Natural Health for Cats

March 1, 2015 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

A few years ago, I wrote a column entitled, “Natural Health for Dogs”. It’s a bit ironic that I focused on dogs first since I’ve always held a very special place in my heart for cats. Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve felt a unique affinity towards felines of all kinds. Something about them draws me in and inspires effortless feelings of joy and peace. Over the years I’ve had the good fortune of being a caretaker and companion to various cats. Today, in tribute to the many feline friends that I’ve known and loved, I want to share some information that can improve the lives of other cats that I will never know.

The food you feed your cat over a lifetime can be more powerful than any medication, whether natural or synthetic. And, while it may seem intuitive and obvious what foods are best, science can add some important information to the mix. For example, the diets of feral or wild cats tend to be higher in total fat and omega-3 fats in comparison to most commercial cat foods. Therefore, you might think simply looking for a brand of cat food containing more omega-3 fats is the right choice. In some ways, it may be. But, according to a recent study in the journal Research in Veterinary Science, there is another consideration to keep in mind. When more omega-3s are added to the feline diet, a greater need for Vitamin E emerges. This essential antioxidant plays a pivotal role in supporting the immune system in the cat. So, if you decide to buy or make cat food that emphasizes omega-3 fats, be sure to provide optimal, supplemental Vitamin E. The previously mentioned study found that 225 mg/kg is an effective dosage.

Numerous supplements have demonstrated promise in feline test subjects. In fact, many of the very same nutraceuticals humans take for health enhancement also benefit cats. Resveratrol, the so called “red wine antioxidant”, has been found to protect felines from kidney and lung damage caused by dietary and environmental toxins. The dosage of resveratrol used in the studies is 3 mg/kg. A study from April 2013, discovered that a formula containing arginine, salmon oil and a yeast extract modulated the immune system of cats “resulting in a greater ability to fight infection and disease”. Another nutrient blend comprised of antioxidants (selenium, Vitamins C and E), arginine, B Vitamins and fish oil benefited various measures of cognitive performance in a group of middle aged cats. Also worth noting are two studies which report that probiotic supplementation improves two common conditions in cats: chronic diarrhea and chronic kidney disease.

Much like humans, modern day cats often struggle with diet and lifestyle related diseases such as diabetes and obesity. Fortunately, similar to their human counterparts, cats can reduce associated health risks and weight by dietary changes and the judicious use of supplements. A study published in the June 2013 issue of the Journal of Veterinary Medical Science reveals that high fiber, lower carbohydrate diets significantly reduce blood sugar, insulin and triglycerides in overweight cats. Supplementing with L-carnitine, a naturally occurring compound found in red meat, assists heavy cats on a diet to burn fat more efficiently. However, one major difference between cats and humans is that the latter require the assistance of humans to make such changes in their diet and supplement routine. So, help your beloved, furry friends maintain and/or reestablish good health using the best that natural health has to offer.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Comparison of Inferred Fractions of N-3 and N-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty (link)

Study 2 – Failure of a Dietary Model to Affect Markers of Inflammation in Domestic (link)

Study 3 – Moderate Dietary Supplementation w/ Vitamin E Enhances Lymphocyte (link)

Study 4 – Resveratrol Ameliorates the Oxidative Damage Induced by Arsenic (link)

Study 5 – Resveratrol Protects Against Arsenic Trioxide-Induced Nephrotoxicity (link)

Study 6 – Potential for Enhancement of Immunity in Cats by Dietary (link)

Study 7 – Effects of a Probiotic on Blood Urea Nitrogen and Creatinine (link)

Study 8 – Open-Label Trial of a Multi-Strain Synbiotic in Cats w/ Chronic Diarrhea (link)

Study 9 – Impact of Commercially Available Diabetic Prescription Diets on Short- (link)

Study 10 – Influence of Dietary Supplementation w/ L-Carnitine on Metabolic Rate … (link)

Nutritional Supplement Improves Cognition in Older Cats

Source: Br J Nutr. 2013 Jul 14;110(1):40-9. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Nutrition, Nutritional Supplements

7 Comments & Updates to “Natural Health for Cats”

  1. JP Says:

    Update: A good review of the relative effects and safety of various supplemental fiber sources … <---full text Nutrients. 2013 Aug 6;5(8):3099-117. Alternative dietary fiber sources in companion animal nutrition. Abstract: The US has a pet population of approximately 70 million dogs and 74 million cats. Humans have developed a strong emotional bond with companion animals. As a consequence, pet owners seek ways to improve health, quality of life and longevity of their pets. Advances in canine and feline nutrition have contributed to improved longevity and well-being. Dietary fibers have gained renewed interest in the pet food industry, due to their important role in affecting laxation and stool quality. More recently, because of increased awareness of the beneficial effects of dietary fibers in health, as well as the popularity of functional foods and holistic and natural diets, alternative and novel carbohydrates have become widespread in human and pet nutrition. Fiber sources from cereal grains, whole grains and fruits have received increasing attention by the pet food industry and pet owners. While limited scientific information is available on the nutritional and nutraceutical properties of alternative fiber sources, studies indicate that corn fiber is an efficacious fiber source for pets, showing no detrimental effects on palatability or nutrient digestibility, while lowering the glycemic response in adult dogs. Fruit fiber and pomaces have good water-binding properties, which may be advantageous in wet pet food production, where a greater water content is required, along with low water activity and a firm texture of the final product. Rice bran is a palatable fiber source for dogs and may be an economical alternative to prebiotic supplementation of pet foods. However, it increases the dietary requirement of taurine in cats. Barley up to 40% in a dry extruded diet is well tolerated by adult dogs. In addition, consumption of complex carbohydrates has shown a protective effect on cardiovascular disease and oxidative stress. Alternative fiber sources are suitable ingredients for pet foods. They have been shown to be nutritionally adequate and to have potential nutraceutical properties. Be well! JP

  2. JP Says:

    Update: Another review that specifically focuses on dietary fiber for cats …

    Nutr Res Rev. 2014 Dec;27(2):295-307.

    Dietary fibre and the importance of the gut microbiota in feline nutrition: a review.

    Domestic cats are obligate carnivores and in this light hindgut fermentation has been considered unimportant in this species. However, a diverse microbiota has been found in the small and large intestines of domestic cats. Additionally, in vitro and in vivo studies support the hypothesis that microbial fermentation is significant in felines with potential benefits to the host. Results on microbiota composition and microbial counts in different regions of the feline gastrointestinal tract are compiled, including a description of modulating host and technical factors. Additionally, the effects of dietary fibre supplementation on the microbiota composition are described. In a second section, in vitro studies, using inocula from fresh feline faeces and focusing on the fermentation characteristics of diverse plant substrates, are described. In vivo studies have investigated the effects of dietary fibre on a broad range of physiological outcomes. Results of this research, together with studies on effects of plant fibre on colonic morphology and function, protein and carbohydrate metabolism, and the effects of plant fibre on disease conditions that require a decrease in dietary protein intake, are shown in a third section of the present review. Conclusively, for fructans and beet pulp, for example, diverse beneficial effects have been demonstrated in the domestic cat. Both dietary fibre sources are regularly used in the pet food industry. More research is warranted to reveal the potential benefits of other fibre sources that can be used on a large scale in feline diets for healthy and diseased cats.

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Update: A thorough review of canine and feline nutritional requirements …

    J Anim Sci. 2014 Sep;92(9):3781-91. doi: 10.2527/jas.2014-7789. Epub 2014 Jul 8.

    Natural pet food: a review of natural diets and their impact on canine and feline physiology.

    The purpose of this review is to clarify the definition of “natural” as it pertains to commercial pet food and to summarize the scientific findings related to natural ingredients in pet foods and natural diets on the impact of pet health and physiology. The term “natural,” when used to market commercial pet foods or pet food ingredients in the United States, has been defined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials and requires, at minimum, that the pet food be preserved with natural preservatives. However, pet owners may consider natural as something different than the regulatory definition. The natural pet food trend has focused on the inclusion of whole ingredients, including meats, fruits, and vegetables; avoiding ingredients perceived as heavily processed, including refined grains, fiber sources, and byproducts; and feeding according to ancestral or instinctual nutritional philosophies. Current scientific evidence supporting nutritional benefits of natural pet food products is limited to evaluations of dietary macronutrient profiles, fractionation of ingredients, and the processing of ingredients and final product. Domestic cats select a macronutrient profile (52% of ME from protein) similar to the diet of wild cats. Dogs have evolved much differently in their ability to metabolize carbohydrates and select a diet lower in protein (30% of ME from protein) than the diet of wild wolves. The inclusion of whole food ingredients in natural pet foods as opposed to fractionated ingredients may result in higher nutrient concentrations, including phytonutrients. Additionally, the processing of commercial pet food can impact digestibility, nutrient bioavailability, and safety, which are particularly important considerations with new product formats in the natural pet food category. Future opportunities exist to better understand the effect of natural diets on health and nutrition outcomes and to better integrate sustainable practices in the production of natural pet foods.

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Update 04/21/15:

    Anaerobe. 2015 Apr 8;34:14-23.

    Microbiota and probiotics in canine and feline welfare.

    Dogs and cats have been cohabiting with us for thousands of years. They are the major human companions. Today, dogs and cats live in urban areas. Cats and most dogs are on high carbohydrate diets and face similar life-style challenges as the human beings. The health and well-being of companion animals, just as their owners, depends on the gut microbes. Providing a proper care and nutritionally balanced diet to companion animals is recognised as a part of our responsibility to maintain the health and well being of our pet. However, as microbiota differences may facilitate exposure to pathogens and harmful environmental influences, it is prudent to search for novel tools to protect dogs and cats and at the same time the human owners from pathogens. Specific probiotic strains and/or their defined combinations may be useful in the canine and feline nutrition, therapy, and care. Probiotic supplementations have been successful in the prevention and treatment of acute gastroenteritis, treatment of IBD, and prevention of allergy in companion animals. New challenges for probiotic applications include maintenance of obesity and overweight, urogenital tract infections, Helicobacter gastritis and parasitic infections. The probiotics of human origin appear to be among the new promising tools for the maintenance of pets’ health. However, the host-derived microorganisms might be the most appropriate probiotic source. Therefore, more controlled trials are needed to characterise new and safe probiotic preparations with an impact on general health and well being as well as health maintenance in dogs and cats.

    Be well!


  5. Cynthia D'Auria Says:

    Hello JP,

    I was very interested in the articles about cats. I got 2 kittens almost a year ago from a shelter. A brother and sister from the same litter. Mom was a feral cat and was living in the woods.

    I just love these two creatures so much. I learned two days after getting them one has FHV, and has been to the vet 4 times. I noticed tonight that the little girl was sneezing a lot, she had never done this before.

    Diet is high in protein and they are indoor kitties. Presently I am giving them L-lysine as I see the FHV is at it again. Problem is the kitty girl seems to vomit after the L-lysine.

    I truly enjoyed the articles on the kittens and hope I can keep it at bay. Thanks for sharing such wonderful articles with others.


  6. JP Says:

    Thank you, Cynthia.

    Bless you for taking in the two kitties in need! 🙂

    What type of food are you feeding them? Is your vet knowledgeable in integrative/natural remedies?

    I wonder if this resource may be helpful?

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Update 05/18/05:

    PLoS One. 2015 May 13;10(5):e0125997.

    Vitamin d status predicts 30 day mortality in hospitalised cats.

    Vitamin D insufficiency, defined as low serum concentrations of the major circulating form of vitamin D, 25 hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D), has been associated with the development of numerous infectious, inflammatory, and neoplastic disorders in humans. In addition, vitamin D insufficiency has been found to be predictive of mortality for many disorders. However, interpretation of human studies is difficult since vitamin D status is influenced by many factors, including diet, season, latitude, and exposure to UV radiation. In contrast, domesticated cats do not produce vitamin D cutaneously, and most cats are fed a commercial diet containing a relatively standard amount of vitamin D. Consequently, domesticated cats are an attractive model system in which to examine the relationship between serum 25(OH)D and health outcomes. The hypothesis of this study was that vitamin D status would predict short term, all-cause mortality in domesticated cats. Serum concentrations of 25(OH)D, together with a wide range of other clinical, hematological, and biochemical parameters, were measured in 99 consecutively hospitalised cats. Cats which died within 30 days of initial assessment had significantly lower serum 25(OH)D concentrations than cats which survived. In a linear regression model including 12 clinical variables, serum 25(OH)D concentration in the lower tertile was significantly predictive of mortality. The odds ratio of mortality within 30 days was 8.27 (95% confidence interval 2.54-31.52) for cats with a serum 25(OH)D concentration in the lower tertile. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that low serum 25(OH)D concentration status is an independent predictor of short term mortality in cats.

    Be well!


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