We are frequently being told how important it is to have
a balanced diet. Exactly the same applies to animals. However,
in the case of our feline patients, we don't recommend 5
portions of fruit and veg daily, but 5 portions of meat,
instead! Cats are "obligate carnivores" - in other
words, they HAVE to eat meat - they simply cannot survive
One of the reasons for this is that cats have a very high
requirement for protein. Amino acids are the building blocks
of protein, and certain amino acids are essential for good
In most species, if you are lacking a certain amino acid,
you can use other ones to synthesise the deficient one.
Cats, however, are unable to synthesise certain amino acids
(in particular taurine and arginine), so if their diet is
lacking in these, they can quickly run into problems.
Smokey Joe - a 15 year old cat belonging to our Head Nurse,
- recently experienced this first hand. He was orphaned
and hand reared from 2 days old and has refused point blank
to eat commercial cat foods all his life. His staple diet
has been chicken.
In order to try and keep a balance, Erain
has given him supplements containing additional vitamins
and amino acids. Although the supplements comtained taurine,
they did not contain enough, and when Smokey was recently
examined for his regular health check, I noticed areas on
his retinas (the back of the eye) that were damaged. These
were classic for taurine deficiency.
This condition causes degeneration of the retina and also
heart disease, as taurine is essential for the normal function
of heart muscle. A specific weakening of the heart muscle
called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is seen. This condition
is rare nowadays, as commercial cat foods are routinely
supplemented with taurine.
Before we were aware of the problem, many cat food brands
contained inadequate taurine levels, but manufacturers are
now very aware of taurine's importance. The condition is
generally now just seen in cats such as Smokey, who do not
eat a commercial balanced diet or in cats fed on dog food.
The good news for Smokey is that his problems were not
advanced. He had not yet lost his sight (an irreversible
problem if it reaches this stage), and any weakening of
his heart will reverse now he is receiving adequate supplementation
The moral of this tale is "why make things complicated
when they are simple?" - ie: don't go to the trouble
of home cooking a diet for your cat when balanced, convenient
and tasty preparations are readily available.
Oh - and whatever your views on meat eating and vegetarianism
- don't expect your cat to agree with them! Nothing beats
a good old high protein mouse!
Young BVSc CertSAM MRCVS.
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|Smokey Joe featured in an earlier case
|| Aural Haematoma