinds of heart disease. Cats cannot produce taurine in their own bodies; rather, they must eat foods containing taurine to obtain it. Fortunately, there are many sources of this important amino acid, most of which your cat will enjoy!
Taurine: An Amino Acid
Taurine is a beta amino acid. Proteins are made up of amino acids, making them essential to sustaining life. Taurine is found throughout the body, including the nervous system and muscles. The body requires a certain amount of taurine to support retinal health and keep the heart beating. It also aids in transmitting information in the brain and regulates the amount of calcium present in the body. Lack of taurine can cause blindness and heart weakness called “cardiomyopathy.”
Commercial Cat Food
All commercial cat foods are supplemented with taurine. Most of these foods have sufficient taurine to prevent blindness and cardiomyopathy. If your cat eats food that has grain or corn as its first ingredient or if you consistently feed a single type of food, you may need to monitor or supplement his taurine intake. Vegetarian cat foods may not contain sufficient taurine, which is not present in the vegetable proteins used in such products. If you feed your cat commercial vegetarian cat food you must give him a taurine supplement.
If you prepare your cat’s food, you must be careful to provide ingredients with sufficient taurine content. Red meat and poultry, particularly hearts and livers, provide adequate levels of taurine for your cat’s needs. Eggs and dairy are also good sources. However, shellfish such as shrimp and clams provide even more taurine than other animal proteins, making them excellent foods to feed your cat. When feeding your cat a homemade diet you must take care to provide multiple taurine sources or provide him with a commercial taurine supplement.
Your cat must receive a “therapeutic dosage” of between 250 and 500 mg of taurine, two or three times each day. If you are concerned that your homemade diet is not providing him with enough taurine, your veterinarian can advise you on which supplement is best for your pet and the best way to provide the supplement to him. Supplementing your cat’s taurine will not hurt him, even if he is receiving a sufficient dosage in his diet. However, it is important you consult your veterinarian before making such important dietary decisions for your cat.