This article is part of a series on how to spot signs of a healthy cat. You can learn more about the key signs here.
Your cat’s skin and coat help keep viruses and bacteria from entering the body and prevent water and heat from leaving it. And because nutrients such as protein, fat, vitamins and minerals play crucial roles in your cat’s skin and coat health, it’s important to make sure your cat is receiving the right types and amounts. IAMS™ cat foods are designed to provide your cat with the nutrition they need to support their skin and coat health.
Without Proper Nutrition
- Dry, weak and brittle hair
- Hair loss
- Greasy skin
- Dull hair coat
With Proper Nutrition
- Smooth and glossy hair
- Supple, clear skin
Your Cat's Protein Needs
Your cat’s hair coat is composed almost entirely of protein. If your cat’s diet doesn’t contain enough quality protein, her hair may fall out or become dry, weak and brittle.
But not all proteins are alike. Proteins are found in both animal- and plant-based ingredients. Animal-based proteins contain all of the essential amino acids cats need, while plant-based proteins may contain only some. Cats need the nutrients in animal-based protein sources for the best health.
Your Cat's Fat Needs
Fats also can be found in both animal- and plant-based ingredients, and are incorporated into skin cells as fatty acids. Three fatty acids help maintain your cat’s skin and coat condition:
- Linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid found in animal tissues such as chicken fat and vegetable oils such as corn oil and soybean oil
- Arachidonic acid, found in animal tissues such as chicken fat
- Omega-3 fatty acids, found in vitamin-rich fish oils
Without these fatty acids, cats may experience a dull, dry coat, hair loss and greasy skin.
How Hydration Plays a Role
To promote your cat’s skin health and elasticity, make sure to provide clean, fresh water at all times. If you’re worried that your cat isn’t getting enough water, try switching to wet cat food, such as IAMS™ Perfect Portions™ Indoor Cuts in Gravy, which has a higher moisture content than dry food and can provide your cat with the additional hydration they need.
How Much Linoleic Acid Does My Cat Need?
Most cat foods contain more than the required amount of linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. However, IAMS research shows that it is not just the amount, but the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids that is most beneficial to cats.
The optimal omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio to maintain a healthy skin and coat in cats is between 5:1 and 10:1. In other words, five to 10 omega-6 fatty acids should be present for every one omega-3 fatty acid.
Your Cat’s Vitamin and Mineral Needs
Vitamins and minerals are essential for the development of healthy skin and coat. The best way to provide them is through a complete and balanced diet rather than through supplements.
|Vitamin or Mineral||Role in Skin and Coat Health|
|Vitamin A||Necessary for growth and repair of skin|
|Vitamin E||An antioxidant that helps maintain the health of skin cells|
|Vitamin C||An antioxidant that helps maintain the health of skin cells|
|Biotin||Aids in the utilization of protein|
|Riboflavin (B2)||Necessary for fat and protein metabolism|
|Zinc||Necessary for fat and protein metabolism|
|Copper||Involved in tissue, pigment, and protein synthesis|
The protein, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals in your cat’s food all play a vital role in your cat’s skin condition and coat health. While other factors, including the season and your cat’s age, can also affect the health of your cat’s hair and skin, optimal nutrition can help support a shiny coat and healthy skin.
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Confused by the ingredient list on your kitten’s food? You’re not alone. Marketing pet foods that have “human-grade ingredients” is becoming commonplace. While appealing to many pet owners, it is important to be aware that the term “human grade” has no legal definition and is used primarily for marketing purposes.
Foods, typically meats, are labeled either as “edible” or “inedible, not for human consumption.” Once a food leaves the human food chain, even if it is of outstanding quality, it has to be labeled “inedible, not for human consumption.” Therefore, meats used in pet food must be labeled as “inedible,” regardless of the source or quality of the meat. The only way to make a pet food with ingredients deemed “edible” is to never let the meat leave the human food chain and actually manufacture the pet food in a human food facility and transport it using human food trucks. Therefore, advertising a product as containing “human-grade ingredients” is untrue if it is not manufactured in a human food facility. However, just because a pet food isn’t marketed as being “human grade” does not mean that the ingredients are poor quality.
Here are some tips to help understand ingredient labels:
- The ingredient list is not the only method you should use to select a pet food, because it doesn’t provide pet owners with enough information about the quality of the ingredients or the nutritional adequacy of the overall diet.
- Instead of concentrating on ingredients, pet owners and veterinarians should look at the AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement and the quality control protocols of the manufacturer. For more information, see the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s brochure “Selecting the Best Food for your Pet,” available at
Opens a new windowwww.wsava.org/nutrition-toolkit.
- The ingredient list may be arranged to make foods as appealing as possible to consumers by the order of the ingredients (e.g., having lamb first on the ingredient list) or inclusion of seemingly desirable ingredients in the diet, but often in such small amounts that they have little or no nutritional benefits (e.g., artichokes and raspberries listed after the vitamin and mineral supplements).
- Having more ingredients does not make a diet more nutritious.
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