Cats require a nutritionally balanced diet just like any other animal or human. Most high-quality cat foods from reputable brands provide the balanced nutrition each cat requires, but in some cases, your cat may need a little nutritional support with supplements.
Usually, supplements are required in addition to their regular diet if there is an underlying health condition your veterinarian has diagnosed. Some of the most common conditions that require supplementation for cats include kidney disease, gastrointestinal disease (including hairballs), decreased immune system, joint disease, behavior conditions, dental disease, and liver disease. There are thousands of various supplements and vitamins on the market for pets. Make sure to be judicious in your use of these supplements and only use those recommended by your veterinarian.
Does My Cat Need Vitamins or Supplements?
There are eight main areas in which your veterinarian might recommend supplements for your cat. These areas are:
- General immune system support
- Kidney support
- Gastrointestinal support
- Skin and haircoat support
- Joint support
- Liver support
- Dental support
- Behavioral support
Here is the list of several quality supplements that are available under each category.
1. General Immune System Support
There are two typical supplement types for general immune system healthy support:
- Lysine Supplements
- These are helpful supplements for cats for general immune system health and additional respiratory and eye support, especially from a viral disease such as Feline Herpesvirus.
- General Health Vitamins and Supplements
- These supplements are found as tinics, multivitamins, immune supports powders, or gels that provide additional immune support for older, sick, or otherwise immune-compromised cats.
There are several reasons why a cat might have a decreased immune system. One common reason is viruses that can weaken the immune system.
Some viruses that cats are especially susceptible to include:
Cats who have been diagnosed with these viruses should receive immune support under the direction of their veterinarian. Immune supplements can include L-lysine supplements, vitamins, fish oils, minerals, and more.
Helps manage common feline health issues such as sneezing, runny nose and watery, inflamed eyes.
L-lysine is an essential amino acid that some studies show blocks the replication of Herpes virus cells and possibly decreases the virus’s shedding. Overall it supports the immune system. This supplement comes in powder to mix in wet food, or gel which has a molasses-like consistency.
Enisyl is another L-lysine supplement that comes in chews, bites, and a paste.
3. Imuquin for Cats
Enisyl is another L-lysine supplement that comes in chews, bites, and a paste.
This is a great immune health supplement with a variety of ingredients including Beta Glucan to support healthy immune system function, Marine lipids as a source of omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation, and vitamins and minerals to maintain a normal immune system and cellular activity.
Nutrical is a supplement that is high in calories and helps when a sick cat doesn’t have a great appetite. It is great for adding calories to the diet of an underweight or immune-suppressed kitty as well. This is a thick, molasses consistency gel that contains fish oil, vitamins, and protein.
This is a flavored supplement that provides additional iron, vitamin B, and amino acids. Your veterinarian might recommend this product if your cat is deficient in any of these nutrients.
Pet-Tinic is another liquid dietary supplement that your veterinarian might recommend to supplement nutrients your cat may be lacking. It contains iron, copper, and vitamins.
7. Vetriscience NuCat
NuCat has multivitamins that are great for additional nutrients to support your cat’s immune system. The multivitamin has essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids such as taurine, and omega fatty acids. It comes in tablets and chews, and they even provide additional supplements for senior cats specifically. This is an all-around quality supplement to support a sick, elderly, or otherwise immune-compromised cat.
2. Kidney Support
Kidney disease is common, especially in older cats. They require not only general immune system support but also kidney-specific health supplements. There are different aspects of kidney disease that can be supplemented, depending on the stage of kidney disease. There are potassium supplements, phosphorus binders, and probiotics specific for kidney health.
Kidney disease has no specific treatment but can be supported through special care, including increased hydration and fluid intake, providing increased calories and high-quality nutrition. Adding supplements may help with secondary issues that kidney disease causes, such as anemia, increased phosphorus, decreased potassium, protein loss, blood pressure changes, and urinary issues.
Contains beneficial bacteria to help promote good kidney health & manage uremic (renal) toxins.
Azodyl is a special probiotic and prebiotic supplement that specifically supports kidney health.
Soy protein-based nutrition powder naturally supports normal kidney function & health in dogs & cats
This supplement helps to control rising phosphorus levels in the bloodstream as kidney failure advances. It contains phosphorus binding ingredients as well as protein supplementation.
3. Renal K +
Renal K + is a supplement that helps potassium deficient cats in kidney failure. It provides additional potassium in the form of a powder or gel.
This is a nutrient-enriched water supplement that provides osmolytes to increase water absorption. Cats diagnosed with kidney disease are prone to dehydration and can use hydration support in any way possible. Hydracare comes in a small packet that can be added to your cat’s food or fed alone.
Here is a video explaining it in detail.
3. Gastrointestinal Support
The health of the gastrointestinal tract is essential. This is where cats digest all its nutrients. Supplements to support the gastrointestinal system are important, especially in cats who have underlying gastrointestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, food hypersensitivities or are prone to hairballs. These include probiotics and omega fatty acid lubricants.
Cats that have frequent hairballs, vomit regularly, or have loose bowel movements, should be checked out by a veterinarian. Your veterinarian may recommend a probiotic supplement to replenish the good and beneficial bacteria in the cat’s GI tract.
Proviable is a probiotic supplement that provides billions of beneficial microorganisms to your cat’s intestinal tract. This can be helpful for long- or short-term episodes of gastrointestinal upset. These probiotics help stimulate the immune system, digest nutrients, and produce vitamins and essential fatty acids. This probiotic comes in a paste or sprinkle capsule.
This is another probiotic supplement that provides beneficial bacteria to a cat’s GI tract. It comes in packets of powder that are sprinkled over a cat’s food daily.
Propectalin comes in a flavored gel or tablet form to provide beneficial bacteria to the GI tract and includes kaolin and pectin to aid in firming up loose stools. It helps maintain proper pH in the GI tract and supports normal digestive function.
Laxatone is a thick molasses-like gel given as a supplement to lubricate the GI tract to prevent and eliminate hairballs in cats. It contains mineral oil, molasses, and omega fatty acids.
4. Skin and Haircoat Support
Fish oils provide sources of omega fatty acids to support healthy skin and nails.
Cats that suffer from allergies, hair loss, skin infections, poor grooming, dandruff, dry skin, or dull haircoats can benefit from a daily fish oil supplement providing omega fatty acids. There are many different fish oil supplements for cats. They come in oil pumps or capsule varieties. They help nourish and support the skin and fur.
1. Eicosa3FF SnipCaps
This is one of many varieties of fatty acid supplements. The free form fatty acid is well digested, and the snipcap variety is formulated to make dosing easier in cats. You simply snip off the tip and squirt the oil over your cat’s food.
5. Joint Support
Cats are prone to arthritis as they age, just like dogs and humans. Providing a high-quality glucosamine chondroitin supplement is beneficial for joint health.
As cats age, they are prone to arthritis and other joint diseases just as dogs and humans. While cats are smaller and, therefore, don’t have as much weight on their joints, they can still have difficulty navigating stairs, jumping on and off furniture and cat trees, and overall have decreased mobility. Supplementing with a high-quality glucosamine chondroitin supplement will help support the joints. These kinds of supplements are also beneficial in cats who have had accidents or injuries affecting their musculoskeletal system.
1. Dasuquin Advanced
Dasuquin Advanced comes in a capsule that is sprinkled over the cat’s food or a tasty chew treat.
Cosequin is another supplement for cats that provides a high-quality source of glucosamine chondroitin to support joint health. It also comes in a sprinkle capsule or chews.
6. Liver Support
Cat diagnosed with liver diseases can benefit from supplements that support liver health and function such as SAM-e (S-Adenosylmethionine) and Silybin A+B (also known as milk thistle).
Denamarin is a supplement that contains both SAM-e and milk thistle in one tablet.
7. Dental Support
Dental disease is as common in cats as it is in dogs. Dental treats, chews, and plaque removing supplements help support the health of your cat’s gums and teeth.
Not only is it important to brush your cat’s teeth and provide regular dental cleanings, but you can also help support your cat’s dental health with supplements to remove plaque and tartar and help prevent inflammation in the mouth, such as stomatitis or gingivitis.
1. Feline Greenies
Made with natural ingredients plus added vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients; nutritionally complete and balanced for adult cats.
Greenies are not only specially formulated dental chews and treats to remove tarter and promote dental health, but they are also a tasty treat that cats love to crunch on.
2. Plaque off
100-percent natural oral supplement made from a specific strain of seaweed harvested from above Scandinavia.
This is a natural supplement made from seaweed to help remove tartar and plaque from the teeth and support overall dental health. It comes as a powder to be sprinkled over food.
8. Behavioral Support
Many cats have behavioral issues from inappropriate urination or defecation to aggression or obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Supplements that decrease anxiety and stress can be beneficial to help with these bad behaviors.
Cats can have various behavioral disorders and concerns from inappropriate urination or defecation to aggression, overgrooming, or other obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Supplements can help curb these undesirable behaviors before prescription medications might be needed.
Feliway is a cat-specific pheromone that promotes calming and reduces anxiety. It comes in a travel spray, plug-in diffuser, and wipes to help cats with anxiety, stress, and inappropriate behaviors.
2. Composure Chews
These are chews that support calming behaviors in cats, especially when exposed to stressors in the environment. They contain bioactive proteins from colostrum to help normalize brain function to encourage stress-reduction and relaxation.
Zylkene contains a calming natural milk protein that is lactose-free & simple to administer daily.
Zylkene is a hydrolyzed milk protein that has calming properties and helps cats relax. It can also help make a cat more receptive to behavior-modifying training.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most asked questions people have about giving their cats vitamins and supplements.
1. Why Does a Cat Need to Have Supplements?
Your cat might need to have a supplement added to their diet if they aren’t receiving adequate nutrition, have a virus that suppresses their immune system, has cancer, is a senior cat, or is otherwise sick or unhealthy.
2. How Do You Choose the Best Supplement?
The best and first thing to do is to talk to your veterinarian about which supplement is appropriate for your cat based on its health status. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam and run specific diagnostic tests to determine what parts of the body might benefit from supplementation.
3. What Are the Advantages and Benefits of Supplements?
- Some advantages and benefits of supplements include:
- They protect and support the immune system.
- They help fight illness and infection.
- There are supplements to support nearly every body system.
- They can help correct nutritional deficiencies.
- They can help the body absorb nutrients.
4. What Is the Best Way to Use Supplements?
There are several different varieties of supplement formulations. Some come in powder, capsules, sprinkle capsules, gels, paste, or tablets, to name a few. Most supplements are administered orally.
5. What Kind of Controversy or Precautions Are There for Using Supplements?
Most supplements are considered nutraceuticals, meaning they are products derived from plants that claim a health benefit. The FDA regulates nutraceuticals as food instead of under the drug and pharmaceutical category. They should be administered under the direction of a veterinarian.
Dr. Amanda Jondle is a veterinarian who practices small animal medicine and surgery. Growing up on a small farm, she knew from a very young age that she wanted to work with animals and started spending time at a local vet clinic at 11 years old. In addition to working full time at an animal hospital, she now enjoys helping pets and educating clients through writing and editing articles to inform pet owners on how to best care for their pets. She and her husband currently have 4 rescue dogs and 3 cats of their own and are often fostering pets with health issues until they find their forever homes.