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Total Tour of Taurine

Total Tour of Taurine
by Dr Grant Hampson

Read time: 3 min

Did you know that your cat needs taurine to have a balanced and complete diet? If you answered ‘no’, is it because you aren’t sure what taurine is? If you answered ‘yes’ to the second question, then don’t worry - we’re here to help with our Total Tour of Taurine.

What is taurine?

Simply put, taurine is an essential amino acid which plays a crucial role in vision, myocardial (heart) function, reproduction and to help maintain a healthy immune system.

Amino acids are compounds that play a key role in normal bodily function. Cats can manufacture many of these amino acids by breaking down the proteins that they eat. However, some amino acids are classed as “essential” meaning they can’t be made inside the body and must be acquired from the cat food they eat. Taurine is one of them.

Not only can cats not manufacture their own taurine, but they also have a limited storage capacity, leaving them easily susceptible to deficiencies.

What happens if your cat doesn't get enough taurine?

Taurine deficiency is relatively uncommon, since most commercially available cat foods are supplemented adequately with taurine. Taurine deficiency often occurs when cats are fed with diets that do not contain enough taurine, such as vegetarian diets, dog food diets and homemade diets.

When a cat becomes deficient in taurine there can be a number of serious side effects.

Heart Disease:

A heart condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) can develop, making the heart muscle thinner and much weaker. Eventually this can lead to congestive heart failure and can be fatal.


The cells within the retina, at the back of the cat's eye, can begin to degenerate when there is a deficiency in taurine. This is commonly known as feline central retinal degeneration (FCRD) and eventually results in visual impairment and sometimes total blindness.

Reproductive issues:

Breeding queens may have reproductive issues when they become taurine deficient and sadly can have miscarriages, stillbirths and any kittens born may be weak and can even have birth defects.

How will I know if my cat is getting enough Taurine?

If you are feeding your cat a commercially produced cat food, it’s unlikely your cat will suffer from taurine deficiency. However if your cat is being fed an unconventional cat food such as vegetarian diets, dog food diets and homemade diets it can be months or even years before they start showing signs of taurine deficiency and is therefore safer to feed a food you know has adequate amounts of taurine.

There are no specific signs associated with taurine deficiency. The clinical signs you may see are often associated with the concurrent disease progression caused as a result of the deficiency.

If your cat's vision becomes impaired, you may see them start bumping into things around the house and be moving much more cautiously, especially when jumping up and down. This may be even more noticeable during the evening. If you think your cat does have any loss in vision, it is best to keep them indoors until you have taken them to see your vet.

If they start to develop heart disease, they may become increasingly lethargic, they might be more reluctant to play compared to normal. In the most serious of cases some cats may develop breathing problems, if you notice any of these signs you should contact your vet immediately.

How to prevent taurine deficiency?

Taurine deficiency can be easily avoided by feeding a high quality commercially available cat food. If you have any questions about the taurine in our food, please get in touch with us at

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