What is taurine?
You may be familiar with taurine from energy drinks where you may be surprised to find its used as a depressant (rather than a stimulant). Its main function in animals (and humans) however is as an amino acid. Amino acids are the building block of protein and make up a proportion of animals cells, muscles and tissue.
For cats, unlike most other mammals, taurine is an essential amino acid, meaning that cats cannot synthesize their own taurine from other building block amino acids as can dogs and even humans. Thus it is essential that cats have adequate taurine in their diet on a regular basis. AAFCO (the US regulator for pet foods) only approves cat food with a minimum 0.1% taurine in dry food and 0.2% in wet food.
Why do some cat foods come with ‘added taurine’?
The natural source of taurine is raw meats (and seafood). Cats require approximately 200-300mg of taurine per meal, which is easily supplied by a diet that is more than half raw meat. Fish, red meats and organ meat are all especially high in taurine.
Taurine however, is very sensitive to heat, and 50-75% of its natural value is destroyed by cooking and can result in significant deficiency. That’s why some commercial pet foods add high levels of synthetic taurine to counteract the loss from the cooking process.
What happens with taurine deficiencies in cats?
Taurine deficiency is a serious health problem for cats. With prolonged deficiencies of taurine, cats can develop central retinal degeneration resulting in blindness, and dilated cardiomyopathy (heart failure).
Please see Natural Cat Diets for more helpful information.
Dr Bruce Syme BVSc (Hons), Founder of Vets All Natural.
Dr Bruce Syme is a practicing vet and expert in natural pet nutrition, has spoken at the Australian Veterinary Association Annual Conference, and provides regular comment on TV and Radio.
Disclaimer: The entire contents of this article are based upon the opinions of Dr. Bruce Syme, unless otherwise noted. The information is not intended as medical advice, it simply shares the knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Bruce and his community. Pet health care decisions should be based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified pet health care professional.
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