Food5: Omega Fatty Acids for Cats

For every cat’s glorious fur, there lies a Pandora box of molecules which give your furry feline their gorgeous mane. These are obtained from dietary intake and have a wide array of sources which provide the required nourishment. One such nutrient would be the Omega fatty acid group. Omega3 fatty acid and Omega6 fatty acid are one of the most important nutrients during the growth of a kitten well into adulthood.

1.     What is Omega Fatty Acid?

Omega Fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids which are essential for overall development of cats. Of these Omega3 fatty acids and Omega6 fatty acids are majorly involved in maintenance of fur and general body development. Upon further research you may come across terms such as ‘EPA’ or ‘DHA’. Simply put, ‘EPA’ and ‘DHA’ are types of Omega3 fatty acids which are partially produced (via conversion)  in the body of  humans and dogs. But this process is absent in cats, which is why they need to be externally supplemented with ‘EPA’ and ‘DHA’. The most common source of these is fish oil.

2.     Why do cats need Omega fatty acids?

Omega3 fatty acid and Omega6 fatty acids are both important for infant and adult cats. They are responsible for keeping the coat shiny and prevent shedding. They protect the cat’s eyes, liver, immune system, joints and brain. Just like humans, Omega3 Fatty acids also regulate health of the heart and cholesterol in cats.

3.     What is the source of Omega Fatty Acid?

Plant based sources for Omega Fatty Acid includes flax seeds, chia seeds which not only have EPA and DHA but also ALA (the precursor to produce EPA and DHA). In case of animal based sources of EPA and DHA cold water ocean fish/fish oils are the best choice for cats.

4.     What amount of Omega Fatty Acid is right for my cat?

Generally, it is recommended for cats to have an intake of 40mg/kg body weight of DHA and 25-30mg/kg body weight of EPA. In simple terms a cat weighing 4.5-5kg would need about 200mg of DHA and 112-135mg of EPA per day. These amounts are subjected to variation depending upon the health, lifestyle and breed of the cat.

5.     How do I know if my cat is deficient in Omega Fatty Acid?

Just like humans there are always tell-tale signs for Omega Fatty Acid deficiency in cats. If spotted early on and corrected, it can prevent long term damage.

Following are few of the symptoms exhibited by cats that have an Omega3 Fatty Acid-deficient diet:

  • stunted growth
  • eye problems
  • muscle weakness
  • lack of motor coordination
  • immune system dysfunction

Omega6 Fatty Acid deficiency can result in-

  • poor overall development
  • failure to gain weight
  • compromised immune system
  • liver and kidney  degeneration

Total lack of fatty acids in diet as a result of malnutrition or malabsorption can lead to the following severe problems:

  • Severe fatty degeneration of the liver
  • Excessive fat in kidneys
  • Dystrophic mineralization of adrenal glands
  • Degeneration of the testes
  • Hyperkeratosis of skin

Always remember to consult a qualified veterinary physician before modifying/supplementing your cat’s diet.


Author: Vaishnavi K Joshi