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Arginine for cats – what is worth knowing about it?


Cats, as obligate carnivores, have specific needs for specific amino acids. It is worth knowing how important arginine is for a cat.

What is arginine

Arginine is one of the exogenous acids for cats, with a very extensive name 2-amino-5-guanidinovaleric acid. Most mammalian organisms, such as humans, ruminants, pigs, and rodents, are able to synthesize this amino acid themselves, so for them it is an endogenous amino acid. However, in the case of dogs and cats the situation is different and results from their natural predation. Apart from taurine, it is another very important amino acid.

You can read more about taurine in the article “Taurine for cats”.

A cat with green eyes

Why is arginine necessary for cats?

Arginine performs many functions in the body. One of the main functions in carnivores is the energy function. It is also one of the elements of the urea cycle taking place in hepatocytes, i.e. liver cells. This means that it is necessary for the ammonia detoxification process and the production of non-toxic urea. This ultimately determines the proper functioning of the cat’s nervous and immune systems.

Arginine also plays a significant role in hormonal metabolism, as it is involved in the release of insulin, glucagon and gastrin. It also takes part in the processes of cell division and renewal.

A function that should also be mentioned is the influence on the production of nitric oxide, which is a hormone that has a relaxing effect on the walls of blood vessels. This consequently affects the proper flow and pressure of blood in the cat’s body. Therefore, among others this amino acid plays an important role in cats suffering from kidney disease.

There are also reports of the positive effect of arginine in animals suffering from cancer. This specifically refers to the combination of arginine and glutamine, which can limit tumor growth and metastasis.

Arginine requirements of cats

Arginine is an exogenous amino acid in dogs and cats, but cats are much more sensitive to its deficiency. The need for arginine in growing kittens is 0.50 g per kg of metabolic body weight, and for adult cats – 0.19 g/kg of metabolic body weight.

The high demand for arginine in cats results from some of the characteristics of a typical predator. These include the inability to endogenously re-synthesize ornithine without the presence of arginine, low activity of enzymes such as pyroline-5-carboxysynthetase and ornithine aminotransferase, and the inability to synthesize arginine from ornithine.

Arginine deficiency in cats – symptoms

The most common symptoms of arginine deficiency in cats include the development of hyperammonemia. It is manifested by intense salivation, vomiting, hyperesthesia, and the appearance of paralysis and tetanic spasms. Ultimately, this may even lead to coma and death of the cat.


Where can we find arginine?

The main source of arginine are proteins of animal origin, so if your cat is on a high-meat diet based on muscle meat and offal, we do not have to worry about a deficiency of this amino acid. Such diets include, among others: BARF diet.

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