During a routine visit to the pet store, you may have noticed that the vitamins and supplement section has grown.  It used to be that one or two manufacturers would make a “hairball supplement” and that would be about it – especially for kitties!  However, with big name brands like GNC getting into the pet vitamin and supplement industry, it has definitely been brought to the mainstream.  This week, Wisconsin Pet Care tackles the vita-boom!


According to the ASPCA, “When feeding a complete and balanced diet, it is unnecessary to give a vitamin supplement unless a specific vitamin deficiency is diagnosed by a veterinarian.”  Of course, this welcomes another opportunity to stress the importance of investing in quality cat food!  Vitamins, also known as nutritional supplements, are designed to help ensure that your cat is receiving all of the nutrients she needs for optimal wellness (and can, if necessary, make up for where her food is lacking).


Of course, there are many characteristics that separate cats and dogs, but their essential nutrient needs boil down to one big difference: Cats are carnivores and dogs are omnivores.  Knowing this will help explain why cats need to receive some vitamins and not others.  Vitamin C, for example, is one that cats make within their own little bodies.  Your tabby will never meow your ear off for a taste of an orange.  Whether they are in the wild, or comfortably basking in the sun of their window perch, meat is what allows them to sustain life.  While a dog can (though it is definitely not ideal) live on grains and greens, a cat cannot.  As a result, their biological processes are sophisticated and can be tipped off-balance if they are inundated by an overdose of certain vitamins.  Before you add vitamins or supplements to your cat’s diet, you will want to visit your veterinarian or pet nutritionist to determine the proper dosage and frequency.


However, vitamins and nutritional supplements definitely have their place in maintaining the health and wellbeing of our kitty cats!  For example, let’s say that your kitten comes down with a common upper respiratory infection.  Do you really want to start your small-fry out on antibiotic therapy while she is in her formative weeks?  Your veterinarian may be open to vitamin-treatment instead of a round of antibiotics.  In most case, the vitamin boost will clear up the infection without having to resort to harsh chemicals.


Kitties that are susceptible to urinary tract infections may benefit from cranberry supplements.  As your feline friend gets older, urinary issues could become a concern.  Those cats who need a more acidic urine may benefit from these types of vitamins.


Maybe you found a litter of kittens abandoned by their mother, or even received a kitten that was weaned from her mother too early – you will need to feed these cats a vitamin-rich milk formula.  Strong bones and teeth, muscle development and immune response depend on the nourishment a kitten receives.  And don’t forget mama-cat!  A pregnant cat, or one that is nursing, can also benefit from vitamin therapy.


Kitties diagnosed with arthritis suffer from achy joints.  There have been some reports that show an improvement of joint mobility issues by adding glucosamine and chondroitin to your cat’s diet.  Understand, however, that these supplements have not been proven to alleviate pain.  For those kitties with severe arthritis pain, it may be best to seek alternate therapies.


Luckily, as most cat parents are well-aware of how difficult pills can be to administer to a cat, almost all of the cat supplements on the market are in a gel or liquid formula.  This makes it easy to sneak into your cat’s wet food.  Additionally, they are typically flavored to be very palatable to your fur baby, so there’s no need to worry about her not consuming her food or eating around a pill.


Next week we will continue our series on the vita-craze.  This time Wisconsin Pet Care goes to the dogs – we will delve into canine vitamins and supplements.