Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy

or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

petMD Blogs

Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

Subscribe to
Nutrition Nuggets
Your cat's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your cat, how much food to feed, and the differences in cat foods, so your cat gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Cat Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of cat nutrition.

Should Your Cat Be Taking a Multivitamin?

June 08, 2012 / (2) comments

According to the 2011-2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, the average cat owner spends $43 dollars a year on vitamins, while dog owners put out $95 annually. But is this money well-spent? Just because a product is widely used doesn’t mean that every pet benefits from it.

Like most things in life, vitamins and minerals are neither wholly bad nor wholly good. They are important to maintaining health, but both deficiencies and excesses can be dangerous.

When it comes to vitamins, excesses are primarily a concern with the fat-soluble vitamins A and D. The body is better at storing than eliminating these vitamins, so over-supplementation can lead to health problems over time. Take vitamin D as an example. Cats that get too little can develop skeletal abnormalities, paralysis and other problems. On the other hand, too much vitamin D causes gastrointestinal issues and calcification of soft tissues.

Water soluble vitamins, however, do not pose much of a risk of over-supplementation since the body can quickly get rid of the excess in the urine. The biggest downside here is wasted money ("really expensive pee," as I heard it described one time). Maintaining an adequate and regular intake of water soluble vitamins is important because the body does not store them well, but responsible pet food manufacturers make sure that their foods contain healthy amounts of vitamins and minerals — not too much and not too little.

In the case of minerals, both deficiencies and excesses are cause for concern. To complicate matters, high dietary levels of one mineral often interfere with the uptake or utilization of another. This is true for phosphorus and calcium, copper and iron, phosphorus and sodium, zinc and magnesium … the list is seemingly endless.

There are times when vitamin and mineral supplements are a good idea, however. Examples include:

  • Your cat has been diagnosed with a vitamin/mineral deficiency or a disease that responds to supplementation (e.g., potassium in the face of advanced renal failure or cobalamine/folate injections because of intestinal disease). In most of these situations, you should be giving your cat specific vitamins and/or minerals, not a "multivitamin," and your cat’s condition needs to be closely monitored by a veterinarian.
  • Your cat eats a home-prepared diet. To be nutritionally complete, you need to add a vitamin and mineral supplement to home-cooked foods. And only use recipes that have been designed by a veterinary nutritionist specifically for your cat’s life stage and underlying health concerns.
  • Your cat eats very little or will only eat a diet that does not offer balanced nutrition. Whether this is because your cat is ill or just extremely finicky, a multivitamin may help ward off deficiencies. Keep in mind that supplementation is a poor substitute for a nutritionally balanced food made from wholesome ingredients.

Talk to your veterinarian to determine whether giving a vitamin and mineral supplement to your cat is a good idea, potentially dangerous, or just a waste of money.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Rocks: Taste Them by theolddictionary / via Flickr

Subscribe to Nutrition Nuggets

Comments  2

Leave Comment
  • Potassium
    07/11/2012 04:23am

    I have found that potassium supplements have been extremely beneficial for my CRF (Chronic Kidney Failure) kitties. They usually respond well, but had one that we just couldn't get her potassium numbers up to mid-range on her blood panel.

    Isn't there a difference between what shows on a blood panel and how much potassium is actually being used by the body?

  • 07/15/2012 09:40am

    Not that I know of.




Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.