A lack of essential fatty acids can cause pets to develop disorders such as flaky skin and lesions as well as unhealthy conditions associated with internal organs. Coconut oil has capric and caprylic acids, which are effective anti-fungals. It also boasts a large amount of lauric acid, which has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral qualities. Despite its healthy qualities, it may not be the best dietary choice for your cat.
What Coconut Oil is Missing
In a study by the University of California School of Veterinary Medicine, cats ate a diet deficient in essential fatty acids for up to 2.5 years. The lack of linoleate, an essential fatty acid vital to cats, increased harmful fats in the cats' bodies, leading to health problems. Fatty livers, mineralized adrenal glands and the development of skin lesions were some of the health conditions chronic deficiency seen in the cats. Coconut oil has only 2 percent linoleic acid, making it an inferior choice to provide this essential fat to your cat's diet. Safflower oil and grape-seed oil are better choices, with 78 and 73 percent linoleic acid, respectively.
Compounding the Problem
While linoleic acid is essential in the feline diet, cats can't metabolize it without the help of arachidonate. While this fatty acid is a proinflammatory compound in humans, cats fed linoleate without the presence of arachidonate could not process the essential fatty acid in their liver. To complicate matters, coconut oil works to reduce the formation of arachidonic acid. The end result is as if your cat was not taking an essential fatty acid at all. In the University of California study, cats taking coconut oil along with safflower seed oil and chicken fat developed fatty liver disease despite the high levels of linoleate in their diet.
The Coconut Oil Taste Challenge
If your veterinarian determines that the risks are worth coconut oil's benefits to your cat, adding it to her diet may not be as easy as putting it over her food. In a related study by the University of California, cats fed hydrogenated coconut oil lost weight, due to rejecting their food. Further testing revealed that cats turned their noses up at diets rich in medium-chain triglycerides and caprylic acid -- two of the components of coconut oil. Ask your vet about using coconut oil capsules or administering it through a syringe should he recommend it for your cat's diet.
A Coconut Oil Rub
If your cat suffers from a skin condition, adding a coconut oil massage to her bath time can provide soothing relief. Simply warm the oil in your hands and massage onto your cat's skin. Let sit for 5 minutes before rinsing away. Your cat will try to lick the oil off her skin during the process; the oil is harmless when not fed as a regular part of the diet. Be careful not to let her lick an excessive amount, as it could loosen her bowels.