Vitamins and Supplements for Cats (cont.)

Types of Cat Supplements

  • General vitamins and minerals: A variety of single or multi-vitamin products are available for cats. Most cat foods contain all the necessary vitamins and minerals that a cat needs.
  • Essential fatty acids: Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are touted for their ability to keep a cat's coat shiny and to prevent shedding. They also protect a cat's immune system, liver, eyes, brain, and joints. And, just like in humans, omega 3s boost heart health and fight high cholesterol. Cat foods contain a lot more omega 6 than omega 3, so some think supplementation is needed. But not everyone is sold on the idea. Lisa Brickson's vet recommended the omega-3-based product Wellactin to boost her cat's kidney function. She pays about $18 a month for the product, but she says she's seen no difference in her cat's health so far. “I love my current vet but feel they are always trying to ‘pack products' when I take my pets in,” she says.
  • Probiotics: Probiotics are “healthy” or “good” bacteria that help improve digestive health. They contain microorganisms such as Lactobacillus acidophilus or Lactobacillus casei

    (also found in some yogurts), which control the overgrowth of “bad” bacteria in the large intestine. FortiFlora is a probiotic supplement available for cats.

Cat Supplements vs. Nutraceuticals

Nutraceuticals are herbal or natural remedies that fall in a bit of a gray area where supplements are concerned. Advocates for pet nutraceuticals say such products simply supplement the cat's natural diet. They've referred to them as “more than feed additives but less than pharmaceuticals. “But the Pet Food Institute's Nancy Cook says “nutraceuticals are intended to treat or prevent a disease and are therefore a drug, not a supplement.” The AVMA defines nutraceutical medicine as “the use of micronutrients, macronutrients, and other nutritional supplements as therapeutic agents.”

Like herbs and supplements made for people, the FDA does not regulate pet nutraceuticals. That means there's no real proof that they are safe. “It is necessary for the consumer to be aware that natural does not always mean safe or effective,” Cruz says.