Determining which dietary supplements might be beneficial and which would simply be a waste of money is not always easy. Research into nutritional supplements, particularly those designed for pets, is spotty at best. Thankfully, two papers published in The International Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine have improved the state of affairs for cats.
Ninety cats between the ages of 7 and 17 were involved in the research. They were all fed the same, nutritionally complete diet from the time they entered the studies until they died. The scientists divided the cats into three groups:
- Group 1 cats received no supplements.
- Group 2 cats received vitamin E and beta-carotene supplements
- Group 3 cats received vitamin E, beta-carotene, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and a prebiotic (a type of fiber that supports the growth of “good” gastrointestinal microorganisms).
The study continued for 7.5 years, after which time the researchers evaluated how the animals in each group responded to the presence or absence of nutritional supplements in their diets. They found that the cats who received extra vitamin E, beta-carotene, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and prebiotics lived on average almost a year longer than the cats that received no supplements at all. Cats in Group 3 also maintained their weight better and had healthier laboratory parameters (e.g., blood glucose measurements) than did Group 1 cats. Individuals in Group 2 did better than those in Group 3, but not as well as those in Group 1.
What the Results Mean for Owners
This research provides solid evidence that adding extra vitamin E, beta-carotene, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and prebiotics to the diets of middle aged to older cats can have significant health benefits but raises the question of how this can be done conveniently and inexpensively. Many high quality digestive supplements contain both prebiotics and probiotics (the good bacteria that prebiotics support) and can be sprinkled on a cat’s food. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acid supplements come in palatable, liquid formulations that can also simply be mixed with food.
The food owners buy also has a big influence on the quantity and quality of important nutrients their cats have access to. Nutritional supplements should not be used to compensate for a low-quality food but should be added to a diet that is already nutritionally complete and made from healthful ingredients.