Cat’s Taurine Requirement

by Michael
(London, UK)

F1 & F2 Savannah kittens - photo by Michael @ PoC

The cat is the only species that can suffer from taurine deficiency. This is because of the cat’s high “metabolic demand for taurine” and its ability to only synthesise small amounts of taurine. The cat also has a requirement to resupply taurine for losses in faeces due to “incomplete recovery of bile salts…lost in feces”. This is particularly the case with canned cat food (see below for more on this).

Taurine is an organic acid. It is a major constituent of bile and can be found in the lower intestine and, in small amounts, in the tissues of many animals, including humans1. Two of the terms in this definition are explained below:

An organic acid is a compound that contains carbon and which acts like an acid i.e. it has acidic properties. Bile is produced by the liver and is a bitter yellowish liquid. It is necessary for “many aspects of metabolism”. For example, it helps the digestion of lipids in the small intestine. Lipids include fats and fat soluble vitamins. It plays a role in the function of the retina of the eyes and the myocardium of the heart. The myocardium is the middle and thickest layer of the heart wall, composed of cardiac muscle.

Taurine is an essential nutrient that is synthesised by most animals. The word “synthesised” means to combine or produce a substance by the combination of parts or elements to form a whole. Taurine is synthesised from two amino acids, methionine and cysteine. Together with cysteine, methionine is one of two sulfur-containing proteinogenic amino acids1. However cats can only synthesise (create for themselves) small amounts of taurine. Therefore their diet requires a supply of it. The inability of cats to synthesise only small amounts of taurine is due to the low activity of two essential enzymes and the fact that cysteine is diverted away from taurine synthesis.

Apparently, humans also have low levels of taurine synthesis. Taurine is present in animal tissue. High concentrations are found in meat, poultry and fish.

Canned cat food contains a higher percentage of added taurine than dry cat foods. In the USA the minimum levels are:

  • canned – 2,000 mg/kg
  • dry – 1,000 mg/kg

This is because heat processing of canned foods can damage protein producing by-products that are indigestible. Also the by-products lead to the degradation of taurine. This in turn leads to greater faecal loss of taurine when a cat eats canned food. Please note that this information is good as at 20031. Things change as science learns more.

Taurine deficiency in cats be a serious matter. I cover the subject on this page: Taurine Deficiency in Cats.

Cat Taurine - Notes:

1. Wikipedia®

2. The core information for this article comes from Linda P. Case’s fine book: The Cat: Its Behavior, Nutrition and Health published by Blackwell Publishing IBSN 978-0-8138-0331-9

Comments for
Cat’s Taurine Requirement

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Jan 28, 2011 cat's Taurine need
by: sharmistha

By now its really clear to me through your numerous posts that cats need significant amount of Taurine and Arginine in their diet.

Earlier I used to feed my cat Dry food. Maybe that made him thirsty more often and caused him to throw up.

So I changed his food. I have been feeding my cat partially boiled chicken, mixed with a bit of wet canned food and a little bit of veges like boiled carrots.
I never throw the water away from boiling the chicken and I mix it up with his food.

This has improved his health, But his water intake has severely gone down. Is this ok?
Also please advice me as to how do I add Taurine and Arginine in his food.

@ Are these available as tablets or tonics?
@ Are the ones meant for Humans could be given to cats?
@ What should be the daily dose of Taurine and Argenine
@ Do I need to add anything else in my cat's food to make it more substantial and healthy

Please advice
many thanx

Oct 15, 2010 Cat's need meat!
by: Barbara

And yet if you Google vegetarian cats there are several thousand results, I even saw one where a group of cats were fed on either commercially or home prepared vegetarian diets for a year to see how it impacted on their health. Why do people insist on imposing their dietry beliefs on cats who HAVE to eat meat to be healthy, this not not good cat care and it's not fair to cats who have to trust us to do our best for them.

Oct 15, 2010 Vegetarian cats
by: Michael

Yes, Barbara, cats should not be vegetarian. All the experts say that - guess it is obvious. We all know the well worn phrase, "obligate carnivores". Cats have to eat meat. Although cats do eat some vegetation in the wild either through what is inside the stomach of prey or actually eating vegetation as is the case for the snow leopard. This is unusual though

Oct 13, 2010 cat's diets
by: Barbara

Thanks for this information Michael. This is why I worry when I read about vegetarians and vegans imposing meat-free diets on their pets. Even though I am vegetarian myself I would never deprive a cat of the meat they need to eat in their diets to keep them healthy.
We can make our own choices as to what we want to eat according to our beliefs but it isn't right to make choices for the animals in our care that are anything but for their own health and wellbeing.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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