Whether playful baby cat, active outdoor cat, or cozy house cat – cats are among the most popular pets in Germany. Regardless of their living conditions, all animals share the basic need for appropriate nutrition. The essential amino acid taurine must not be missing: it is indispensable for the development and maintenance of the health of the eyes, ears, heart, immune system, and reproduction.
Significance and effects of taurine in cats
Taurine is an essential amino acid. It is formed in the liver of mammals from the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine of the amino acid cysteine and from coenzyme A. Although taurine is not used by the body as a building block of proteins, it still plays a role in numerous processes in the body – for example:
- to promote the absorption of dietary fats and fat-soluble vitamins
- as a messenger in the regulation of body temperature
- in brain development in kittens and young cats
- to support the immune system
- as a contribution to maintaining a healthy retina and heart function
In addition, taurine has a stabilizing effect on cell membranes in cats and can bind and detoxify toxic substances in the liver. Thanks to the antioxidant effect, taurine can also eliminate free radicals.
Special case cat: limited formation of taurine
While most mammals can easily produce the required amounts of taurine from cysteine and coenzyme A themselves, cats are an exception: their ability to produce taurine is severely restricted. They are unable to produce enough taurine themselves to grow and live healthily. At the same time, they lose large amounts of the taurine they ingest with the bile acids, which are secreted into the intestines to absorb fat.
For the wild relatives as well as for the ancestors of our domestic cats, this restriction does not pose a problem because raw meat contains large amounts of taurine. A cat that hunts its own food is therefore getting enough taurine. The situation is different when cats are on a special diet and have no access to raw meat. Taurine is heat-sensitive and breaks down when heated.
Important: Dog food, vegetarian diets, or cooked, homemade feeds do not contain sufficient amounts of taurine if this is not added. They lead to a taurine deficiency in cats.
Taurine deficiency: often recognized late in cats
A taurine deficiency in cats is insidious because it goes undetected for a long time. It often only becomes apparent when, in the worst case, irreversible damage has already occurred. Due to the broad effect of taurine, possible deficiency symptoms are also widespread.
If the mother suffers from a taurine deficiency, the offspring often suffer from retinal damage and limited vision or even blindness.
Important: many cats live for years with a taurine deficiency without showing any symptoms. However, their life expectancy is significantly lower than that of cats with an adequate supply of taurine.
Taurine for the cat: the right dosage of taurine
Cats need about 50 mg of taurine per kilogram of body weight and day. Depending on the cat’s weight, this results in a daily requirement of 200 to 500 mg. This information applies to commercially available dry feed with 1000 mg taurine/kg feed or for wet feed with 2000 mg/kg feed. However, a taurine content of up to 2500 mg/kg is often recommended for wet food.