Why is taurine important for cats?

Taurine is important for cats because it is necessary for many aspects of metabolism and it plays important roles in:

  • bile acid conjugation;
  • the function of the retina;
  • the function of the myocardium.

Note: I have to quote the scientists for the sake of precision because this is a complex subject.

Diagrammatically – Taurine
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Bile acid conjugation

As mentioned this is a complex chemical process. Wikipedia covers it admirably. The author states that “Diverse bile acids are synthesized in the liver. Bile acids are conjugated with taurine or glycine residues to give anions called bile salts”. They are referring to humans no doubt but the same applies to domestic cats.

Bile acids facilitate the digestion of fats and oils in the diet. Bile also facilitates the absorption of nutrients into the blood stream from the gut by serving as “as micelle-forming surfactants, which encapsulate nutrients”.


Taurine is found in high concentrations in the retina. The retina is the layer of light sensitive cells at the back of the eye. Taurine deficiency can cause blindness in cats.

“Cats have a low activity of cysteinesulfinic acid decarboxylase, a key enzyme in taurine biosynthesis, in their livers which possibly reflects low activity in their retinas, indicating reliance on their diet as an important source of taurine…Possible functions for taurine in the retina include: (1) protection of the photoreceptor – based on the shielding effects of taurine on rod outer segments exposed to light and chemicals; (2), regulation of Ca2+ transport – based on the modulatory effects of taurine on Ca2+ fluxes in the presence and absence of ATP; and (3) regulation of signal transduction – based on the inhibitory effects of taurine on protein phosphorylation.” – Taurine: Retinal Function by J B Lombardini on National Library of Medicine.


This is the muscular tissue of the heart. A deficiency of taurine can cause dilated cardiomyopathy in cats. Taurine is required “for the modulation of tissue calcium influx through cardiac calcium channels. Taurine supplementation will restore myocardial function to normal in most cats with low plasma taurine levels” – Wayne F. Robinson, Nicholas A. Robinson, in Jubb, Kennedy & Palmer’s Pathology of Domestic Animals: Volume 3 (Sixth Edition), 2016.

Taurine must be the cat’s diet

Now you know why taurine is important for cats! Provided you understand it 🙂 . FYI: taurine is present in animal tissues only. High concentrations are present in meat, poultry and fish. Feline diets containing high percentages of plant products and cereal grains may not have enough taurine (The Cat Its Behavior, Nutrition  & Health by Linda P. Case). The have been cases of commercial cat foods causing taurine deficiency in cats resulting in recalls.

Cats can only synthesize (make themselves) small amounts of taurine which is why it has to be in their diets.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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