Arginine in Cats

By Frank Will

Arginine in cats, although it is not nearly as well known as Taurine, is a very close second in its importance for your pet. If your cat becomes deficient of arginine, their ammonia levels will become extremely high. When ammonia levels in your cat rises, it places your pet in jeopardy of extreme salivation as well as extreme vocalization because of the pain.

However, this may be the least of your concerns as it can also very rapidly lead to ataxia, which is the loss of your cats ability to coordinate muscular movement. If it is severe enough, it can take your cats life.

What is Arginine?

Arginine in cats, just like Taurine, is an amino acid, and most animals manufacture the amino acid ornthine through several different process. Most all of these processes require the presence of arginine, but with cats it is slightly different. They do not have the option of several processes as their only method of producing ornithine is to convert it from arginine. Ornithine is absolutely critical for your cat as it is essential in binding ammonia that is broken down from protein.

Because of cats rather strange system as compared to other animals, if arginine becomes deficient in your pets diet, they become unable to produce ornithine and they can not bind ammonia. Most of the protein in your cats body is produced within several hours of a meal, and if the deficiency reaches the danger point, several symptoms will start to rapidly occur.


The ammonia binding process that relies on arginine in cats sets off a series of symptoms when it reaches dangerously low levels. The first symptom that you will see in your cat is a very sudden and extreme salivation. Excessive salivation is quite normal in dogs, but it is anything but normal in a cat. If fact, when your cat does start to salivate, it is usually the first sign that you have that something is wrong. The more they salivate, the worse the underlying condition could be.

The next symptom generally follows directly after the salivation starts, and it is an extreme vocalization by your cat. Some cats are naturally more vocal then others, but this is a sound that you will know when you hear it. It will sound like a cry for help and it is just that as your cat may now be in extreme pain. However, what follows will literally stop the hearts of any owner when you first see it; ataxia.

Ataxia is a medical term that is derived from the Greek meaning without order, and this is exactly what happens to your cat in the most severe of cases. It causes disturbances in their ability to control body posture, motor coordination, as well as speech control which explains the sudden and excessive vocalization. It also causes very strange eye movements and it may look like your cat is possessed as it can be that bad.

Deficiencies of this nature are rare in cats, but if it does occur and reaches this level, it can rapidly take their life.

Other dangers:

The lack of sufficient arginine in cats also has some other dangers including hyperammonemia. This is a metabolic type of disturbance that is the result of too much ammonia in your cats blood stream. It can cause what is referred as encephalopathy which includes several different types of potential brain diseases.

The symptoms of hyperammonemia are vomiting as well as muscular spasms and can also include titanic spasms. These are spasms that lead to very sudden and severe involuntary muscle contractions that can rapidly place your cat into a coma.

Food sources and requirements:

In understanding the requirements of arginine in cats, it is very helpful for owners to understand the sensitivity that it causes when it is lacking. The major role of this amino acid is in its function of maintaining a normal urea cycle. The urea cycle is also referred to as the ornithine cycle, and is a system of biochemical reactions. Urea is a water soluble compound in your cat that is the major nitrogenous end product of their protein metabolism.

It is also the main nitrogenous component of your cats urine. Your cats rate of protein catabolism is always very high as it is the set of pathways that breaks down the molecules in protein into smaller units. The protein requirements in your cat is often based off of dry unit matter basis and is 30.0 in growing and reproductive cats, and than drops to 26.0 in adult cats. The arginine requirements based on the same measurement system is 1.25 in growing and reproductive cats, and also drops to 1.04 levels in adult cats.

Food sources of this nutrient relative to your cats diet include milk and milk products, sea foods, as well as beef, chicken, and turkey. Peas are also very rich in L-arginine and are often added to commercial dry food. However, just like Taurine, if you feed your cat a homemade diet, you will need to supplement arginine if their diet does not include the basic food sources. In most all cases, the sea foods and meats will cover most of the requirements.

However, you should always check both the Taurine and the Arginine requirements with your veterinarian before feeding raw diets.


Arginine in cats is a very close second to Taurine in your cats diet, and although it is rare that your cat would become severely deficient, it is still very important to understand what it is and what it does. The ammonia binding process is critical to your cats overall health, and there is one thing that this as well as the need for Taurine should illustrate; your cat can not be feed a vegetarian diet.

Cats are carnivores and need their meat for several reasons, and these are just a few of them.

I am an avid lover of pets and my wife and I have had several pets throughout our years. We are especially fond of dogs, and we have a 12 year old Dalmatian (our 3rd) and a “mutt” that we rescued when someone threw him away to die in a vacant field.

He found us, nearly starved to death, and weighed about 2 pounds.

After severe bouts of mange and severe dehydration, and over 1,000.00 in veterinarian bills, we saved the little guys life, and he is one of the best, if not the best, dogs we have ever had and today is a muscular, fit, and firm 70 pound best friend.

After finishing my MBA, which at middle age was not easy, I decided to keep the research work ethics that I acquired, and devote about two hours each night in understanding the health benefits of supplementation for both humans and pets and how they might strengthen our, as well as our pets, immune system in a pre-emptive approach to health rather than a reactionary approach.

Both of my daughters are avid cat lovers, and asked me to help them with health concerns and challenges with their cats.

I am not a veterinarian nor claim to be, just a lover of pets that loves to research and pass on some knowledge that might be helpful, or at least stimulating to the thought process.

Several of the articles that I have written can be found on my website;

Liquid Vitamins & Minerals for Humans & Pets

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