What is Taurine for Cats: Good Sources of Taurine for My Cats

What is Taurine for Cats: Good Sources of Taurine for My Cats

You may have heard about or have seen the word “Taurine” on pet food labels. But what exactly is taurine for cats? Why is taurine so important for a cat’s health?

This article will talk about everything you need to know about taurine, includes the good sources of taurine which cats can benefit from.

What is Taurine?

Taurine is an amino acid that is found only in animal proteins. The highest concentrations of taurine in the body are usually in the brain, heart, muscle tissue and retina.

Can A Cat’s Body Make Taurine?

Although cats can make taurine, they have very limited ability to make enough taurine, unlike most other mammals e.g., dogs. A healthy dog can make sufficient taurine from sulfur-containing amino acids namely cysteine and methionine. However, in cats, the activity of the enzyme required to make it out of cysteine is so low that taurine synthesis is negligible.

Hence, taurine is an essential amino acid for a cat that cannot be synthesised enough in the body and must be obtained from the diets. You will need to ensure that there is enough taurine in the cat foods to meet your cat’s needs.

Why is Taurine Important for Cats?

You may still be wondering if taurine is a must in cats’ diets. The answer is yes, your cat needs taurine for the body to function properly.

Taurine is not used to build proteins in the way that other amino acids are. Nevertheless, taurine serves various crucial roles in the body. The important functions of taurine in cats include:

  • Proper development and function of cells in the eye retina.
  • Effects of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidation.
  • Functions as a neurotransmitter.
  • Stimulates heart muscle function.
  • Regulates blood sugar and pressure.
  • Regulates fluid-electrolyte balance.

A pregnant cat especially requires taurine for the proper development and growth of the kittens.

How Much Taurine Does a Cat Need?

Studies show that an intake of taurine at approximately 10 mg/kg body weight per day is good enough to maintain adult cats at a normal taurine level. This is a bare minimum, a higher level of taurine is likely to strengthen the body’s health, which may go up to 500 mg. A cat with a heart condition is suggested to intake an even higher amount of taurine.

At the bottom line, a healthy adult cat should consume about 10 mg of taurine per kg of body weight. While pregnant or lactating mother cat and the kittens need up to twice as much taurine as a normal adult. Cats with taurine deficient should consume 250 to 500 mg of taurine a day until their bodies return to normal function.

According to The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), general canned cat food should contain at least 0.2% of taurine on a “dry matter” basis.

Example:

Say a canned food with 80% water lists the taurine content at 0.04% on an “as fed” basis, we have to convert it into a “dry matter” basis. Since the moisture content is 80%, the dry matter will be 20% (100% – 80%). Use 0.04 divided by 20 it will be 0.002 or 0.2% on a “dry matter” basis, which meets the minimum taurine requirement as per AAFCO.

In this case, for every 100 grams of canned food, there are around 0.2 grams of taurine (100 grams x 0.2%). Multiply by how many grams you feed in a day will get the total. For instance, the taurine intake of a cat that eats 200 grams of this canned food per day would be 0.4 grams i.e., 400 mg.

Symptoms of Taurine Deficiency in Cats

In the 1950s, researchers discovered that taurine deficiency can cause many problems in your cat. It can arise when there is no adequate dietary supply of taurine in the foods or there is weak absorption of taurine consumed by the cat due to diseases. A deficiency of taurine is not easily identified because the symptoms are slow to develop, which may take months for the signs to become apparent.

The common symptoms of taurine deficiency include:

Unhealthy Skin and Coat

Without enough taurine, your cat’s skin may become dry and flaky, accompanied by dull hair or even hair loss. It can cause itchiness that your cat will keep scratching the skin, licking or biting its fur.

Digestive Issues

A deficiency of taurine may cause a digestive problem as taurine is a component of bile salts. Bile salts are formed in your cat’s liver, which help with the digestion of fats in the body and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K). Insufficient taurine and bile salts can upset your cat’s digestive system and results in diarrhoea and/or vomiting.

Feline Central Retinal Degeneration (FCRD)

If there is a deficient of taurine in a cat, the retinal cells in its eyes will start to degenerate progressively. You may see the cat moving slowly to assess the surroundings or keep bumping into objects around the house. Cats with FCRD can appear normal at the early stages, however, if remain untreated it can eventually cause severe vision loss or blindness. If FCRD has started to develop, taurine supplementation can help to stop the progression of this disease; however, it is not possible to reverse the damage to the retinal.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

DCM is heart disease with enlarged heart chambers and reduced contraction ability due to weakening of heart muscle. The clinical signs include a swollen belly, shortness of breath, coughing and lethargy. This kind of cardiomyopathy usually progresses to congestive heart failure, and even death if not addressed.

Fetal Abnormalities

A pregnant cat must have a sufficient level of taurine to avoid abnormal growth and structural development of her baby. Growing kittens with a taurine deficiency can experience delayed growth as well, which result in small sizes and being under-weight.

In most cases, taurine deficiency in cats can be treated by feeding a high-taurine diet. Keep scrolling to find out what foods are high in taurine for your cats.

Sources of Taurine for Cat

Taurine exists naturally in animal-sourced foods such as shellfish, fish, meats and internal organs. There is no appreciable amount of taurine found in any plant-based foods, where is one of the many reasons why cats cannot be on a vegan diet. Some of the taurine-rich foods include:

Shellfish (Highest Taurine for Cat)

This includes krill, shrimp, clams, mussels and scallops. Some of these ingredients may be quite rare to find in pet food products, nevertheless, there are various freeze-dried pet food as well as canned pet food containing shellfish.

Amount of taurine per 100 g of wet raw meat:

  • Scallops 827 mg
  • Mussels 655 mg
  • Clams 520 mg
  • Krill 450 mg
  • Shrimp 155 mg

Poultry

A higher level of taurine is found in the dark meat of turkey, duck and chicken compared to the light meat. Dark meat is the part in darker colour due to a higher amount of protein called myoglobin. The legs and thighs of turkey and chicken are dark meat.

Amount of taurine per 100 g of wet raw meat:

Fish

Capelin, salmon, mackerel etc. are good sources of taurine for your feline pal. They are also loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids which are important to maintain a healthy heart, skin and coat.

Amount of taurine per 100 g of raw meat:

Organ Meats

Livers, hearts and other organs are not only rich in taurine but are also one of the best sources of various vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, B, C and E, folate and iron, which are essential for cats’ health too.

Amount of taurine per 100 g of wet raw meat:

  • Chicken heart 118 mg
  • Chicken liver 110 mg
  • Beef liver 69 mg
  • Beef heart 65 mg

Red Meat

Although the amount of taurine in red meats such as lamb and beef is not as high as organ meats, your cat can still enjoy a decent amount of taurine.

Amount of taurine per 100 g of wet raw meat:

  • Beef 43 mg
  • Lamb 47 mg

Red meats are packed with protein, iron and vitamin B12 too. However, a diet that is high in red meat may put stress on your cat’s digestive system, liver and kidneys, just like it does for humans.

As cats are obligate carnivores, they should be having animal-based diets, which should provide them with a good amount of taurine that is needed. Besides natural food sources, taurine is also available as a supplement that can help your pets manage certain diseases or conditions. The most common dosage of a taurine supplement is 500mg to 2000mg per day.

Can Cooking Destroy Taurine?

Taurine loss can occur by cooking the ingredients. However, light cooking does not significantly affect the taurine level; over-cooking at high temperatures would not only destroy the taurine, but also many other nutrients and enzymes that are present in raw fresh meat.

Since taurine is water-soluble, meats cooked in water will result in loss of taurine if the water is discarded after cooking.

Furthermore, mincing or grinding meat can also destroy taurine. A better way would be cutting up the meat in chunks rather than grinding.

Meats used in kibbles, canned or cooked pet food will have more taurine loss than raw or freeze-dried pet food because they are usually minced and cooked in high heat. When you notice supplementation of taurine in a pet food label, it may indicate that the food is highly processed and/or uses poor sources of natural protein, thus supplemental taurine will need to be added separately at the end of the manufacturing process.

How Do I Ensure My Cat Has Enough Taurine?

A taurine deficiency can be easily avoided by feeding good quality pet food to your cat such as raw or minimally processed meat that is rich in taurine.

It is worth noting that the bioavailability of taurine may be different depends on the type of diet. The majority of dry pet foods or kibbles in the market contain little or no real meat, instead cheaper substitutes like plant proteins (wheat, corn, pea and soy protein) and meat by-products are used, whereby all these can be poor taurine sources. Thus you should always read the label on your pet’s food to understand the ingredients and nutrition profile, not just the price tag.

Fibres such as rice bran in the pet food itself can reduce the absorption of taurine. This is due to the fibres can bind with the taurine and make it unavailable for absorption in the digestive system.

What Happens if My Cat Took Too Much Taurine?

While taurine is an essential amino acid for your cats, you may be concerned if cats can take too much taurine. There have not been any reports on the toxicity of taurine in cats due to over-consumption. Both natural and supplemental taurine are considered non-toxic because taurine is highly water-soluble thus any excess would be excreted by the kidneys. Studies on the safety of taurine suggest that even 3,000mg of daily taurine intake for a cat’s whole lifetime is still safe.

Final Thoughts: Taurine for Cats

As taurine deficiency can become life-threatening, it is important to ensure that your cat is consuming a sufficient level of taurine in the diet. Cat owners should understand that a diet containing real and good quality meat that is minimally processed truly provides more than sufficient levels of essential nutrients such as taurine to your fur friend.

Grace Cat’s GraceFull RAW is a series of freeze-dried pet food in Malaysia, with minimally processed 100% real meat. It has no additives such as plants, preservatives, and seasonings. GraceFull Antarctic Krill, GraceFull Duck, GraceFull Capelin, GraceFull Salmon and GraceFull Chicken Liver are particularly rich in taurine which is essential for your cats! Try them out today.