As a keeper, you want to give your cat the very best, of course. Anyone who deals with the contents of cat food, for this reason, will repeatedly come across the nutrient “taurine”. Find out why taurine is so important in cat food here.
Taurine is an amino acid and was first discovered in the bile of male cattle. The body needs it for metabolism, digestion and to ensure the fertility of female cats. It is found in large quantities in animal proteins such as fish or meat. For most animals, it is not a problem to assemble taurine from other amino acids. It is different with cats – they can only produce small amounts of taurine.
Why is Taurine Essential for Cats?
In contrast to the liver of other animals, the cat liver cannot synthesize enough taurine on its own. The enzymes responsible for the conversion into taurine are hardly active in cats. Overall, around half of the taurine that the cat ingests through its food is lost again. That is why cats need a regular intake of taurine. How much exactly cannot be answered across the board, because the taurine requirement depends on the diet and the individual metabolism of your cat. In addition, it varies depending on the life situation: pregnant, nursing, and older cats need more taurine than others. Some researchers also suspect that some breeds of cats, such as Siamese, have higher taurine needs than other types of cats – but this has never been proven.
Deficiency Symptoms Due to a Lack of Taurine in Cat Food
Without the necessary amount of taurine in cat food, your cat will develop deficiency symptoms. The most common symptom of long-term taurine deficiency is retinal degeneration – a retinal disease that causes irreversible (unrecoverable) damage and ultimately leads to the cat becoming blind. In addition, infertility, abnormal fetal development, hearing loss, or a disturbed immune system are signs of an existing taurine deficiency. The problem is that these symptoms only become visible to people after a long period of deficiency. Sometimes it can take months, but also years before a taurine deficiency is discovered. In addition, in clinical studies, over half of all cats show no symptoms at all.
To prevent these health problems, you should ensure that you have enough taurine in your cat food right from the start. Either as a natural nutritional component in raw meat, as an additive in finished feed, or as a complementary feed.
Taurine Source # 1: Raw Meat
The simplest taurine intake is raw meat. After all, the nutrient is found in many animal tissues: Above all, muscle meat such as heart or skeletal muscles, but also innards such as the liver or brain, are rich in taurine. In addition, liquids such as breast milk or blood, the retina, or bile salts also contain a lot of taurines. Basically, there is more taurine in dark meat than in light meat, and the taurine content increases exponentially with a muscle strain. Fittingly, the mouse is the land creature richest in taurine with around 140 to 270 mg per 100 g, followed by fish and seafood (e.g. mussels). With the exception of prickly pears and a few aquatic plants, plants have no taurine.
Taurine Source # 2: Cat Food
Of course, taurine can be found as a vital substance in almost every cat food, but there are serious differences in the amount and quality. As already mentioned, the highest content is found in freshly slaughtered, raw meat, less so in feed with inferior animal proteins or those that have been strongly heated during the manufacturing process. The problem here is that taurine is not heat-resistant and is destroyed by cooking its individual components. Freezing and thawing, on the other hand, do not have a negative effect on taurine.
The amount required in cat food: For a long time it was assumed that 400 milligrams per kilogram of cat food were sufficient. With more intensive feed research, however, the required value has now been increased to 2500 mg. In principle, one can assume that complete feed contains sufficient taurine, but since this is usually the minimum amount, a deficiency can quickly arise here too. If you want to be on the safe side, use complementary foods.
Taurine source # 3: Dietary Supplement
You can give taurine supplements in addition to normal food. They ensure that the required amount of taurine is always available. Pure taurine in powder form is ideal here; ideally 99 percent pure and free of additives or fillers. Simply dissolve them in lukewarm water and pour them over the food.
If it is only about the intake of taurine, you should refrain from taurine tablets or other products with added taurine, because in addition to taurine they also contain other ingredients such as sugar or fats that should not be fed in large quantities. In addition, the taurine content is usually too low. Snacks or cat milk with taurine are delicious, but you would have to feed too much to achieve the required taurine level.
In theory, you can overdose on taurine. However, you would have to feed the cat in kilograms. In addition, the liver normally ensures that excess taurine is excreted.