There’s a lot to think about as a cat owner, but one of the most important considerations should be how to support and enhance your pet’s immune system. That’s why we wrote this blog post to explore cat immune system boosters, specific foods to include in their diet and why it’s all so important.
Why Is a Healthy Immune System Important for Cats?
Just like humans, cats are susceptible to a wide range of illnesses. The immune system, made up of organs, cells and proteins, is an important line of defense that protects the body from germs, substances and abnormal cells that can do harm. But resistance to illness is just one of many reasons why a healthy immune system is important for cats. The immune system also contributes to:
- Wound healing: Scrapes and scratches can happen even with normal daily activities. A healthy immune system helps with efficient healing, which also prevents germs from penetrating the skin barrier.
- Allergy response: Allergic reactions can be caused by insect bites, vaccines, drugs, food and more, but a properly functioning immune system will produce appropriate chemicals, including histamines, to control the severity of a reaction.
- Pregnancy health: A mother’s immune system will not only protect her, but her kittens during pregnancy and while nursing.
- Longevity: In the long run, reducing the risk of infections and illnesses means a longer, healthier life for your cat. A strong immune system will prevent chronic illness and enable your pet to recover more effectively.
- Quality of life: Cats with strong immune systems spend less time recovering from illnesses, meaning they are more likely to feel healthy and be active.
What Causes a Weak Immune System in Cats?
There are environmental and hereditary reasons why a cat might have a weak immune system — ranging from exposure to toxins, stressors and genetic predisposition. Let’s take a closer look at these factors:
- Diseases or infections that lead to a weakened immune system can be caused by malnutrition, stress, poisons or cancer. One of the most common worldwide is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, transmitted via a bite wound from an infected cat. Transmission rates are 15% higher in cats that are sick or at high risk of infection. Other common diseases that cause immunodeficiency include feline distemper (also known as feline panleukopenia) and Feline Leukemia Virus.
- Inherited conditions and birth defects such as a low number of phagocyte cells (which ward off invaders), can be congenital or acquired. These cells are created in bone marrow, and a deficiency will make a cat susceptible to a wide range of infections.
10 Ways to Boost Your Cat’s Immune System
The following are a few prominent cat immune system boosters to focus on:
1. Feed a nutritious diet
A healthy diet is the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. That means eliminating fillers and gums that often make up the majority of pet foods. At RAWZ, we focus on providing minimally processed, natural options, with ingredients sourced from locations we’re happy to share with customers.
2. Provide proper protein
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they thrive on a meat-based diet as their primary energy source. As a general rule, cats need two grams of protein for every pound of body weight. However, that may vary depending on age, activity level, health conditions and other factors. Amino acids found in protein help strengthen the immune system.
3. Provide fresh water
Cats are not inclined to drink nearly as much water as their canine counterparts, but making sure that fresh water is always available is typically enough to ensure proper hydration. Wondering if your cat is dehydrated? Watch for signs such as lethargy, brittle fur, loss of skin elasticity and pale tongue or gums.
4. Exercise and play
Keep your cat moving and healthy by having some fun. Exercise is important to improve circulation, keep a healthy weight, reduce stress and more — all contributing to a stronger immune system (mix up play-time with a DIY cat toy! It doesn't have to be pricey).
5. Minimize exposure to chemicals and toxins
Chemicals and toxins, including some in common household cleaners, plants and pesticides, can be harmful to cats. Exposure can lead to a weakening of organs that, in part, contribute to the larger immune system.
6. Keep a clean environment
Ensuring that your cat lives in a stress-free environment — without physical or emotional hurdles — is a great way to ensure immune health. As we’ve reviewed in this blog post, promoting an overall healthy lifestyle is key to optimal health.
7. Consider supplements
In addition to proper nutrition, the right vitamins and supplements can enhance your pet’s immune system. Cats with health conditions, nutritional deficiencies or of a certain age can experience the biggest benefits. If you think your cat falls into any of these categories, it’s best to consult a veterinarian.
8. Avoid stressful situations
Stress, threats and even the perception of threats all negatively affect a cat’s health, leading to behavioral issues and weakened immune function. Chronic stress can also lead to isolation, aggression and lack of interest in playing or being active.
9. Regular vet visits
Veterinarians recommend an annual visit to administer preventative screenings, conduct a thorough examination and address any concerns you may have. Keeping up with these appointments is a great way to ensure that your pet stays healthy and to discover any potential problems as early as possible.
10. Dental care
Dental care is extremely important. Studies show that between 50 and 90% of cats older than four suffer from some form of dental disease. Built-up plaque can turn into gingivitis, periodontitis and other infections. On top of extreme discomfort, this bacteria can enter the bloodstream and damage kidneys and other vital organs that contribute to strong immunity.
7 Immune Boosting Foods for Cats
Many people wonder how to boost a cat’s immune system naturally. Here’s a list of some foods and vitamins to consider incorporating into their diet to do just that. Remember, every cat’s needs are different, and it’s always a good idea to have a discussion with a veterinarian to ensure optimal nutrition.
- Quality protein is important for proper immune function. Provide your cat with a natural concentrated protein source, such as the dehydrated chicken we opt for here at RAWZ!
- Fish is another lean source of protein that will improve the health of your cat’s muscles, organs and vascular health.
- Pumpkin contains a healthy amount of fiber to support strong digestive health. High in water content, pumpkin is also a great way to add hydration, especially if your cat is resistant to drinking water.
- Probiotics are integral to a healthy diet and are often relied on to restore normal absorption in the gut. This helps to ensure that the body is able to metabolize vitamins and minerals.
- Vitamin C can prevent cell damage and boost immune health, but be sure that you’re not overdoing it. Too much vitamin C can be counterproductive.
- Marine microalgae oil acts as an anti-inflammatory agent by providing EPA and DHA fatty acids. This can improve cardiovascular, joint and immune system health.
- Cranberry and dandelion greens provide antioxidants to minimize damage to cells throughout the body.
Q: Is a cat’s immune system similar to a human’s?
A: While there are some differences between the immune system of a cat and a human, studies have shown that they are largely responsible for the same functions and overall well-being.
Q: Can a cat’s immune system be weakened?
A: Yes. Like a human’s, a cat’s immune system can become weak when under stress or compromised by poor nutrition and lifestyle.
Q: How can I boost my cat’s immune system?
A: There are many ways to boost your cat’s immune system, from ensuring proper nutrition, vitamins and supplements, to ensuring they do not come into contact with harmful substances and toxins.
Q: Are there natural ways to boost my cat’s immune system?
A: Some natural solutions to boosting your cat’s immune system include adding proper amounts of probiotics and vitamin C, along with appropriate servings of fish and pumpkin, to name a few.
Now that you have a better understanding of your cat’s immune system and its incredible importance, take a look at what your pet is consuming to make sure they’re getting the very best. Trust RAWZ to keep your pets happy and healthy, and check out our products online or at a retailer near you.