Which Are the Essential Minerals for Cats?

Like vitamins, cat requires minerals as are essential for growth, development and optimal health. Whereas most of the minerals are available naturally in some foods, most commercial diets have them supplemented to ensure they meet the minimum required amounts.

Furthermore, there are mineral supplements for cats and some multivitamins have certain minerals too. However, it is a good idea to first talk to your vet before you go for any of these supplements.

Whereas excessive amounts of some minerals may be toxic to cats, low mineral cat foods may also lead to some deficiency symptoms.

Finally, ash content in cat food is essential in determining total amount of minerals that that specific food has. Ash content is what remains after burning off organic component in that specific food.

Which minerals do cats require
Which minerals do cats require

Essential cat minerals?

According to AAFCO 2014, the major or macrominerals required by cats for growth and development include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, chloride, sodium and magnesium. However, some sources include sulfur as a necessary major mineral.

On the other hand, the trace minerals essential in a cats growth and development recognized by AAFCO are iron, copper, manganese, zinc, iodine and selenium. Here again, some sources include arsenic, boron, chromium, nickel, silicon, vanadium, molybdenum among others.


These are minerals present at relatively larger amounts in cat’s bodies or they are required in larger amounts in feline diets. They include:

1. Calcium

Calcium is a vital mineral whose minimum requirement for growing and reproducing cats is 1% and 0.6% for adult maintenance based on dry matter. Excessive amounts lead to hypercalcemia while too little will result in hypocalcemia.

Its functions include bone and teeth formation, regulating concentration of fluid cells, helps in blood clotting, milk production, among others.

Foods rich in calcium include milk, organ tissues, fish, meat and bones. In commercial cat foods, calcium is added to supplement it, consider ground eggshell, calcium lactate, calcium citrate, calcium carbonate, calcium ascorbate, bone meal as well as other commercial calcium supplements for cats.

2. Phosphorus

Phosphorus is a vital mineral that helps in bone and teeth formation, it is required for DNA, RNA, and other major protein molecules, it helps in the formation of cell membrane, energy metabolism as other functions.

Cats need at least 2g for growth and reproduction or 1.25g for adult maintenance per 1000 kcal of food. Foods rich in phosphorus include poultry, organ meat, meat, fish, dairy, whole grains among others.

A deficiency will lead to several symptoms (hypophosphatemia) while excess amounts causes hyperphosphataemia.

Finally, there are various supplements including bone meal, calcium carbonate, eggshell and it is added to commercial cat foods to meet the minimum required amounts.

Cats with renal failure require diets low in phosphorus and we have something on why low phosphorus diets are necessary for felines with renal failure.

3. Potassium

Potassium is major cationic electrolyte whose roles include helping regulate muscle function, heartbeat and sending of electrical nerve signals as well as keeping pH and fluid balance among many others.

Foods rich in potassium include meat, milk, poultry, fish, beans, nuts, some leafy greens, sweet potatoes among others.

In commercial cat foods, it is supplemented in form of potassium gluconate, chloride and acetate to meet the required minimum amount of 0.6% based on dry matter basis. There are also potassium supplements for cats and dogs.

Deficiency or low potassium level or hypokalemia common in felines with chronic renal failure results in several symptoms while excessive level in blood results in hyperkalemia.

Also, moderate hypokalemia or low potassium in elderly cats is common due to several reasons.

4. Sodium

Besides potassium, sodium is the other cationic electrolyte in cat’s body that helps keep fluid balance, electrolyte concentration, normal blood pressure, transmitting electrical signals to nerves among many others.

Foods rich in sodium include fish, poultry, eggs and meat but in most commercial feline diets, it is added as common salt.

The minimum require amount in cat diets is 0.2% based on dry matter, a deficiency will lead to hyponatremia while excessive amounts are associated with hypernatremia.

Finally, some conditions such as renal diseases, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and heart disease may warranty the need for low sodium feline diets.

5. Chloride

Chloride or chlorine is naturally available in tomatoes, seaweed, rye, celery and other foods. In commercial feline foods, it is added as sodium chloride (common salt) or using chloride salts of potassium, calcium and ammonium.

It is a major anionic electrolyte that helps in keep osmotic balance, maintaining pH, making hydrochloric acid in the stomach and in electrical impulse transmission.

Cats require at least 0.3% chloride based on dry matter. Excessive amounts result in hyperchloremia while deficiencies cause hypochloremia, both which have clinical signs.

6. Magnesium

Magnesium in abundant in milk and dairy products, in salmon, sardine, legumes, nuts, dark leafy greens among other foods. It is added to commercial foods and available as a supplement for these pets.

Magnesium functions include being a cofactor of many enzymes involved in various biochemical reactions, helping in ensuring normal heartbeat and aiding in impulse transmission, absorption of vitamin C, E, sodium, potassium, phosphorous and calcium among many others.

Required minimum amounts are 0.2g and 0.1g per 1000 kcal of food growth or reproduction and adult maintenance respectively. Excessive amounts lead to hypermagnesemia and will low amounts will result in deficiency symptoms or hypomagnesemia.

Micro or Trace minerals

Trace minerals are available in cat’s bodies in relatively small amounts and their dietary requirement is also small. They include the following:

1. Iron

Foods high in iron include organ meats, turkey, shellfish, red meat, sardines, legumes, pumpkin seeds, among others. Some commercial foods have this mineral added and there are iron supplements for cats and dogs,

Iron functions include hemoglobin formation, ATP production, body immunity maintenance and some enzymes require it to function.

Finally, these pets require amounts is 80mg/kg of cat food on dry matter basis. Excessive amounts can lead to iron toxicity while insufficient amount is one of the causes of iron deficiency anemia, though not the main cause of anemia in these pets.

2. Copper

Copper is an essential mineral found in foods such as organ meats, oysters, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, seeds, lobsters, avocados, among other foods. However, in most commercial diets, it is supplemented as cupric carbonate, cupric chloride and cupric sulfate.

In dry foods, a minimum of 15mg/kg for reproduction and growth and 5mg/kg for normal adult maintenance is required. In wet foods (canned)  the required amount is 8.4.mg/kg and 5mg/kg for growth or reproduction and adult maintenance respectively.

Copper deficiency results in some clinical signs especially in queens and kittens but can also be noted in cats of any age or gender. On the hand, excessive amounts lead to feline copper toxicity.

3. Manganese

Manganese ensures proper carbs and protein utilization, helps in reproduction, enzyme functioning, making bones stronger, among other roles.

Foods rich in manganese include shellfish, legumes, nuts, brown rice, leafy greens and fruits. However, in commercial cat diets, it is supplemented to meet the minimum required amount of 7.5mg/kg of feline food.

Deficiency signs are rare but do occur and excess amounts are not associated with any toxicity.

4. Zinc

Some of the functions of zinc includes being involved in vitamin A metabolism, ensuring cat’s immunity system remain healthy, as well as helping in fertility, DNA synthesis, growth of kittens, healing of wounds and promoting healthy skin and fur.

Natural sources of zinc include beef, pork, nuts, shellfish, diary and eggs but it is often added to diets in zinc gluconate, citrate, sulfate, etc., forms and there are also zinc supplements.

AAFCO recommends a minimum of 75mg/kg of cat food on dry mass basis and not over 2000mg. Insufficient amounts will lead to zinc deficiency symptoms while excess amounts will result in zinc poisoning.

5. Iodine

Iodine is safe for cats with a minimum requirement of 0.14mg/1000 kcal feline diets for growth and reproduction and 0.15mg/1000 kcal cat food for adult maintenance.

Some of iodide dietary sources include seaweeds, shrimp, tuna, eggs, dairy products and so on and it is added in commercial feline diets especially as iodized salt.

It is a component of thyroid hormone which has many roles including catabolism and anabolism control. Excessive amounts and deficiency of iodine results in some clinical signs and there is a requirement for low iodine cat foods in case of hyperthyroidism.

6. Selenium

Naturally found in fish, pork, beef, turkey, cottage cheese, brazil nuts oats, spinach among other foods, selenium is added to commercial foods to meet a minimum requirement of 0.3mg/kg of cat food based on dry matter.

Its roles include maintain immunity functions and good antioxidant status, it’s a component of some enzymes and helps fight cancers among others.

Deficiencies of selenium will result in symptoms while cats can tolerate high amounts of this mineral without toxicity signs.  There has been issue of one of its sources, the sodium selenite use in cat food.

Others considered necessary

These are minerals which have various functions in cat’s body but not included in the list of essential minerals required for growth and development in cats by AAFCO.

1. Sulfur

Sulfur is essential in insulin production, formation of some amino acids, part of nails and fur (keratin), among other roles. Being part of essential amino acids, it is not supplemented in diets and naturally seafood, organ meats, milk, leafy greens, garlic, onions, etc., are high in sulfur.

2. Cobalt

Although very essential in cat’s body, it is a constituent of cobalamin (vitamin B12). Vitamin B12 is a cofactor for many enzymes including those for carbs, fats and amino acids metabolism. Also, vitamin B12 helps boosts cat appetite among other functions.

3. Boron

Besides supporting vitamin D absorption, bone development and magnesium, phosphorus and calcium mineralization, boron helps activate enzymes among other roles.

4. Chromium

In cats, it helps in dealing with obesity without any side effects. Also, in small doses of about 200mg given daily to cats, chromium can lower levels of blood sugar in diabetic felines.

5. Molybdenum

Molybdenum is found in foods such as legumes, lentils, beans, yogurt, liver, eggs among other foods. It is known to support proper enzyme functioning. A deficiency may result to some symptoms while toxicity is commonly noted in ruminants.

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