While cats are notoriously self-sufficient and low-maintenance pets, their delicate digestive systems still need to be treated with utmost care.That’s why a healthy cat food is essential to a feline’s well-being. Specifically, the ingredients Taurine and Thiamine are absolutely crucial for the proper function of feline organs; deficiencies can lead to serious health issues, even death. Here’s why:

Taurine

While the ingredient Taurine may evoke the image of a canned energy drink, this amino acid is an essential part of a cat’s diet. It is naturally produced in the bodies of many animals, including humans, but cats are an exception and must get their taurine from other sources.

Because of its importance, all commercial cat foods have this ingredient added to their recipes. This means that cat parents who feed their cat non-commercial foods—say, tuna fish or dog food in a pinch, (this is highly discouraged)—must make sure there is sufficient taurine in their cat’s diet.

The meat and fish in raw diets contain the amino acid, as well, but since levels vary with the ingredients, it’s wise to consult with your vet to make sure your cat is getting their recommended intake.

low-taurine diet can be easily fixed with supplements. But after lacking the vitamin for a prolonged amount of time, cats can suffer from a variety of devastating ailments: retina degeneration, sterility, tooth decay, and heart failure are all possibilities.

The bottom line: If you feel your cat may need more taurine in his diet, consult with your vet to consider easy changes that could mean the difference between life and death.

Thiamine

This vitamin (B1) is a necessary aid to a cat’s metabolism. While plenty of thiamine is present in a cat’s natural carnivorous diet, there is one food they love to eat that contains enzymes which actually counteract vitamin B1: fish. Cats can get their fish fix in moderation, but this is one reason why it is so important to limit this feline favorite.

A thiamine deficiency can occur in several ways. Sulfur dioxide, a preservativee in some fresh-meat cat foods, blocks the vitamin's absorption.  If your cat hasn’t been eating for one reason or another, or has diuresis (frequent urination), he could be lacking vitamin B1.  Sometimes, commercial cat foods simply don’t contain the proper amount of thiamine, and should not have been put on shelves, at all. In the recent past, there have been recalls regarding batches of raw food for this reason. 

Side effects of thiamine deficiency often manifest in neurological issues, including (but not limited to): incoordination, circling, head tilt, dilated pupils, stupor, seizures, and arching of the head, neck, and spine. 

The bottom line: awareness is key. Know what your cat is eating by purchasing a grain-free, dry cat food. Grain-free guarantees that the product is meat-based, containing the fundamental parts of your cat’s diet, like Taurine and Thiamine; dry cat food eliminates the need to use preservatives to keep the meat fresh.

Being educated on the best ways to nourish your cat is the first step to making sure that he lives a long, happy, and healthy life.