Answers: Why Did My Cat's Fur Get So Silky?
Published on Saturday, June 04, 2011 01:46 PM
Written by Margaret Gates
"I've been feeding my cat a raw diet for a couple of months and her coat has gotten so silky! I thought her fur was soft before, but the change has been quite noticeable. What is it in a raw diet that has such a good effect on a cat's fur?"
Many things contribute to a healthy coat in cats. Protein
and fats both play a part, and raw meat based diets supply these in a natural form that a cat can easily digest. The change in the texture of a cat's fur can happen quite rapidly after starting a raw diet. I noticed the difference in my own cats after only two weeks. It is one of the most commented upon benefits of feeding raw foods. I sometimes think that more people would switch their cats to a raw diet if they could just pet one of my cats and feel the difference. The change is that dramatic.
Most people don't think of the skin as an organ, but it is actually the largest organ of the body.¹ A cat requires high amounts of protein in its diet to maintain fur growth, as hair itself is composed of about 95% protein.² Normal growth of hair and maintenance of the skin can account for 25 to 30% of the cat's daily protein requirement.³ With such a dependence on protein, feeding a raw meat based diet allows the cat to get its nutrients in the most digestible, unaltered form possible. Raw diets retain the proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals naturally present in the food. The heat of cooking causes food to lose a portion of many of these nutrients, changes their proportions and decreases their availability to the body.⁴
Good skin health also depends on your cat getting the proper minerals. Copper and zinc play important roles in skin health and deficiencies or imbalances in these minerals can lead to dull coats, hair loss and loss of hair coloration.⁵ Raw diets that include bone provide these trace minerals in the proportions the cat would consume eating a natural, prey-based diet.
Cats need a moderate amount of fat in their diet in the form of omega-3
fatty acids . These are called essential fatty acids
because the cat's body cannot make them, they must come from the diet. Some fatty acids, such as arachidonic acid
, must be obtained from animal sources. Fatty acids, especially omega-3 fatty acids
, have been shown to be highly beneficial to the skin in cats.⁶
They play a crucial role in the formation of epidermal cells and maintain the barrier functions of the skin that prevent loss of water and other nutrients.⁷
Just like humans, cats will also exude oils from sebaceous glands
at the base of each hair follicle. These oils help lubricate and waterproof the skin and hair and give fur its sheen.⁸
Deficiencies in essential fatty acids
can result in skin scaliness, matted hair, loss of skin elasticity, alopecia
and a dry and dull coat.⁹
Many raw diet recipes and commercially prepared foods supplement the fatty acids already present in raw meats with additional fatty acids from marine sources, usually salmon or small fish oil. You can also feed your cat a few ounces of water-packed sardines once a week as a good additional source of natural omegas.
It's the combination of good animal-based proteins, minerals and fats that leads to such lustrous fur in raw fed cats. Even in cats that had previously been fed good quality canned foods, there is impressive improvement in coat quality. It just shows how feeding a diet that mimics what a cat evolved to eat leads to a noticeably healthier animal.
Note: The Feline Nutrition Education Society provides feline health and nutrition information as a public service. Diagnosis and treatment of specific conditions should always be in consultation with your own veterinarian. The Feline Nutrition Education Society disclaims all warranties and liability related to the veterinary advice and information provided on this site.
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Margaret Gates is the founder of the Feline Nutrition Education Society.
1. Philip Roudebush, Candace A. Sousa and Dawn E. Logas, "Skin and Hair Disorders," Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th ed. Walsworth Publishing Company, 2000, 460.
5. Philip Roudebush, Candace A. Sousa and Dawn E. Logas, "Skin and Hair Disorders," Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th ed. Walsworth Publishing Company, 2000, 462-465.
7. Philip Roudebush, Candace A. Sousa and Dawn E. Logas, "Skin and Hair Disorders," Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th ed. Walsworth Publishing Company, 2000, 461.
9. Philip Roudebush, Candace A. Sousa and Dawn E. Logas, "Skin and Hair Disorders," Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th ed. Walsworth Publishing Company, 2000, 462.