Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is an essential cat nutrient that plays a vital role in multiple body processes and functions. Since cats can’t naturally produce this vitamin, they derive it from their food instead.
Usually, some veterinarians recommend vitamin B12 for cats to help supplement their nutritional needs, especially for cats that have been diagnosed with specific medical conditions that make it difficult to absorb B12 from their regular diet.
This article will highlight food sources of vitamin B12 for your cat, causes and signs of B12 deficiency, as well as the health benefits of the vitamin to cats. Read on to learn more.
Why Is Vitamin B12 Needed?
Cats do not naturally make their own vitamin B12. Therefore, they rely on foods where the vitamin has been added or natural food sources that feature the vitamin B12 nutrient. It can also be supplemented via subcutaneous injections or orally.
The 7 Food Sources of Vitamin B12 for Cats
1. Organ Meats
The kidneys and liver are the main two organ types that offer the best source of cobalamin for cats. Generally, organ meats are more nutritious compared to muscle meat. This is perhaps why felines routinely eat these organ parts from their prey.
Kidneys and livers from lamb, beef, and veal have the highest concentration of vitamin B12. However, it’s always best to buy cleanly raised organs or organic meat because toxins can easily accumulate in the liver and kidneys due to their vital function in the body.
Canned or cooked clams are another great source of vitamin B12 for your feline friend. They are rich in iron, protein, and antioxidants. However, clams should never be offered to a cat while still raw. Additionally, avoid feeding your cat shellfish seasoned or fried with spices, salts or garlic, and onions.
If your cat is too fussy to eat clams, you can make clam juice or broth because it is also high in vitamin B12. Clam broth is also a great way of helping your cat increase its liquid intake if it doesn’t drink enough water.
As true carnivores, cats can only process nutrients that come from animal food sources. Therefore, lean-cooked meats are some of the best human-based food snacks that you can offer your furry friend. Beef is one of the best meat food sources of cobalamin. However, lean beef cuts have the highest source of vitamin B12 and are one of the healthiest choices you can make for your cat.
Beef is also packed with several other B vitamins and nutrients such as zinc, which are all vital in the cat’s body. For you to maintain the high cobalamin content of beef, try roasting or grilling the beef without adding spices or oils.
Besides being a great food source of cobalamin, sardines are also rich in fatty acids. Overall, sardines are simply delicious and nutritious fish for cats. They are also easy to feed to cats because they are available in canned options. However, sardines that have been packed in oil tend to be high in fat, and as such, should be offered with caution or entirely avoided.
The best sardines are the ones packed in water. Fresh sardines are great too, but you should thoroughly cook them first before feeding your cat. Raw fish is a huge no for cats because it may contain dangerous bacteria that can be detrimental to your cat’s health. Raw fish may also contain a compound that destroys thiamine (a type of vitamin B). Overtime, thiamine deficiency can result in neurological problems in your cat.
Salmon is one of the most common sources of fish protein in commercially produced cat food. It is also a great source of vitamin B12 for your cat. Salmon is such a popular choice for cat food because it is considered low in mercury, thus safer for your cat to consume.
It is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and proteins. However, you should feed your cat salmon in moderation because cats love it so much that they can forgo their actual diet for this tasty fish.
Another way you can avail vitamin B12 to your cat’s body is by offering cooked eggs. Eggs are usually rich in protein and even contain vitamin B2 and vitamin D. While the yolk might have more cobalamin than the egg white, it is best to feed your cat the whole egg so that it can get the full nutritional benefit.
However, do not feed your cat raw eggs; poached eggs are the best and most nutritious form of egg since the protein is in a highly digestible form.
7. Properly Balanced Cat Food
One of the simplest ways of providing vitamin B12 for your cats is by purchasing properly balanced commercially produced cat foods. Thankfully, all cat foods in the United States must meet basic nutritional standards, whether grocery-store or premium brands. This includes adding adequate levels of vitamin B12 to the food.
You can opt to give your cat a homemade diet, but you must make sure it is complete and balanced, as well as made with high-quality ingredients. Make sure you include foods high in cobalamin, as we have listed above. If you prefer to cook for your cat, consult your local vet, who will help you come up with meal recipes with all the necessary nutrients for your cat, including vitamin B12.
Fresh cat food is the perfect combination of high-quality nutrition and convenience. If you want to feed your cat fresh food without having to cook, there are several delivery services available.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency Causes & Signs
One of the main causes of vitamin B12 deficiency in cats is organ malfunction. Usually, your cat’s intestines, pancreas, liver, and stomach are involved in the absorption and assimilation of cobalamin into the body. So, if any of these organs malfunction, normal absorption of this vital nutrient will be disrupted.
Also, the deficiency occurs when the time duration that cobalamin is retained in a cat’s body is limited. Usually, vitamin B12 can stay in a cat’s body for 13 days if it is healthy. Yet, if it is suffering from GI conditions or any other medical issues that might affect the cat’s health, cobalamin will get depleted faster. It can only last in the cat’s body for five days.
Genetic factors also contribute to vitamin B12 deficiency in cats. These genetic issues and conditions are more prevalent in some cat breeds and can hamper the absorption of nutrients into the body. They include:
Due to the very crucial role that it plays in the cat’s body, vitamin B12 deficiency usually comes with some signs which include:
Besides these common signs, the deficiency can also result in nerve damage, anemia, and other gastrointestinal problems. This is majorly the reason this vitamin is crucial for diabetic cats suffering from neuropathy.
Some experts even claim that cats with vitamin B12 deficiency may also experience difficulty in jumping or walking and even display some weakness in their rear ends.
As you may have gathered by now, vitamin B12 is a very vital nutritional requirement in all cats. It helps promote healthy cognitive functions, assists in the digestion process as well as the development of a healthy nervous and immune system. Since cats cannot produce this nutrient in their body, they obtain it from the foods they eat.
We have provided a list of veterinarian-approved foods that are all great sources of cobalamin for your cat. However, to be on the safe side, it is wise to consult your vet before changing your cat’s diet.
Also, despite being safe and non-toxic, some of these food sources could end up upsetting your cat’s stomach. So, you should start by giving your cat small portions and then monitor the reaction. Moreover, ensure that the calories that your cat requires daily come from a balanced diet so that it receives all the nutritional requirements and not just vitamin B12.
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