What foods help with a healthy, shiny coat for cats?

The overall health of an animal is reflected through its skin and coat. Therefore, a completely balanced diet combined with plenty of exercise, fresh air and frequent grooming and is essential to keep your cat’s coat shiny, healthy and allergy-free.

First, it’s imperative to understand that cats have very strict dietary requirements and everything revolves around the cat’s need for taurine, an essential amino acid that cannot be manufactured in the body; the cat relies on it through diet, and taurine is found in meat and fish. A deficiency can lead to eye, heart, nervous, brain and immune system disorders.

Second, you must know that cats are obligate carnivores. This means they need meat to survive and they lack the digestive enzymes needed to process carbohydrates, which means they aren’t needed. In fact, many food allergies are triggered by the carbohydrate content of foods. However, most dry foods depend on carbohydrates as the “fillers” needed to hold the other ingredients together for dry cat food. Look for whole grains, such as brown rice, barley, or wheat (wheat may also trigger allergies in some cats).

Here are some basic guidelines, but you should discuss any nutritional concerns with your veterinarian:

• Cats need meat and fish to survive and cannot digest carbohydrates.
• Avoid “fillers” often found in dry cat food.
• Avoid gluten and wheat.
• Most cats are lactose intolerant and, despite popular opinion, many do not love milk. A good alternative is CatSip, found in most pet stores.
• Try, as much as possible, to avoid food allergies. Food allergies create itchy skin and rashes which, in turn, results in dandruff and dull coat. There are at least nine foods that can be common allergens: chicken, fish, corn, eggs, dairy, preservatives, additives, soy and wheat gluten.
• Watch for “splitting.” What that means is that “fragments” from one ingredient on the pet food label can be a way to hide a large amount of a low-value ingredient, since those “fragments” will appear far down on the ingredient list. But all them add up and it results in a whopping amount of one ingredient; corn seems to be the most prevalent when it comes to “splitting.”

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