Taurine, or 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid - Wikimedia Commons file - user:Benjah-bmm27
Taurine deficiency in cats is associated with several clinical anomalies. I have several pages on HCM (Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, a heart disease) in Bengal cats, in which a diet deficient in taurine is said to possibly be a contributing factor. Although a lack of research has established a connection as far as I am aware.
However, research has established that taurine is necessary for the normal functioning of the heart. One of the underlying causes of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM - another heart disease) is a diet deficient in taurine1. Cats with DCM were found to have significantly lower plasma taurine concentrations than in normal cats. They all improved when their diet was supplemented with taurine (0.5 grams 2X daily).
DCM is a degenerative disease that causes decreased myocardial contractility leading to heart failure.
Also feline central retinal degeneration (FCRD) was the first "clinical deficiency syndrome" that was recognised.
Taurine plays a role in the normal functioning of the photoreceptor cells of the retina of the eye. Taurine deficiency in cats leads to dysfunctional photoreceptor cell membranes. This results in the death of the cells. Vision becomes impaired if the deficiency lasts for several months.
Without taking steps to reverse the deficiency in taurine the cat can become blind2.
Taurine is an essential dietary requirement for feline health, since cats cannot synthesize the compound. Its absence in a cat's diet is also said to cause hair loss and tooth decay3.
Taurine Deficiency In Cats - Note:
1. Pion P.D. Kittleson M.D. and Rogers Q.R. Myocardial failure in cats associated with low plasma taurine: A reversible cardiomyopathy.
2. Barnett K.C. and Burger I.H. Taurine deficiency retinopathy in the cat. Journal of Small Animal Practice.
3. Nutrient Requirements of Cats". Nutrient Requirements of Cats, Revised Edition, 1986. 1986. http://newton.nap.edu/catalog/910.html. Retrieved 2006-09-10.