Taurine is an amino acid (AA) talked about when referring to feline diets. For cats, unlike most other mammals, taurine is an essential amino acid, meaning that cats can not synthesize their own taurine from other building block amino acids as can dogs and even humans. Thus it is essential that cats take in adequate taurine in their diet on a regular basis.
With prolonged deficiencies of taurine, cats can develop central retinal degeneration,resulting in blindness. Dilated cardiomyopathy is another real risk. In this condition, the heart dilates, its walls become thinner and weaker, making the heart less effective and resulting in a form of heart failure.
It is considered fact at this point that cats do require taurine. It is even fairly widely agreed upon that cats should consume 1000mg (1 gm) or taurine per 2.2 lbs of food. The discussion begins with the question – Is my cat getting enough with the diet that I am feeding??
It turns out that this question is more difficult to answer than might at first be thought. We know that taurine is supplied almost exclusively by meat and seafood. Vegetables contain little to no measurable taurine as a group. Taurine is broken down by heat, thus, cooking meat will destroy over half to maybe 2/3 of the taurine that was available raw. It is difficult to calculate the amount of taurine actually supplied by a particular diet given the variables- baking vs boiling meat results in losing different amounts of taurine, meat from the chicken leg has much more taurine than that from the breast, and the list of variables goes on and on.
To give you an idea of the amount of taurine in foods, I will provide this list but please understand, these numbers are not concrete.
beef muscle 10 mg/oz raw 1.7mg/oz cooked
beef liver 5.5 mg/oz raw
lamb13.5 mg/oz raw 3.6mg/oz cooked
chicken 9.5mg/oz raw 2.3mg/oz cooked
fish 36mg/oz raw
shrimp 48mg/oz raw
nutritional yeast 30mg/tablet or 1/2 teaspoon
Given the inexact science behind figuring these numbers and the known dangers of under-feeding this essential amino acid to cats, I do recommend supplementing taurine in cats who are on a homemade diet. For most cats, I find that 75-100 mg of taurine per day is about right, although for some cats, I have seen this number climb close to 300 mg per day. Taurine is not stored by cats and would be very difficult to overdose. Many times you will find that you are dosing a “pinch” given the capsule size you are able to find. This approximating approach should work just fine. With taurine and cats, a little excess is definitely preferable to not quite enough.