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Answers: Why Did My Cat's Fur Get So Silky?

Updated: Sunday, June 02, 2019 02:23 PM
Published: Saturday, June 04, 2011 01:46 PM
Written by Margaret Gates

I've been feeding my kitty a raw cat food diet for a couple of months and her coat has gotten so silky! I thought her fur was soft before, but the change has been quite noticeable. What is it in raw food that has such a good effect on a cat's fur?

Many things contribute to a healthy coat in cats. Protein and fats both play a part. Raw meat-based diets supply these in a natural form that your cat can easily digest. The change in the texture of a cat's fur can happen quite rapidly after starting down the road of proper cat nutrition. I noticed the difference in my own cats after only two weeks. It is one of the most commented-upon benefits of feeding raw food for cats. I sometimes think more pet parents would switch their companion animals to raw food if they could just pet one of my cats and feel the difference. The change is that dramatic.

Most people don't think of the skin as an organ, but it is actually the largest organ of the body.¹ A cat requires high amounts of protein in its diet to maintain fur growth, as hair itself is composed of about 95 percent protein.² Normal growth of hair and maintenance of the skin can account for 25 to 30 percent of the cat's daily protein requirement.³ With such a dependence on protein, providing raw food allows the cat to get its nutrients in the most digestible, unaltered form possible. Raw cat food retains the proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals naturally present. The heat of cooking causes it to lose a portion of many of these nutrients, changes their proportions and decreases their availability to the body.

Good skin health also depends on your cat getting the proper minerals. Copper and zinc play important roles in skin health. Deficiencies or imbalances in these minerals can lead to dull coats, hair loss and loss of hair coloration. Raw food for cats that includes bone provides these trace minerals in the proportions your obligate carnivore would consume eating a natural, prey-based diet.

Cats need a moderate amount of fat in their diet in the form of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These are called essential fatty acids because the cat's body cannot make them. They must come from the diet. Some fatty acids, such as arachidonic acid, must be obtained from animal sources. Fatty acids, especially omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown to be highly beneficial to the skin in cats. They play a crucial role in the formation of epidermal cells and maintain the barrier functions of the skin that prevent loss of water and other nutrients. Just like humans, cats exude oils from sebaceous glands at the base of each hair follicle. These oils help lubricate and waterproof the skin and hair and give fur its sheen. Deficiencies in essential fatty acids can result in skin scaliness, matted hair, loss of skin elasticity, alopecia and a dry and dull coat.

Many homemade cat food recipes and commercially-prepared foods supplement the fatty acids already present in raw meats with additional fatty acids from marine sources, usually salmon or small fish oil. You can also feed your cat a few ounces of water-packed sardines once a week as a good additional source of natural omegas.

It's the combination of good animal-based proteins, minerals and fats that leads to such lustrous fur from providing raw food for cats. Even in felines previously fed high-protein canned foods, there is impressive improvement in coat quality. It shows how feeding a diet that mimics what a cat evolved to eat leads to a noticeably healthier animal.

Note: Feline Nutrition provides feline health and nutrition information as a public service. Diagnosis and treatment of specific conditions should always be in consultation with your own veterinarian. Feline Nutrition disclaims all warranties and liability related to the veterinary advice and information provided on this site.

Margaret Gates is the founder of the Feline Nutrition Foundation.

1. Philip Roudebush, Candace A. Sousa and Dawn E. Logas, "Skin and Hair Disorders," Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th ed. Walsworth Publishing Company, 2000, 460.

2. Tim D.G. Watson, "Diet and Skin Disease in Dogs and Cats," Journal of Nutrition 128, no. 12, December 1, 1998, 2783S-2789S.

3. Watson, "Diet and Skin Disease in Dogs and Cats."

4. N. Gerber, M. R. L. Scheedera, and C. Wenk, "The Influence of Cooking and Fat Trimming on the Actual Nutrient Intake from Meat," Meat Science 81, January 2009, 148-154.

5. Philip Roudebush, Candace A. Sousa and Dawn E. Logas, "Skin and Hair Disorders," Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th ed. Walsworth Publishing Company, 2000, 462-465.

6. R. Lechowski, E. Sawosz and W. Klucinski, "The Effect of the Addition of Oil Preparation with Increased Content of n-3 Fatty Acids on Serum Lipid Profile and Clinical Condition of Cats with Miliary Dermatitis," Zentralblatt für Veterinärmedizin 45, Agricultural University of Warsaw, Poland, September 1998, 417-24.

7. Philip Roudebush, Candace A. Sousa and Dawn E. Logas, "Skin and Hair Disorders," Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th ed. Walsworth Publishing Company, 2000, 461.

8. Dr. Thomas Caceci, "Exercise 15, Integument System II: Hair," Veterinary Histology Course Work Information, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, 2008.

9. Philip Roudebush, Candace A. Sousa and Dawn E. Logas, "Skin and Hair Disorders," Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th ed. Walsworth Publishing Company, 2000, 462.