Zinc (Zn) is a trace mineral needed by cats for optimum growth and development.
It can be obtained from dietary sources where it exists as Zn2+ (divalent form), added to mainly commercial feline diets using its compounds such as zinc sulfate, acetate, gluconate, citrate, or available as dietary supplements.
Some of these supplements for pet include most of the mineral supplements and multivitamins while foods rich in zinc include beef, pork, shellfish, seeds (pumpkin, hemp, squash, and sesame), nuts (pine nuts, cashews, almonds, and peanuts), dairy, eggs, whole grains, potatoes, green beans, and so on.
Requirement in cats
According to AAFCO 2014, cats require at least 75mg of zinc per kilogram of feline diets based on dry mass for growth, reproduction and adult maintenance with the maximum amount being 2000mg. Based on metabolizable energy, they require 18.8mg per 1000 kcal.
It is the second most abundant trace mineral after iron whose functions as Cat World notes include helping in “maintaining a healthy immune system, fertility (in both males and females), synthesis of DNA, wound healing, kitten growth, cell growth, hair and skin growth” and many enzymes require it to function well as a catalyst or cofactor.
Deficiency cause and symptoms
Absorption occurs in the small intestines, especially the jejunum. About 4-40% of the dietary amount of zinc can be absorbed and factors that influence its absorption include:
- The presence of phytate, a plant material (common in diets based on cereals) that chelates zinc. This will reduce the amount absorbed.
- The presence of calcium, iron, and copper which binds with zinc reducing its absorption.
- Fiber reduces its absorption too.
Therefore, feeding your furry friends with diets high in plant material, fiber or calcium can reduce the amount absorbed and hence lead to a deficiency.
Also, GI disease and conditions including inflammatory bowel disease and other malabsorption syndromes can reduce the amount of this trace mineral absorbed.
If not provided in required amounts, your felines may suffer from zinc deficiency signs which include “poor coats characterized by thinning and slow hair growth and scaliness of the skin and ulcerations of the buccal margin,” notes an article on Zinc Deficiency in the Cat published in the Journal of Nutrition.
A deficiency may also decrease appetite (due to poor ability to smell and taste) and if the deficiency is prolonged, weight loss, keratitis, conjunctivitis as well as wound healing impairment may be noted.
Some of the symptoms that may be noted in kittens (young felines) include growth abnormality and lymphadenopathy.
In extreme deficiency, crusting (around the eye, ear, mouth, vulva, scrotum, and prepuce), scales, alopecia as well as “mucocutaneous junctions and pressure points of the limbs” may be noted, states an article on Diet and Skin Diseases in Dogs and Cats published in the Journal of Nutrition.
Additionally, instances of pustular dermatoses and secondary bacterial skin infections may rise due to deficiency in this mineral.
Finally, deficiencies can be addressed using the various oral zinc for cats supplements or products that contain this mineral.
Zinc supplements for cats
Most cat supplements and products intended to improve coat quality (skin and hair) have this micronutrient added to them. Also, most multivitamins, mineral and fatty acid supplements have this mineral too.
In commercial diets, the amount of Zn is added to ensure it meets the minimum required amounts. You may only be required to consider supplementation if you notice some of the deficiency symptoms we have noted.
Some of them oral zinc for cats supplements include:
Lambert Kay Linatone Shed Relief Skin/Coat Liquid Supplement for Dog/Cat
This product also has vitamin E, A, and protein and it will ensure good coat quality that does not shed. Also, it is a good source of linoleic acid which these pets are not able to absorb as well as proteins.
NUSENTIA Cat Vitamins – Spectrin – Liquid Vitamin & Antioxidant Supplement for Cats
This wonderful supplement will help support joint (has glucosamine), metabolism (has selenium, arginine, folic acid, betaine, lecithin, iodine, taurine, and Citrlline), bone (has boron, vitamin D, amino acid complex), cardiovascular (has flaxseed, vitamin D and bioflavonoid).
Others zinc-containing supplements
Others that are equally good include Shed-X Dermaplex Shed Control Nutritional Supplement, Ultra Oil Skin & Coat Supplement with Hempseed Oil, Only Natural Pet Brewer’s Yeast & Garlic Skin & Coat Chewable tablets, among others.
Zinc poisoning in cats
Incidences of feline zinc poisoning do occur but they are rarely from over-supplementation of this mineral.
Ingesting material that contains this mineral such as nails, pennies (£2 coins and US coins minted after the year 1982), nuts, bolts, zippers, some toys, topical ointments, and other galvanized materials may cause toxicity.
Also, ingesting cat sunscreens that containing zinc such as My Pet Sunblock is another possible cause.
Common symptoms that may occur include vomiting, weakness, increases heart rate, diarrhea, depression, jaundice especially in gums, anorexia, change of stool color to orange, excessive hemoglobin in blood and urine, collapse, among others.
Remember zinc poisoning can lead to liver damage, kidney failure, heart failure, and red blood cell destruction.
Treatments will involve removal of the ingested substance after a positive X-ray, IV fluids to maintain correct body fluids, and medications to release this mineral and reduce its acidity.
Also, a blood transfusion may be recommended if there has been excessive damage to red blood cells.