A cat receives an injection of polysulfonated glycosaminoglycans.

It is thought that almost 40% of all cats have clinical signs of arthritis and 90% of cats over age 12 have damage to the joints that you can see on x-rays. Cats are such masters at hiding pain that we are now thinking that arthritis is there earlier, pain is happening and we may not be able to see it on x-rays yet.

What if we could be proactive and start some kind of treatment before our cats even seem painful? Could we slow the deterioration of the joints? What arthritis supplements for cats are available and do they work?

The motivation behind writing this post was to help my youngest cat,  5 year old Gus, who showed some indications of spinal arthritis in his x-rays. Should I begin a supplement with him? I was astounded by the sheer numbers of arthritis supplements for cats on the market and the astounding claims they made.

arthritis supplements for cats – do they work?


Arthritis supplements for cats on the market now range from supplements used by humans to homeopathic remedies. Clinical trials are rare to non-existent on many of these products. This post addresses the more common products and ones that have had some double-blinded clinical studies done.

  • glucosamine/chondroitin,
  • omega fatty acids/ green lipped mussel extract
  • polysulfated glycosaminoglycans

Glucosamine/chondroitin


Glucosamine occurs naturally in cartilage, the flexible connective tissue found throughout the body – for example, in the external ears and the surfaces of joints. The supplement can be made synthetically in the lab or harvested from the shells of shellfish.

Some human studies have shown oral glucosamine may help with pain relief and slowing of joint degeneration in people suffering from osteoarthritis. However, in general, the results from these studies are not conclusive.

Dasuquin is a commercially available formulation of glucosamine/chondroitin for cats. It is a dietary supplement in a capsule that is sprinkled on food. The product has been evaluated for safety.

A recent double-blinded study of Dasuquin enrolled 59 cats with Degenerative Joint Disease.

  • All 59 cats were given a placebo for 2 weeks.
  • Then 29 cats received the supplement for 6 weeks while another 30 continued to receive the placebo.
  • The cats were evaluated by using an at-home accelerometer (like a kitty “fit bit”), owner observations and vet exams through out the study.
  • The study showed a strong placebo effect – 78% of the cats were more active while on the placebo.
  • Cats on the supplement did not show any statistically significant improvement over cats on the placebo.

However, the study did raise some questions:

  • The “kitty fit-bits” showed that the least active cats at the start of the study became more active on the supplement. Were these cat more painful to begin with?
  • The placebo was given in the first two weeks of the study when owner enthusiasm would have understandably been highest and owners would have been looking for improvement.

More research is needed – perhaps a different study design?

Omega Fatty acids (fish oils)


Supplementation with fish oils has shown some benefit for arthritic cats. A double-blinded study showed that cats supplemented with fish oil for 10 weeks were more active, going up and down the stairs more, jumping higher, not walking as stiffly and were more interactive with their people. This study used owner evaluation to assess the cats’ improvement.

Fish oil can be given as a dietary supplement (Welactin) or fed as a therapeutic diet, such as  Hill’s j/d.

Side effects of fatty acid supplementation include GI upset and reduced blood clotting. There is some controversy over how much fish oil is enough. Additionally, fish oil can add quite a bit of calories to your cat’s diet and could result in weight gain, taxing your cat’s joints further.

Merial’s Antinol for Cats supplement is based on fatty acids from green-lipped mussel extract. There are a number of case studies where the supplement has been given to cats with good results for cardiac and dermatological issues, in addition to joint and mobility problems.

Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycans (PSGAGs)


This product is available under the brand name Adequan.  It is the veterinary version of Arteparon, used in humans.

  • Decreases the breakdown in cartilage. The PSGAG’s allows the cartilage to hold more water, making it resistant to degradation.
  • Adequan has been extensively studied in dogs and horses for over 20 years and is FDA-approved for these species
  • Available by prescription.
  • Given by subcutaneous injection in cats with generally good results.

The jury is still out on most of the arthritis supplements for cats. Given at the manufacturer’s recommended dose, these products are safe and may be effective. Considering the individual nature of pain, some cats may respond favorably while others do not. Once again supplements are basically unapproved drugs so there is not the rigorous evaluation that accompanies FDA approval.

Your vet is your best resource on arthritis supplements for cats. He or she will be able to recommend a supplement or diet that is appropriate for your cat and is compatible with other medications or medical conditions your cat may have. In particular, combining supplements should be done with care – glucosamine, fatty acids and Adequan all effect how your cat’s blood clots.

So, what will I do for Gus?


My vets recommended the Adequan injection, citing the robustness of the canine studies and the fact that it is an injection – there is a greater confidence that the cat will get the supplement. We are not depending on him to eat something.

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Identifying signs of cat dementia is not always straightforward. In the hubbub of daily life, behavior changes can be subtle and go unnoticed until they are more severe.

Changes in behavior can indicate if your cat’s mental state has changed. The acronym VISHDAAL summarizes the behavior changes we need to observe to care for our senior cats.

V = changes or increase in vocalization
I = changes in interaction with us and other pets
S = changes in sleep-wake cycle: restlessness, night time activity
H = housesoiling
D = disorientation and confusion
A = changes in activity
A = anxiety
L = learning and memory

Three cats – three outcomes


rupert, 18 year old neutered male siamese

Cat on sailboat


I had two senior Siamese cats when I had my first child.  A first-time mom, I was frazzled, dealing with the completely new experience of parenting and was not paying as much attention as I should have to my cats.

One day, an acquaintance asked why one of the cats, Rupert, was sitting on the kitchen counter, in a corner, facing the wall. I had been aware that he did that sometimes but when I paid closer attention, I found that he would eat in the morning, use his litter box and then spend the day on the counter, facing the wall. He would come down to eat, drink, and use the litter box but always returned to the counter.

Behavior Changes – signs of cat dementia?

  • I – Rupert was no longer interacting with us.
  • D – He seemed confused and “out of it” – sitting on the counter all day
  • A – His activity had changed – he did not move much from the counter

Diagnosis:

Rupert had lost quite a bit of weight, although he was eating well. My vet diagnosed him with hyperthyroidism, which was a new disease in cats at that time.

Outcome:

Use of radioactive iodine to treat the disease was pioneered about 10 years earlier but it was not commonplace. Surgery was an option but at 18 years of age, Rupert was not a good candidate for surgery and we elected euthanasia due to his declining Quality of Life.

The Takeway:

I suspect that Rupert had moderate to severe cat dementia. The symptoms were most likely apparent earlier and I just did not recognize them. Nowadays, drug therapy for hyperthyroidism is readily available – methimazole is an FDA approved treatment for hyperthyroid cats. Perhaps treatment of the hyperthyroidism would have reduced the symptoms of cat dementia enough for Rupert to have had some more time with us.

Athena, 16 year old spayed female


Athena had been slowing down over the past year, was not eating as well and was spending most of her time sleeping. We had provided her with steps to access window perches and our bed; we also provided her with a heated bed.

Behavior Changes – signs of cat dementia?

  • I – Although still willing to play, Athena was interacting less with us; she had previously been a “nosy, busybody” kind of cat.
  • A – Athena no longer went on her daily walk and was less active in general

Diagnosis:

Diagnostic blood work did not show any significant changes over the past year. Athena did not show other signs of cat dementia and would still learn new tricks when hungry for treats.

X-rays showed moderate to severe arthritis in one of her hips and knees. We decided to treat her arthritis pain with the drug gabapentin.

Outcome:

Treatment for her arthritis pain has been a game changer for her; her activity level has increased, her appetite has increased, and she is back to “being in your face” when she wants something.

The Takeaway:

Regular checkups and treatment of chronic conditions can make you and your cat happier! Some symptoms typical of dementia may be due to treatable, medical conditions.

Marley, 15 year old neutered male

cat with food puzzle
Marley works the Poker Box, a food puzzle.

Marley is a friendly, affectionate cat with good health overall. In the past several months, Marley showed some of the behavior changes that we need to monitor in senior cats.

Behavior Changes – signs of cat dementia?

  • I – Marley had become more clingy than usual and more interactive
  • D – He seemed confused when playing the nightly game of “treat toss” – he seemed to forget that he was chasing a treat!
  • A – He did not want to walk outside with us (which he has been doing for years).
  • A – He seemed anxious and a little fearful. His interactions with the other cats became timid.

Diagnosis

Marley’s senior exam and blood work did not reveal any abnormalities other than a slight decline in kidney function which could be expected at his age.

Marley appears to have some mild cat dementia. Since these changes were mild, we decided to try SAMe, a dietary supplement. SAMe has been shown to be effective at reducing symptoms of dementia in cats in the early stages of cat dementia.

Outcome

About 2 months have gone by with daily supplementation. Marley is taking his daily walk again and is not as clingy with his humans. He is no longer stand-offish with the other cats and is “catching” his treats again when we play the nightly treat toss.

A Final Word…


Cat dementia cannot be cured but it can be managed. With early diagnosis, appropriate environmental modifications, dietary supplements, therapeutic diets, and medication can help can reduce the symptoms of dementia and improve Quality of Life for both you and your cat.

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Cat using food puzzle

At the veterinary clinic where I work, I often hear people say when I ask about their cat’s activity and play, “she sleeps most of the time and meows a lot at night. She doesn’t play – she’s an older cat”. How much of these behaviors is due to “normal” aging? How much is due to other medical conditions or a declining brain?

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in cats or cat dementia refers to the decline in mental abilities associated with aging.

Cat dementia results from damage to the brain.  As your cat ages, the the numbers of molecules called  free radicals are no longer balanced out by the antioxidants in his body. These free radicals are reactive and cross the blood-brain barrier, damaging cells in the brain.

Changes in blood flow to the brain can also cause damage by starving the neurons of oxygen.  High blood pressure, heart disease, anemia – are all conditions that alter the flow of blood to the brain.

How can we tell if our cats are undergoing mental decline? Is there anything we can do about it?

VISHDAAL – behavior changes


Changes in behavior can indicate if your cat’s mental state has declined. The acronym VISHDAAL summarizes the behavior changes we need to monitor in our senior cats, from the most prevalent (vocalizing) to least frequent (changes in learning and memory).

V = vocalization
I = changes in interaction with us and other pets
S = changes in sleep-wake cycle
H = house soiling
D = disorientation
A = changes in activity
A = anxiety
L = learning and memory

How do we sort out behavior changes due to disease and those due to declining mental capacity?

Changes in behavior signal the onset of cognitive decline but they may also arise from other health issues:

  • Cats with untreated high blood pressure or hyperthyroidism may meow at night (vocalizing).
  • Cats with untreated hyperthyroidism may be restless and beg us for food (changes in interactions and sleep).
  • Kidney disease can be accompanied by increased thirst and urination which may result in house soiling (house soiling)
  • Cats with osteoarthritis may have difficulty accessing the litter box (house soiling).

behavior changes: disease vs Dementia


Regular veterinary exams and diagnostics can identify medical conditions such as high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, and osteoarthritis.  If behavioral changes persist after treating these other medical conditions, your cat may have CDS or cat dementia. 

Cat dementia is a “diagnosis of exclusion” – it is the diagnosis that remains after all the other possible diagnoses have been eliminated. Cat dementia will usually have a slow onset and behavioral symptoms will gradually get worse.

Cognitive Dysfunction (CDS) cannot be cured but management can reduce the symptoms and improve the Quality of Life for both you and your cat.

managing cat dementia


  • environmental enrichment/modification
  • dietary supplements
  • therapeutic diets
  • medication

Environmental enrichment/modification


In the early stages of cat dementia, enrichment increases mental stimulation, leading to the growth and survival of neurons, preserving the thinking processes.  Enrichment should be tailored to the individual cat.  For example, some cats prefer high places; others are “ground dwellers”.  Arthritic cats will not have the range of motion of healthier cats but will still enjoy play that does not require lots of jumping.

Ways to enrich your cat’s environment:

  • play – interactive play and toys
  • scent enrichment – catnip, silvervine
  • food puzzles
  • motion – climbing (cat trees) and exploring (cardboard boxes)
  • supervised outdoor access

As CDS progresses…

Environmental changes become stressful and confusing. Cats with severe cat dementia need an environment that does not change much – daily routines and feeding schedules must be maintained. Litter boxes and feeding stations need to stay in the same place.

A cat with severe CDS may benefit from a “room of his own”, with easy access to his resources. Changes that need to be made must be done slowly. If you need to move a litter box or feeding station, do it gradually over a number of days so the cat can still find it.

Environmental modifications

Modifications to the environment of the cat with dementia should take into account the behavior that she is exhibiting.

  • Cats that constantly beg for food may benefit from a timed feeder at night or treat balls. 
  • Cats with house soiling tendencies may need more litter boxes and ones that are easily accessed, with a lower entry for example. 
  • Cats that become disoriented and confused may benefit from a night light and radio playing soft music.

Dietary Supplements


Dietary supplements in general seek to restore the balance between the activity of antioxidants in the body and the  production of free radicals.  Antioxidants give up electrons to the free radical, effectively “neutralizing” it so that it is no longer reactive. So, these supplements usually contain antioxidants.

SAMe: (S-adenosyl-methionine)  aids in the production of glutathione, an antioxidant. When elderly cats were supplemented with SAMe, there was improvement in cognitive tests. SAMe is best used pro-actively – it is most effective in cats in the early stages of cat dementia.

Proprietary supplements containing vitamins, resveratrol (antioxidant), and fish oils are on the market but there is no clinical data testing cats for these at this time.

other supplements


Melatonin: hormone in the body that is thought to promote sleep. It also has antioxidant properties. Melatonin declines with age.

Pheromones (Feliway), Zylkene, Anxitane (L-theanine) may help reduce anxiety in cats that are disoriented and may promote sleep.

Therapeutic diets


Therapeutic diets containing antioxidants and fish oils have been shown to help cat dementia. 

  • Feline Mature adult Hill’s Pet Nutrition
  • Purina Pro Plan Age 7+
  • Hills prescription diet j/d with fish oil for osteroarthritis

Diets that reduce anxiety may also help with cat dementia

  • RC Calm diets
  • Hill’s urinary support

Medications


Selegiline: licensed to treat dementia in dogs. Like the dietary suplements, it aims to reduce the production of free radicals.  Selegiline stimulates the production of enzymes that eliminate free radicals.

Anxiolytics: Prozac, gabapentin and clonazepam are used to treat dementia by reducing anxiety.

boxes as enrichment for cats
Boxes can be source of enrichment for senior cats.

If you feel there has been a significant change in your cat’s behaviors, keep a journal or log and make sure to mention it at her next senior exam. Start the conversation with your vet about cat dementia and how to manage it!

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Cat with a pumpkin

It’s that spooky time of year where black cats and pumpkins are all the rage. But did you know that many cats dine on pumpkin year round? Why add pumpkin to your cat’s diet? Does it work?

pumpkin and cats


Pumpkin is a popular way to add fiber to a cat’s diet. Fiber can be used to manage diarrhea, constipation, diabetes, satiety, and hairballs.
Fresh pumpkin is said to have about 3 g of dietary fiber per cup while canned pumpkin can have up to 7 grams per cup.

What is fiber?


The story about fiber is complex so I will just say that fiber is substances in food that cannot be digested by the enzymes in the small intestines. Fiber arrives in the large intestine undigested and unchanged.

Fiber can be soluble in water or not (insoluble).

 Soluble fibers

  • Some soluble fibers form a gel in the intestines that slows digestion of carbohydrates, keeping blood sugar levels steady.
  • This gel may also block fat that would otherwise be digested.
  • Other soluble fibers ferment in the large intestine, forming the short chain fatty acids (SCFA) that are part of the cross-talk between the intestinal microbiome and the brain.

Insoluble fibers can pass through the GI tract intact and function to “bulk up” stool and help waste move through the gut.

THE TAKEWAY: It important to have the right amount of the right type of fiber.

  • Too much fermentable fiber can result in excess gas and gastrointestinal discomfort.
  • not enough insoluble fiber may result in diarrhea.

Fiber and carnivores


We tend to think of plants when talking about fiber. But our cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they mainly eat meat. Do they need fiber?

“animal fiber”


A wild cat will eat the entire mouse – fur, bone, cartilage, gut content, tendons, ligaments. These indigestible parts act as fiber – bulking up stool and helping waste pass through the intestines. Even the chitin in the wings of that grasshopper can function as fiber. Some of these materials ferment in the large intestine forming SCFA that allow the microbiome in the gut to talk to the brain.

A study looking at “animal fiber” compared a diet of whole rabbits (fur and all) versus supplemented beef for captive cheetahs.  The cheetahs eating the whole rabbits had more SCFA in their stool than those cheetahs eating supplemented beef. The stools of the rabbit-fed cheetahs were also bulkier due to the “animal fiber”.

We don’t feed our cats whole rabbits – plant fiber is more easily sourced so commercial cat food includes these. Research has shown that feeding our cats moderate amounts of fermentable fiber such as beet pulp helps feed the intestinal microbiome without a lot of gas and bulky stool.

“Differences in fiber type and amount likely result in many of the gastrointestinal issues that pet owners see that vary with diet – they can often explain a pet who has poor stool quality on one diet but perfect stool on another. Too much or too little or the wrong mixture of fiber is a much more likely reason for a pet to not do well on a specific diet than a food allergy…” (from Fiber Frustrations, Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University)

Back to Pumpkin and cats…


Pumpkin has both soluble and insoluble fiber. One tablespoon of canned pumpkin contains about 0.1 g of soluble fiber and 0.4 g of insoluble fiber. By comparison, 1 teaspoon of metamucil ( psyllium) provides 10 times as much fiber: 2 grams of soluble fiber and 3 grams of soluble fiber.

While pumpkin is safe for most cats, you may have to give a lot of pumpkin to match the level of fiber in say, one of the veterinary therapeutic diets. There are no real guidelines to supplementing fiber in commercial cat diets so talk to your vet if you feel that your cat needs fiber to manage diarrhea, constipation, or hairballs. Your vet can recommend a diet or supplement with the appropriate type and amount of fiber.

If you decide to supplement your cat’s diet with pumpkin, be sure to choose canned pumpkin and not pumpkin pie mix. While pumpkin and cats are a safe combination, the sugar and spices in pumpkin pie mix are not good for your kitty.

The nutritionists at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center (Tufts University) recommend that …“If supplemented, fiber should always be given gradually over a few days to weeks until the stool reaches the desired composition or other desired benefit is reached (or it becomes clear that it is not helping).”

Happy Halloween!Cat posing with pumpkin

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Zelda gets a snack from a plastic cup

Feeling “gutsy”? “Butterflies” in your stomach? These are the signs that your brain and your gut are communicating with each other. There is constant “crosstalk” between these two organs.

The tiny microbes that call the gut their home form a community or “microbiome”.  Some of the ways this microbiome communicates with the brain are:

  1. Millions of neurons line the GI tract and signal the brain of changes in the microbiome.
  2. If the brain triggers the release of fight or flight hormones, the movement of the intestines and the content in them changes.
  3. The GI microbiome affects the development of neural systems that control stress.
  4. Gut microbes can affect immune cells in the GI tract. These changes are picked up the neurons in the walls of the GI tract.
  5. Gut microbes produce short chain fatty acids and neurotransmitters that directly affect the brain.

Our cats are also mammals with a similar gut-brain communication. Imbalances in your cat’s GI microbiome can result not only in diarrhea but also can affect mood, anxiety, and conditions such as dermatitis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

How and what we FEED our cats affects the microbiomes in their guts. As we learn more about how the gut talks to the brain, we are finding specific ways to influence these microbiomes through diet. This gives cat owners a low-stress way of managing their cats’ health by feeding them.

probiotics for cats


A microbe is microorganism, usually a bacterium, that causes disease or fermentation. We can influence the GI microbiome through prebiotics, probiotics and synbiotics.

  • Prebiotics refer to indigestible fiber that feeds the “good” (beneficial) bacteria in the GI tract.
  • Probiotics are live bacteria or yeast that are beneficial to the health of the host – human, cat, dog… – who consumes them.
  • Synbiotics refer to the combination of pre- and probiotics – fiber and bacteria/yeast.

The bacteria/yeast can be freeze-dried and packaged as a supplement. The bacteria remain in a “dormant” state until they are exposed to the right conditions of acidity, temperature and water and become active and “live” once more.

DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS FOR YOUR CAT’S GI MICROBIOME


Some of the more common probiotics for cats include Fortiflora and Proviable.

Fortiflora is manufactured by Nestlé-Purina. The supplement contains the bacterium E. faecium SF68 and has been shown to reduce viral and antibiotic-induced diarrhea in cats. A newer version of this supplement, Fortiflora SA, includes the prebiotic psyllium, resulting in an improved resolution of diarrhea. Fortiflora has also been studied with regard to reducing side effects from feline herpes virus.  Fortiflora is available over the counter; Fortiflora SA is available through your veterinarian.

Nutramax Proviable is another powdered synbiotic for cats found to be effective in  resolving feline diarrhea . Proviable contains seven strains of bacteria: E faecium,
Streptococcus (Enterococcus) thermophilus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, L bulgaricus, L casei, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and L plantarum. Proviable is available over the counter.

Another probiotic on the market features the bacterium Bifidobacterium longum, that has been shown to help cats and dogs stay calm. Calming Care is a Purina product available over the counter.

a diet to maintain your cat’s gi biome


Hill’s Pet Nutrition has developed a canned and dry diet for cats designed to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal microbiome. The food incorporates a blend of prebiotics designed to encourage the growth of “good” bacteria in your cat’s intestines.

Research on cats at the Hills Pet Nutrition Center showed that feeding the “biome” diet increased the “good” bacteria and post-biotics – those short chain fatty acids (SCFA) from fiber fermentation. SCFA are thought to regulate processes in the Central Nervous System and ultimately shape behavior and cognitive function.

MORE ABOUT probiotics for cats


A company called Animal Biome offers to tailor the use of probiotics to the individual cat or dog. The company cites problems with the “one size fits all” approach using probiotics to manage the microbiomes. The composition of the your pet’s microbiome is identified using DNA sequencing. Supplement therapies are available to restore your cat’s microbiome balance.
Other companies offering similar services include Nom Nom and MIDOG.

Probiotics provide us with additional ways to manage not only GI upset but possibly anxiety, skin issues and IBD in our cats. More research should identify additional probiotics for cats that target specific conditions.

SHOULD I USE PROBIOTICS/SYNBIOTICS FOR MY CAT?


For an occasional bout of diarrhea, a probiotic such as Proviable or Fortiflora can be effective. If the diarrhea persists or recurs, see your vet.

Prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics are dietary supplements and, as such, are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Many dietary supplements claim to treat medical conditions and are basically unapproved drugs.

a word to the wise…

Stick with the supplements that have some clinical studies supporting their use. The supplements mentioned in this post are used in many veterinary clinics, have substantial amount of research supporting their development, and are safe to use with your cat.

postscript…

I am moving into a new home and I am concerned about how the process of moving will affect The Feline Purrspective team. As things are getting boxed up, some of my cats were more clingy; my ex-feral cat seemed edgy and paced more. I decided to give the Calming Care supplement a try. So far, the kitties do seem calmer after about a week on the supplement, although, maybe they are just getting used to the moving boxes!cat in moving box

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We want to feel good; we want our cats to feel good. Supplements that can be bought over the counter are popular. The claims are appealing – there are dietary supplements to make you feel happy, calm, or pain-free; there are also essential oils that make  similar claims.

Supplements for Cats -Which Ones are Safe and Effective?


The Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) is a branch of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The CVM regulates food and drugs for animals. There is not a separate category for animal supplements – a supplement is either determined to be a food or a drug. If the product claims to treat or prevent disease, it is a drug.

There are many veterinary supplements available over the counter. Many of these supplements claim to treat medical conditions, for example, urinary tract infections, and are basically unapproved drugs.

An Unregulated Market


Unofficially, supplements for cats are treated like supplements for humans – they are not reviewed for safety, effectiveness or quality prior to being marketed. The active ingredient can vary among different supplement brands. If problems arise with one of these supplements while it is being sold, the FDA can take action against the manufacturer – this process would most likely take a long time.

The National Animal Supplement Counsel is a group of supplement manufacturers that is trying to regulate the safety of commercial supplements. They require their members to provide a certificate of analysis indicating potency, per-dosing unit, all ingredients and the presence of metals or pesticides.
Cat with catnipn plant
Marley nibbles (supervised!) on a catnip plant. A little catnip is OK; too much can cause GI distress.

Herbal Supplements for Cats


Herbs like chamomile and lavender are touted as calming for humans. These herbs can actually be toxic to cats. There are few clinical studies showing any benefit of herbal infusions for cats. Even catnip is not 100% safe – if a cat eats too much of the herb, he can have vomiting and diarrhea. Do your homework with herbs and check their safety.

Essential Oils and Cats


Just because something is natural does not mean it may not be harmful. Essential oils can be found in diffusers and can also be applied topically. Many of these oils are actually toxic to cats.

  • Diffusers release droplets of these essential oils into the air. If your cat breathes in these toxic droplets, her lungs can become inflamed. She may cough, vomit or drool; her eyes may water. In some instances, your kitty can develop pneumonia.
  • Topical administration of essential oils also present risks due to toxicity and possible ingestion. Kitty can ingest the oil while grooming.

Human Drugs/Supplements – NOT for Cats!


  • Cats’ DNA lacks certain genes that code for some of the enzymes that metabolize human drugs and supplements. Notable examples are aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
  • The length of time a drug stays in your cat is different than how long it remains in your body – they are smaller and have a gastrointestinal tract that is different than ours.

     

Dietary Supplements for Cats


There are lots of supplements on the market meant for cats to take by mouth.

  • If you are feeding a high-quality cat food, supplementation with vitamins and minerals is most likely unnecessary.
  • Other popular supplements for cats include fatty acids for skin/haircoat and joint support, such as glucosamine.
  • While most of these supplements are safe, consult your veterinarian regarding which supplement to buy and how much to give.

 

Choosing a Supplement for Your Cat – An Example


What do you need the supplement to do?

Make an older cat with arthritis more comfortable.

Are there any environmental changes that can help?

Steps to high places, heated beds, low walled litter boxes, daily play time can help. Caring for Your Older Cat

Clinical studies for this supplement?

Few clinical studies for cats – some studies in dogs

What form is the supplement? Will you be able to give it easily?

Glucosamine  and Green Lipped Mussel come in capsules and chews; Adequan is an injection that is approved for dogs that can be used in cats

Side effects? Other concerns?

Arthritis supplements may effect how long it takes for your cat’s blood to clot – they must be dosed properly.

If your cat is overweight, losing weight can reduce the load on her joints.

Is your cat on any prescription drugs? Are there any interactions with these and the supplement?

Your veterinary team is your primary resource when navigating the stormy sea of supplements. Your veterinarian can recommend a supplement if your cat needs one, advise you of possible side effects and monitor your cat while taking the supplement.

If you are concerned about the feline expertise of a veterinary practice, consider choosing one of the American Association of Feline Practitioners’   Cat Friendly Practices.