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Cat food high in iron

Cat food high in iron

Cat food high in iron can be dangerous for cats in their second year of life.

It's a common belief that giving your cat meat as a reward will keep her from destroying your house and make her more trainable. But there is another danger: Iron in meat can have a toxic effect on young cats.

"As your cat ages, that iron is going to build up in her body and increase her risk for developing an iron deficiency," says Dr. John Fiala, DVM, PhD, veterinary medical director of the Companion Animal Hospital at Northshore Veterinary Specialists in Burbank, CA. If a cat is young enough, it's especially important to monitor her to make sure she's absorbing enough of the essential vitamin E she needs to fight off infection.

Why cats need iron

Cats, like people, need vitamin E to protect their cells from oxidation. But unlike in people, a cat's requirement for vitamin E increases as she ages. In cats less than one year old, vitamin E protects her skin from the sun and helps her immune system.

In cats older than one year, iron helps keep her skin healthy, improves her appetite, and promotes good hair and coat growth. Iron also helps boost her immune system, since it's one of the building blocks of many of the proteins needed by her body's white blood cells, Fiala says.

What is too much iron?

An excessive amount of iron in your cat's diet or blood can cause problems. This is especially true for older cats, whose bodies are less able to absorb iron. To prevent toxicity, iron supplements must be carefully monitored by your veterinarian.

If your cat is a pregnant or nursing mother, it's important that you don't give her high-iron cat foods. Iron can interfere with her unborn kittens' and newborn kittens' development, Fiala says. And if your cat is a very small kitten or puppy, eating more iron could lead to an iron deficiency, or hypochromic microcytic anemia, if her diet is not balanced.

Do I need to worry about cats and iron?

Yes, if your cat becomes anemic. The main symptoms of anemia in a cat are lethargy, increased appetite, and increased urination. Other signs include pale gums and tongue, weakness, and vomiting. If your cat becomes anemic, you should consult your veterinarian.

How much do cats need to eat?

If your cat lives in a household with a cat of comparable size, it's a good idea to feed her about one-third of the amount of food your other cat eats. However, if your cat's appetite has changed, your veterinarian can advise you on the proper portion sizes. For most cats, one to two tablespoons of a low-iron kibble or canned food every other day is adequate.

What about supplements?

If your cat is a pregnant or nursing mom, you may want to keep an eye on her diet to make sure it's properly balanced. Fiala recommends that pregnant and nursing moms feed two small meals a day, once in the morning and again in the evening, to help ensure her kittens are getting a well-balanced diet.

If your cat has an eating disorder, consult your vet about getting her checked out.

What are the risks of giving too much iron to a cat?

Too much iron can be toxic to cats, and too much extra iron can lead to anemia. According to Fiala, the symptoms of anemia in cats can be hard to detect. Even if your cat is showing some symptoms, the easiest way to figure out if your cat is anemic is to get a blood test.

Fiala notes that cats that become anemic may need to be hospitalized. The blood tests required to detect anemia can be painful for your cat, but he says that he's seen veterinarians administer those tests with minimal stress.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by TechRepublic.

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