Arachidonic acid is considered an essential fatty acid for cats because a cat’s ability to convert arachidonic acid from its omega 6 precursor linoleic acid (LA) is extremely limited and cats require arachidonic acid for various bodily functions. Inflammatory responses are necessary for immune function and arachidonic acid has a role in that process. Arachidonic acid also contributes to regulating skin growth, proper blood clotting, and reproductive and gastrointestinal system function. A diet with inadequate arachidonic acid is especially problematic for reproduction. One study [while we are absolutely opposed to animal testing!] found the following:
“The reproductive performance of male and female cats given a purified diet containing only partially hydrogenated vegetable oil as the fat source from weaning was investigated. Male kittens did not require a supplemental source of arachidonate for normal body weight gain and successful reproduction. Female kittens given the same diet also appeared to grow normally, came into oestrus and conceived, but produced only a limited number of viable litters.”
– Morris, J. G. (2004), Do cats need arachidonic acid in the diet for reproduction?. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, 88: 131-137. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1439-0396.2003.00469.x.
Vegecat™ no longer supplies acid arachidonate due to ingredient compliance issues with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). These regulators have not approved a vegan source arachidonic acid, though there are viable unapproved options. Kelp is an approved ingredient that contains arachidonic acid, but the iodine content in kelp is not appropriate for cats with hyperthyroidism.
For many years, the arachidonic acid in Vegepet cat supplements was supplied by ascophyllum nodosum kelp. Cats on the Vegecat diet, over decades, did not experience problems related to the iodine content of the diet. More recently, our cat supplements contained an arachidonic acid derived from mortierella alpina (fungal) oil. While this source is approved for infant formula, it is not approved for companion animal food. To comply with the FDA and EFSA iodine levels and approved ingredient lists, arachidonic acid has been removed from the Vegecat™ supplement.
To supply arachidonic acid to an adult cat eating a plant-based diet, add 1 rounded teaspoon (basically, two level teaspoons) of Compassion Circle’s Green Mush™ (4g) per day to meet the National Research Council (NRC) recommended amount. Alternatively, add 1 compressed teaspoon (2.25g) of Chlorella Manna™or chlorella vulgaris. The c. vulgaris species is recommended because it has a higher arachidonic acid content than other chlorella species. One rounded teaspoon of powdered (ascophyllum nodosum) kelp (4g) can be used in place of Green Mush™ or chlorella vulgaris.
The NRC has not established a maximum limit for iodine, though they have for other nutrients. The AAFCO iodine MAX is 0.5625mg for a 250 calorie diet. A 4mg serving of Green Mush™ tested at 0.3144mg of iodine and Chlorella Manna™ tested at less than 0.02mg of iodine. The amount of iodine in the necessary amount of ascophyllum nodosum kelp will surpass the AAFCO maximum. Healthy cats on the Vegecat diet in the 1980s though mid-2010s indicate the higher iodine level is likely not an issue for most cats.
If a portion of your cat’s diet includes eggs or meat products, additional arachidonic acid supplementation is not necessary.*
*Compassion Circle does not endorse non-vegan food but understands that some customers use the Vegecat supplement in diets that include meat.
The National Research Council (NRC) is a respected body of scientists from the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. Their 2003 report on the daily nutrient and calorie requirements for dogs and cats summarized thousands of scientific papers published over the previous 25 years and made science-based recommendations on specific nutrient requirements for cats, resulting in the 2006 NRC recommendation for arachidonic acid. The report was sponsored by National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, and Pet Food Institute. The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) consulted this NRC report when updating their nutritional guidelines in 2015. Both regulatory bodies propose viable nutrient levels for animal companion food formulations, though it is AAFCO that regulates feed for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
While the NRC recommended nutrient levels are often higher than the AAFCO minimums, the NRC recommend daily allowance of arachidonic acid is lower than the one set by AAFCO. The AAFCO daily MDR is 12.5mg while the NRC recommends 3.75mg of arachidonic acid for a cat eating 250 calories per day. The aforementioned amounts of Green Mush™, Chlorealla Manna™ (chlorella vulgaris), or ascophyllum nodosum kelp will provide 4mg of arachidoinic acid.
The AAFCO and NRC both recommend 12.5mg of arachidonic acid in a 250 calorie diet for a growing kitten. Compassion Circle does not recommend feeding a cat or kitten the amount of green superfood it takes to reach 12.5mg of arachidonic acid on a consistent basis. For this reason, and because we can no longer use the more concentrated mortierella alpina-derived source, Compassion Circle has discontinued the Vegekit supplement. We are saddened we can no longer facilitate a nutritionally complete, home-prepared diet for kittens, but there are ready-made, vegan food options for growing kittens on the market.
Lastly, Green superfoods like Green Mush, chlorella, and kelp are alkaline forming. Cats should maintain an acid urine pH between 6.0 and 6.5. Using VegeYeast in your recipes will counter the alkalinity of your chosen arachidonic acid source. Few cats will need additional acidity in the diet. If your cat needs a lower urine pH, vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can be added. The recommendation is often 500mg of vitamin C per day to acidify urine. Your vet can advise further. You can test urine pH at home or at a vet’s office. It is ideal to test urine pH before changing the diet and about 3-weeks after adding a new alkaline or acid forming ingredient to food. Only infrequent testing is needed after the initial transition.
Please contact us directly from our contact page if you have further questions. We are here to support your efforts to give your cat the best happy, healthy life possible.