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What’s the easiest way to help your cat get a shiny coat, allergy relief and good overall health? Omega fatty acids, found in commercial cat food.
“Fats are essential to everyone’s health,” says Dr. William M. Fraser, who runs Mentor Veterinary Clinic and Brightwood Animal Hospital in Mentor, Ohio. “The issue is what type of fat and how much. Saturated fats are likely to add weight and can cause coronary artery disease in people, but cats don’t get coronary artery disease. No one knows why.”
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, both polyunsaturated fats, may help to lower levels of so-called “bad fats” in people. They also have many benefits for your cat, say veterinarians.
How Fatty Acids Work
Omega fatty acids are bioavailable, notes Fraser. “That means they are capable of being ingested and are not just immediately used for energy or turned into fat.” A high-quality commercial food should provide linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that converts to a number of fatty acids your cat needs. Unlike dogs, your cat also needs a food containing arachidonic acid because your cat doesn’t contain an enzyme to convert linoleic acid to this fatty acid. However, your cat can convert alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, into other omega-3s.
Since omega-6 fatty acids alone can be inflammatory or can cause blood-clot issues, your cat’s food should contain a balance of omega-6s and omega-3s, says Dr. Katy Nelson, a veterinarian and member of the Iams Pet Wellness Council. Your kitty’s food should contain a ratio of five or 10 omega-6 acids to one omega-3 acid. The ingredient-analysis label should explain if the food contains a sufficient amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 acids are quite strong, thus the need for far less, explains Nelson.
Health Benefits of Omega Fatty Acids
“Omega-3s have a very potent anti-inflammatory effect on the body. They’re good for the skin, good for joints,” says Nelson.
Look for these indications of good health from a diet containing balanced omega fatty acids:
What to Look For
Make sure your cat food incorporates fish oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acid, advises Nelson. “Fish oils have the best-quality fatty acids within them,” she says. “If your cat food isn’t using a fish oil, then that’s probably not the diet you want it to be. It’s sort of a shortcut.”
Nelson also cautions against using fatty-acid supplements. It’s difficult to control your cat’s caloric intake, which can lead to weight gain. Supplements aren’t regulated, and some may have side effects. “Fatty acids should be part of a balanced diet in your cat’s food,” she says. “When they’re incorporated into the diet, then the calories are right there in front of you.”
Photo Credit: @iStockphoto.com/latex
Kim Boatman is a journalist and frequent contributor to The Daily Cat, based in Northern California whose work has appeared in The Miami Herald, the Detroit Free Press and the San Jose Mercury News. She is a lifelong lover of animals and shares her home with three cats.