Soft and Silky

Learn how diet affects your cat's skin and coat.

Learn how diet affects your cat's skin and coat.

You are what you eat, the old adage goes, and it’s true for cats, too. Good nutrition — plenty of protein, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals — is not only essential to good health but keeps a cat looking healthy, too.

Of course, a cat’s appearance varies with breed, grooming and age, but healthy feline skin is always supple and a healthy coat is shiny. When a cat isn’t getting the right nutrients — or even the proper ratio of some nutrients — the coat turns dull and dry, and the skin can become flaky, itchy and susceptible to bacterial or fungal infections.

Different Diets
“Cats are unique because they have a different metabolism from humans or dogs,” says Joseph Wakshlag DVM, PhD, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. The feline metabolism requires higher levels of both proteins and essential fatty acids, and each are basic components of a cat’s coat and skin. “The fat in their diet is what gives them a glossy coat and that nice, waxy surface of the skin,” says Wakshlag, immediate past president of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. “Cats on a lower-fat diet are more prone to dry, flaky skin.”

Dottie Laflamme, DVM, PhD, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist in Floyd, Va., says that hair is nearly 100 percent protein. “Changes in hair color or texture can occur if certain amino acids [which comprise proteins] are lacking in the diet,” she says. For example, phenylalanine and tyrosine are important in a black coat. If a diet is deficient in those amino acids, the black in a cat’s hair turns red.

**Get the October 2011 issue of CAT FANCY to read the full article or click here to purchase a PDF version.**

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