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How to Decipher Cat Food Product Labels

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Why Nutrition in Cat Food Is Key for Shiny Coats

Why Is Nutrition Important to Skin and Coat Health?

Nutrients such as protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals are important players in the skin and coat health of dogs and cats. To understand their role, it is necessary to first understand skin and hair.
 

The purpose of skin and hair is to block things (such as water or heat) from leaving, or things (such as viruses and bacteria) from entering the body.
 

The hair coat is composed almost entirely of protein. If an animal's diet doesn't contain adequate protein quantity and quality, hair may fall out, or become dry, weak, and brittle.
 

Skin is made up of squamous cells, which are flat cells tightly packed together. These cells have tough membranes that are composed of proteins and fats. Without proper amounts of these nutrients, cell membranes weaken, allowing water to escape and bacteria and viruses to enter more easily.

 

 

Essential Amino Acids and Fatty Acids in Cat Food

Proteins are found in both animal-based and plant-based ingredients. Animal-based proteins contain all the essential amino acids cats need, whereas plant-based proteins may contain only some essential amino acids. Cats need animal-based proteins to achieve optimal health.
 

Fats also can be found in both animal-based and plant-based ingredients, and they are incorporated into skin cells as fatty acids. There are two essential fatty acids for skin and coat health. Linoleic acid maintains skin and coat condition in dogs and cats. Without enough linoleic acid cats may experience dull, dry coat, hair loss, greasy skin and increased susceptibility to skin inflammation. Cats also require arachidonic acid for normal skin and coat health.
 

Both of these essential fatty acids are omega-6 fatty acids and are found in animal tissues such as chicken fat. Linoleic acid is also found in some vegetable oils, such as corn and soybean oils. Most commercial cat diets contain more than adequate amounts of omega-6 fatty acids.
 

Because these fatty acids can be converted to compounds that increase susceptibility to skin inflammation, it is important to balance the amount of omega-6 fatty acids in the diet with omega-3 fatty acids, which do not reduce susceptibility to inflammation.
 

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in oils from fish and some plants (canola and flax).
 

IAMS™ research has found that combining fat sources in the diet at a ratio of five to 10 omega-6 fatty acids to one omega-3 fatty acid results in excellent skin and coat health.

 

 

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are essential for the development of healthy skin and hair coat. The best way to provide these nutrients is through a complete and balanced diet containing appropriate amounts of essential vitamins and minerals rather than through supplements.

Vitamin or Mineral Important for Skin and Coat Health
Vitamin A Necessary for growth and repair of skin
Vitamin E Protects skin cells from oxidant damage
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

 

 

Changes in Coat Condition

Diet is often believed to be a factor when changes in skin and coat condition are noticed. The most common causes of these changes, however, are season and life stage.
 

As cold weather approaches, most dogs and cats grow a thick coat to help keep heat in and cold air out. As the weather begins to warm up, they shed the thick, heavy coat.
 

Most kittens are born with soft, fuzzy hair, but as they age, a coarser coat grows. Pregnant or lactating cats also may experience a change in coat condition or hair loss.

  • gray and white kitten licking lips ready to eat healthy cat food containing taurine
    gray and white kitten licking lips ready to eat healthy cat food containing taurine

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    The Importance of Taurine in Kitten and Cat Food

    Taurine is an important component found in all IAMS™ kitten and cat foods. This important amino acid is essential for cats of all ages, and critical for healthy development, normal heart muscle function, vision and reproduction. It even aids in digestion!

     

    Unlike other amino acids, taurine is found as a free amino acid in body tissues, such as the heart and eyes, and is not incorporated into proteins.

     

    Most mammals manufacture taurine from other amino acids, but cats and kittens need more than their bodies can produce and rely on their food to make up the difference. Pet food’s animal-based protein ingredients are natural taurine sources, and the amino acid can also be added to pet food recipes on its own.

     

    Why Does IAMS™ Add Taurine to Kitten and Cat Food? 

    All IAMS™ kitten and cat foods are formulated with high-quality animal-based proteins that are naturally rich in taurine as their primary ingredient. So why supplement these foods with additional taurine? Two reasons: natural variability and the production process.

     

    IAMS™ Dry Cat Food: The Natural Variability 

    IAMS™ dry cat and kitten foods include taurine to supplement each food’s primary source of the amino acid — an animal-based protein like chicken, egg, lamb or fish. These natural sources naturally vary in their nutrient content, so adding supplemental taurine helps ensure your cat or kitten is getting enough in their diet every day.

     

    IAMS™ Wet Cat Food: The Production Process 

    For wet food, the canning process itself may affect the complex taurine balance of the food. That means IAMS™ wet cat foods must contain more taurine, as much as twice the taurine found in dry food, to ensure cats are getting enough.

     

    black kitten and white kitten laying on each other under a blanket, relaxed and full on healthy cat food containing taurine

     

    Symptoms of Taurine Deficiency in Cats and Kittens

    Cats and kittens need their taurine! Kittens need taurine for healthy growth and development, and adult cats that don’t get enough taurine can develop serious health conditions. Low levels of taurine put your pet at risk for preventable health conditions that can become serious over time.

     

    Impaired Vision and Blindness 

    Taurine is essential to the proper development and ongoing health of feline eyes, particularly the retinas. Without enough taurine, retinal cells can’t function properly and may die, which can cause impaired vision and even blindness (a process called feline central retinal degeneration).

     

    Heart Disease 

    Taurine plays a key role in supporting cardiovascular health, too. A lack of taurine weakens the heart muscle, which, in turn, can lead to heart failure. This condition is known as dilated cardiomyopathy and can be fatal.

     

    Decreased Reproductive Performance and Growth 

    Optimal reproductive health and growth also rely on taurine to complete a number of important health processes. Maintaining adequate levels during pregnancy, nursing and early growth helps ensure proper structural development for kittens and wellness for the mother.

     

     

    Feeding your pet well is an important part of taking care of them. Learning the importance of ingredients like taurine is one way you can ensure you’re giving them exactly what their body needs. By giving your kitten a healthy start and understanding  their nutritional needs, you’re giving them the best shot at a long, healthy and happy future. Your cat would thank you if they could!

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