The unique nutrient requirements of cats

Cat with bird in a teeth.

It’s no secret that people love their cats. Today, cats are considered the world’s most popular pet. In 2016, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owner Survey estimated 94.2 million cats and 89.7 million dogs in the United States.

However, when compared to dogs, cats have unique nutritional and dietary requirements that require special attention. These requirements stem from the cat’s evolution from its strictly carnivorous ancestors and the nutrients supplied to them through the consumption of animal tissue.

Today, the average house cat lives a much more sedentary lifestyle and can thrive on a variety of diet types. But when it comes to formulating diets for cats, special attention needs to be paid to a few key nutrients that must be included in sufficient amounts to maintain optimal health. The unique nutritional requirements of cats are related to their requirements for protein, taurine, arginine, vitamin A, vitamin D, niacin and arachidonic acid.

Protein and amino acids

From a nutrient perspective, cats do not necessarily require an ultra-high protein diet, but they do have higher requirements for amino acids from dietary protein than dogs. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and certain amino acids can be produced by the animal (i.e. nonessential amino acids), while others can only be obtained from the diet (i.e. essential amino acids).

Cats require 10 nonessential amino acids and 11 essential amino acids. They also have a unique requirement for the amino acid taurine as well as a need for significantly increased levels of arginine compared to dogs.


Research has shown that cats are sensitive to diets lacking arginine. A diet deficient in arginine has been shown to rapidly result in severe clinical symptoms in cats due to increased levels of blood ammonia.

Arginine is necessary for the detoxification of ammonia by converting it to urea for excretion in the urine. During a deficiency of dietary arginine, ammonia builds up and results in ammonia toxicity within the cat. Cats are unable to synthesize the precursors ornithine and citrulline, both needed for the production of arginine.

However, arginine is abundantly available in animal protein, and cats have evolved to be reliant on it from a dietary source.


Similar to arginine, taurine is an amino acid that is readily found in meat protein. Dogs and other mammals are able to produce taurine through the oxidation of sulphur amino acids, cysteine and methionine. For cats, the enzymes necessary for these pathways have low activity levels, and as such, cats are limited in their production of taurine.

Dietary taurine is necessary in the diet for cardiovascular health, bile formation, retinal health, as well as proper growth and development in kittens. Symptoms of taurine deficiency include retinal degeneration and/or an enlarged heart, also known as dilated cardiomyopathy.

Vitamins are organic compounds necessary in minute amounts for proper regulatory function and health maintenance. Vitamins can be classified into one of two groups: fat-soluble or water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in fatty tissues, whereas water-soluble vitamins cannot be stored and are excreted in the urine if consumed in excess.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin necessary for bone health and development. Humans can produce vitamin D from exposure to sunlight or obtain the vitamin through food sources. Cats, however, are unable to synthesize vitamin D and depend solely on dietary sources.

A study investigating the exposure of both hairless and nonhairless kittens to direct sunlight demonstrated this lack of endogenous production. When the kittens were placed on a diet deficient in vitamin D they showed the same rate of vitamin D decline as kittens receiving the same diet but housed indoors.

Research has since concluded that cats’ skin has a low concentration of the precursor 7-dehydrocholesterol, necessary for the synthesis of vitamin D. Additionally, synthesis is prevented by the high activity of the enzyme responsible for breaking down this precursor substrate and converting it into cholesterol.

Historically, cats obtained their vitamin D from the liver of prey, such as birds and rodents. Commercial cat diets are typically supplemented with vitamin D to ensure adequate intake.

Vitamin A

Just like vitamin D, vitamin A is also a fat-soluble vitamin. Vitamin A is necessary for maintaining normal vision, immune function, as well as growth and development. As vitamin A is naturally abundant in animal tissue, cats have not evolved to synthesize vitamin A in the same way as herbivores and omnivores.

Plants produce β-carotene, a precursor for the synthesis of vitamin A by the body. Unlike omnivores and herbivores, cats appear to lack the enzyme necessary to convert β-carotene into retinal. It is assumed that cats have not evolved to synthesize vitamin A as meat proteins are low in carotenoids and the liver of prey is rich in vitamin A, so the conversion pathway would not be considered metabolically necessary or beneficial in terms of energy efficiency.


Niacin is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for energy metabolism. Cats possess all the necessary enzymes and pathways for the production of niacin from the amino acid tryptophan.

Tryptophan can be metabolized to produce acetyl coenzyme A (acetyl CoA) and carbon dioxide or nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD; the active form of niacin). In cats, the enzyme responsible for catalyzing the conversion of tryptophan to acetyl CoA and carbon dioxide has a high activity, so niacin is broken down faster than it is produced.

However, cats are well supplied with niacin from the NAD and NADP found in abundant concentrations in animal tissues. On average, cats require about 2.4 times the amount of niacin than dogs.

Arachidonic acid

Cats cannot make arachidonic acid and require a dietary source of the omega-6 fatty acid, especially during the demanding life stages of growth, gestation and lactation.

Arachidonic acid is found in abundant supply in animal tissues, especially organs. It is not present in plants, however omnivores and herbivores are able to synthesize arachidonic acid from linoleic acid, another type of omega-6 fatty acid. Arachidonic acid is a necessary component of cell membranes, and plays roles in cell signaling and inflammation. Read more…


Why Cats Love Drinking from the Sink?


Even if you buy your cat the fanciest fountains and loveliest water bowls, you’ll notice your cat flagrantly does not care. Instead, your kitty will drink out of the sink or bathtub — when you’re trying to use them, of course.

According to veterinarian Marty Becker, there could be an evolutionary reason your cat’s not overjoyed with his bowl of water, or any other expensive H2O container you might have purchased.

“[One] reason cats might be suspicious of water in a bowl is the instinct that whispers to them telling them standing water isn’t always safe,” he writes in VetStreet. “It might be contaminated, for instance. For most wild animals — and I think we can safely say that most cats are at least wild at heart — running water is a better bet.”

It also could just be a matter of taste — no pun intended. Some experts think some cats just don’t like drinking out of porcelain or plastic, and that fresh, running water tastes better to them. It’s kind of like drinking cabernet out of a plastic cup, which, no judgement — I do that all the time. Still, we can all agree it’s less than ideal.

“There’s a lot of personal preference that comes into it,” veterinarian Eliza Sundahl tells Catster. “You can notice that the cat likes it out of a glass instead of a plastic bowl. Well, I like it out of glass instead of plastic, too.”

One of the solutions here could be to buy a fountain for your cat, so that it will drink the “free-flowing” water from the device rather than the sink. Anecdotally speaking, I have tried and failed many times to do this — and my cat still drinks out of the sink.

Maybe we’ll never totally understand cats’ fascination with the sink. At least we know that they look very goofy trying to get water from a tiny faucet when they have a giant water bowl in front of them. That’s just cat logic. Read more

Dental Care for Cats

Uniquely Cats Dental




Keeping your cat’s mouth healthy is a great investment.



An often over looked health issue for our feline friends is dental care. Cats accumulate dental plaque and tartar, have toothaches and develop gingivitis just like people do. Uniquely Cats Veterinary Center offers a fully-equipped, state of the art feline dental suite in their cat only veterinary hospital. The suite includes advanced patient monitoring systems, digital radiology, anesthetic capabilities and human-grade instrumentation all in a peaceful dog-free environment. The staff at Uniquely Cats is dedicated to excellent, thorough, safe and pain-free dental care for cats.
Keeping your cat’s mouth healthy is a great investment. Uniquely Cats Veterinary Center in Boulder, CO offers a state of the art dental suite just for cats.
Keeping your cat’s mouth healthy is a great investment. Uniquely Cats Veterinary Center in Boulder, CO offers a state of the art dental suite just for cats.
Cats are masters at hiding pain. It’s a survival instinct. So, just because your cat is “acting normal” doesn’t mean they aren’t in pain. Let one of our exclusively feline veterinarians assess your kitty’s mouth.
Cats are masters at hiding pain. It’s a survival instinct. So, just because your cat is “acting normal” doesn’t mean they aren’t in pain. Let one of our exclusively feline veterinarians assess your kitty’s mouth.

“Cats are wonderful at hiding pain,” says Dr. Jessica Fine, who has been practicing feline-specific veterinary medicine for over 10 years. “Cats will continue to eat and act normally with a toothache that would have a human screaming for a dentist. At Uniquely Cats Veterinary Center, we educate our clients on the importance of regular dental exams and cleaning for their cats. Our unique dental suite provides us with the best tools for seeing and diagnosing feline dental issues. The equipment we use looks very much like what you would see at your own dentist.” Dr. Fine is a graduate of the Colorado State University School of Veterinary Medicine in Ft. Collins, CO.

According to Dr. Fine, “Because cats are so good at hiding pain, owners don’t know that their cat is in pain until after a dental procedure is performed and the source of the pain is removed. Clients often come back telling us how their cat is now playing and jumping and enjoying life again. It is very satisfying to see a cat ‘come back to life.’ Uniquely Cats believes that investing in the health of your cat’s teeth now will improve their overall quality of life. A pain-free cat is a happier cat!” Read more…

Are you Dog People or Cat People?


We are more alike than we are different. That’s not just a fact, it’s a perspective on life, and it applies to people with pets. According to a recent survey of 1000 people with dogs and 1000 people with cats, both share a love for their furry family members, regularly take their pets on vacation with them and often eat their meals together. Guardians of both cats and dogs celebrate birthdays and holidays with gifts (though dog people are twice as likely to throw a full party to mark the occasion). People with dogs, as well as those with cats, take their animals into account when planning their weekly schedules.

Though there are differences between cat people and dog people, they are often a matter of degree or frequency. For example, dog guardians have a higher average income than cat guardians. They are more likely to be in the field of finance, and less likely to be in fields that rely strongly on creativity, which is a common place to find cat guardians. People with dogs are more strongly influenced by their pets when making decisions, but people with cats are still influenced—just not as much.

Some differences between these two groups of people have to do with relatively superficial things. People with dogs are more likely to watch horror and action films as well as romantic ones while those with cats have a greater tendency to watch indie films, musicals and documentaries. People with dogs are more likely to be involved in active pursuits such as sports, dancing and travel when contrasted with cat folks, whose hobbies are more likely to be calmer ones such as reading, gardening and writing.

Both dogs and cats provide benefits to people’s health and well-being. With dogs, a large part of that is based on the additional physical activity dogs prompt us to engage in. Cats, though, are more likely to hear their people’s innermost thoughts and feelings, which may be why people with cats credit their pets with lowering their stress to a greater degree than people with dogs do.

Although studies comparing cat people and dog people repeatedly appear, they rarely investigate the many people who share their lives with both dogs and cats. They may not be the most accurate pieces of research, but they are sure fun to read. Read more


Is there such a thing as Cat Acne?


Turns out teenagers aren’t the only ones at risk for acne! Believe it or not, your furry feline friends can get it too. Cat acne is not dangerous but can require lifelong treatment to keep flare-ups under control. Here’s everything you need to know, straight from a vet.

What is cat acne?

Cat acne, also called chin acne, is just that. Acne. Just like the kind people get. It can appear as small blackheads on the chin called comedones or can progress into pimples that may or may not develop a whitehead or rupture. Some cats are unaffected by acne, meaning it doesn’t bother them at all or cause any pain, while others show obvious signs of itchiness or discomfort. There is no one specific cause, but cat acne can be triggered by several things. Stress (kenneling or a move), dirty food bowls, allergies, or oily skin are all known to cause acne flare-ups in cats.

Does my cat have chin acne?

No particular breed of cat is predisposed to chin acne. It is more visible in hairless cats and those with white or light colored coats, so it may be diagnosed more frequently on these types of felines.

Cat acne should be diagnosed by a veterinarian. Many skin conditions present with similar symptoms, and it’s important that your vet rule out more serious problems before prescribing medication or beginning treatment. Some medications, if used incorrectly, can exacerbate skin conditions, and some skin problems are symptoms of a more serious disease process at work. Veterinarians can perform different tests, looking at both skin cells and blood work, to determine if there is anything more serious to worry about.

How to prevent and treat cat acne

Once your veterinarian has diagnosed your cat’s chin acne, there are a few different things he or she may recommend to control and prevent future breakouts. Changing from plastic food bowls to ceramic or stainless steel is the simplest. Plastic bowls have a porous surface and harbor bacteria and dirt. Every time your cat eats or drinks, she recontaminates her skin. Stainless and ceramic bowls have solid surfaces, so they are much easier to clean and are more sanitary.

Your veterinarian will also recommend daily cleaning of the affected area with mild soap and warm water or an antimicrobial solution like betadine or chlorhexadine. Care must be taken using chlorhexadine near the eyes as it can cause severe ocular damage.
For more serious cases, antibiotics (oral, injectible, or topical) or corticosteroids might be used as an adjunct to other treatments.

If you suspect your pet has cat chin acne, make an appointment for a physical exam with your veterinarian before beginning treatment.

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Pet Dental Month


Poor dental health for your pet can lead to gingivitis or periodontal disease, common dental issues for your best friend. It is estimated that most pets show signs of periodontal disease as early as three years old. Regular checkups and good dental care can help to insure that your pet stays healthy, and keep you both smiling.

This past week we saw the crowning of a new champion at the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Out of more than 2,800 dogs representing about 200 different breeds, a little Bichon Frise named “Flynn” pranced away with the Best In Show title. If you watched any of the judging on television you may have noticed that a judge would examine each contestant, beginning by pulling back its lips to check its teeth. In part, they compare the animal’s physical attributes to the standard for that dog’s particular breed, but they are also checking to confirm the dog’s age and health.

A pet’s teeth are a good indication of its general overall physical condition. While some ailments can cause dental problems, it’s very possible that poor dental health can cause internal disease affecting other parts of the animal’s body.

Dental issues usually result from a build-up of tartar, which begins in pets the same way it does in people, as food particles and other elements accumulate around the teeth. The teeth take on a brownish-yellow appearance and often the animal develops what many of us call “doggie breath”. That odor may be an indication that your pet has – or is developing – periodontal disease. As it progresses, periodontal disease can cause pain and discomfort for an animal. But untreated, infection in the gums could eventually spread to vital organs like the kidneys, heart and liver.

One way to keep your pet’s teeth healthier is have them checked by your veterinarian. The vet may recommend a teeth-cleaning procedure, which usually involves anesthesia, because most animals won’t sit still and open wide. Your vet may also recommend things you can do to help keep your best friend’s teeth, and its whole body, healthier.

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Is your cat sleeping too much?



Cats sleep for long hours and experts advise cat parents not to freak out until and unless they see some stark changes in the pattern.


Cats love alone-time and often get visibly annoyed with excessive attention, especially when they are resting. However, some cat parents stress out when their feline companions sleep too much.

In many animals, sleeping excessively can be a sign of some disease, stress or depression, but with cats, that is not the case.

Biologists say this habit of cats comes from two things. The first is their protein-rich diet, which needs long hours of rest to be fully digested. The second is their crepuscular predatory pattern, according to

Crepuscular creatures are those that are most active at dawn and dusk. Creatures with a crepuscular predatory pattern mostly hunt during dawn and dusk and rest in between.

According to experts, cats sleep around 15 hours a day and you need not be worried until and unless you notice a stark difference in the timing. You should also keep in mind that kittens and seniors tend to sleep more, around 18 hours a day.

Breed, temperament, and health are also a few factors that determine a cat’s sleeping pattern. These felines also tend to sleep more in winter, especially if they have a warm cozy place to snuggle.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners and Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica urge cat parents to keep a track of their pets’ sleeping pattern. During usual catnapping, a cat should be able to quickly react to stimuli, such as other people walking into the room or cat food being prepared. read more…