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I know that too much vitamin D (fat soluble) can cause toxicity in cats, but how much is too much?

The reason I asked this is - When I open my vitamin D bottle, because I take it, my kitty goes "can I get one of those" - every time. She's convinced that they must taste great.

My cat is crazy, I've caught her eating dust bunnies which I sometimes pull from her mouth, sometimes I'm not successful.

I've seen her eat feathers from my pillow, biting the plastic ends off things and swallowing the plastic.

I've tried to cat-proof my house, but she's just one of those "if I can chew on it, I'll eat it" types.

Fortunately she's gotten better. When she was a kitten she was just crazy. She likes ear wax and more than once has pulled an used Q-tip out of the garbage and chewed on the used end.

I feed her well. Expensive canned food and some dry food.

She wants my vitamin D. On googling I find that, some cats can be vitamin D deficient, but dosing should be done properly.

My cat is 10 lb (4.5 kg). Is once in a while (or maybe just once), vitamin D supplement, a safe dose? It might be that she just wants the gelatin, in which case, maybe I'll squeeze the vitamin D oil out of the pill and give her the gel capsule.

Note added 11 months later: While not part of the question exactly, my little kitty, now nearly 2 years old and 11 lbs (5 kg), she no longer begs when I open my (Dr. prescribed) vitamin D pill container. I think it may have been a kitten thing, kittens having an urge to try stuff, but that's just a guess.

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Just like in most terrestrial animals, humans included, sunlight is needed to produce vitamin D.

It is not the vitamin D that is the most dangerous, but the content of vitamin A is. But your question is about vitamin D so I will focus on this here.

In the summer your cat will get the vitamin D it needs from the Sun and it only need about 20 minutes of sunlight daily to synthesise the required amount.

It is hard to find reliable sources on what dosage is safe for cats. Please take a look at this article on provet.co.uk about the subject of cod liver oil and the potential toxicity of vitamin A.

So in essence, a cat does not need any type of additional vitamin D supplementation during the summer, unless it is an strictly indoor cat and is exposed to very little sunlight. But that is just an extreme example, please never expose any animals to this type of environment of living in the dark.

If one lives in the far north/south, in the winter your cat might get too little sunlight to produce the needed vitamin D and the same goes for yourself.

If you give your cat fat fish or give your cat fish oil (fish oil is often given in the winter to avoid dry skin) your cat will not need extra vitamin D.

Please note that FISH OIL IS NOT THE SAME AS CODLIVER OIL.

So if your cat is not given fat fish AND lives in the dark, you might give your cat one small drop of codliver oil once a week, but not any more and not if your cat gets the sunlight it needs. Please note that the dosage I mention here is what i see as safe for most cats, but i am not a vet.

Codliver oil and the vitamin D are types of fat so it will acumulate in your cat's liver, any excess of vitamin D will acumulate and slowly poison your cat.

In short, be very careful if you give your cat vitamin D.

Edit: it is mentioned in a comment that cats do not produce vitamin D from the sunlight. This might be right or wrong and is of little importance for the conclusion in this answer: cats in general do not need extra vitamin D supplementation.

Regardless, sunlight or simulated sunlight is important for the well-being of most pets.

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    Nice answer. This article suggests you're wrong about cats using sun to produce vitamin D and it sites a study (I didn't have this when I posted my question). pets.thenest.com/cats-absorbing-vitamin-d-lying-sun-10489.html the article agrees with you on being careful with supplements, doubly true with a cat like mine that likes eating unfamiliar tiny things.
    – userLTK
    Jan 2 '18 at 12:58
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    thank you for the comment,the conclusion is still cats do normaly not need addition of vitamin-D and there is some risk involved if one add this. Jan 2 '18 at 13:10
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I don't like answering my own question, but because I came across this article below and it's slightly different than the answers above, I thought I'd post it as an alternative answer. I also respect the "don't give cats supplements" or "a drop of fish oil" answers, too. I don't necessarily think this is right, but it's an option to consider.

Article.

It quotes a study that found that cat's, unlike people, don't get vitamin D from sunlight, even when shaved.

Cats get vitamin D from their diet.

Food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, such as salmon, egg yolks, cheese and other dairy products fortified with vitamin D.

In my opinion it's better to give your cat a portion of salmon or scrambled egg or dairy (my cats love cream cheese) than a supplement. I didn't ask this question to give my cat vitamin D as a supplement, I asked cause when my cat sees me take a vitamin D she asks for one and I wondered if maybe she knew something I didn't, but I also don't trust a cat that eats dust bunnies to know what's good for her.

It's also possible that cats that like beef and chicken cat food only might be a little low on vitamin D, unless those cans are fortified. My cat eats a fair bit of tuna cat food, so she might be fine on cat food alone.

I did ask the vet "she eats all kinds of stuff" and the vet's answer was "maybe she has a vitamin deficiency" - I'm not sure I believe the vet, as that's just one answer, and a natural instinct to chew on stuff is another, and the vet sounded more like she was proposing a possible answer than stating a fact, but it's possible.

Also from the article:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Animal and Veterinary Department recommends vitamin D levels in foods that vary based on a cat’s development age. If your furry friend is a kitten or pregnant female, she should receive 750.0 International Units per kilogram, or IU/kg. For adults, that number drops to 500.0 IU/kg.

and for toxicity

Both age levels have a maximum daily amount of 10,000.0 IU/kg.

I supplement my diet with 2,000 IU per day (doctor recommended dosage) and my kitty is between 4 and 5 kg, so surprisingly, 1 of my pills is about my kitty's daily recommendation, but that doesn't include what she already gets in her diet.

To be safe, I may give my kitty 1/2 pill, which, given that it's oil filled, would be measurably less than 1,000 IU with spillage and see if she likes it, not every day, just when she asks for one. I think that's probably in the safe zone. I still have no idea if my kitty has a vitamin D shortage (people go years with a vitamin D shortage and they don't even know it - so, it's not all that bad). But I think a half pill (less than 1,000 IU), every once in a while, should be perfectly safe and a plate of salmon or bit of dairy here and there. Dairy is one of those "should I/shouldn't I" things too, because some cats have trouble digesting it - but I'm sure that's covered in other questions.

On how much is in cat food

This article says that good quality cat food contains plenty.

Good-quality cat foods already contain great levels of Vitamin D.

Also, many of our cats’ favorite foods, such as oily fish, eggs and cheese, are already high in Vitamin D. Giving a supplement just isn’t necessary — and it’s dangerous to give too much of a good thing.

Your cat is unlikely to eat enough food to become poisoned with Vitamin D. Indeed, the most common causes of toxicity are over-supplementation or eating rodents poisoned with Vitamin D–rich baits.

The article also indicates that higher levels of vitamin D can help sick cats heal, but whether this means cats should have more vitamin D than they typically get is unknown. More research is needed.

In May 2015, the University of Edinburgh vet school announced the results of a study showing that seriously ill cats with high levels of Vitamin D in their blood were more likely to be alive 1 month later than cats with low Vitamin D levels.

and it goes on to say:

It’s easy to leap to the conclusion that if Vitamin D aids in recovery, then giving your cat a Vitamin D supplement could improve his health. However, it is dangerous to make this assumption because Vitamin D is toxic in high doses.

At this time, in the (in)famous words of former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, “There are more unknowns than knowns.”

How or why Vitamin D benefited the sick cats is not known, which is just one reason the experts do not advise giving your cat a supplement.

and just for fun and further reading, another article that discusses the uncertainty, or, as they put it "controversy".

I want to point out that the first article quotes a study that cats don't make vitamin D from sun and the 2nd and 3rd article says they do - so, who to believe? Personally I believe the study, not the argument that because humans make vitamin D in sunlight, cats do to, but it still gives me pause when sources make contrary statements.


My conclusion - vitamin D supplementing is likely not a good idea without a vet's recommendation and a blood test, because for now, not enough is known. Cat food contains vitamin D, and supplementing with vitamin D rich foods like salmon or other fish or dairy or even a drop of fish oil is sufficient. There's no reason to ever give a cat an actual supplement, unless the cat doesn't like fish, egg yolk or dairy so the diet might be a little low and even then, only with a vets recommendation, blood test and in kitty portions.

Again, I never considered supplementing my cat for vitamins. That wasn't the question. I only asked, because she wants one, so I wanted to know, if I gave her one (or half of one), as an occasional treat, would it hurt her. Based on reading, a half pill (considerably less than 1,000 AU with spillage) and not very often, sounds within safety limits. I'm going to give my little crazy a half pill next time she asks because a small enough dosage sounds well within the safety range.

But wow, vitamin D and cats. To quote Donald Trump. "Who knew it could be so complicated."

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  • An edit has been suggested to your answer saying: "NOTE: This is wrong. The cited source is not talking about your cat's weight; it is talking about the vitamin D per kg of food. Animals usually require around 5-40 IU per kg of body weight, not 500." (source) and I rejected it because it should have been posted as a comment or separate answer instead of suggested edit; but please check this, maybe this message is correct, thanks.
    – lila
    Dec 26 '20 at 20:30
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NO.

Do not feed your cat human food. Period.

Your cat probably thinks that a lot of things are tasty, more so if you eat it. Don't let her. It will kill her. A lot of things we humans can eat without problems, are toxic to cats. Human food ≠ cat food!

Lastly, cat food should have all the nutrients that your cat needs. No need to give supplements.

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Dose yourself up if you like, but don't give a pet dietary supplements intended for human consumption. Give your cat a balanced diet suitable for felines, not tablets.

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    LOL. I take vitamin D on a doctor's recommendation based on blood test results, so I don't dose myself up, I was advised to address a deficiency. But I think you're right, or at least, if you give cats supplements, do it based on a blood test and an intelligent vets recommendation and in kitty portions, never human supplements.
    – userLTK
    Jan 2 '18 at 13:03
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This article suggests that symptoms of Vitamin D toxicity can begin with doses as low as 4000 IU/kg. I would assume that this is a very conservative estimate since this is an article written for the general public (as opposed to a veterinary study).

http://www.pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-toxins-poisons/vitamin-d-poisoning

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While the existing answers offer some excellent insight into the question offered in the title of this question, "What is a safe dose of Vitamin D," I feel all have missed one very critical piece of the picture from the actual body of the question:

She wants my vitamin D.

No, she doesn't.

I cannot emphasize this enough: Your cat has no idea whatsoever what Vitamin D is, or what a supplement is in general. She is not "instinctively craving" a pill; that's not a thing any species does. She wants a treat. The sound of a pill bottle rattling is not particularly different from the sound of a treat rattling in a container, and as she then sees you "eat" what you take out of the bottle, it must be delicious! One of my cats comes to eye me up every time I take my regular medications; that doesn't mean she has allergies she desperately needs treated, it means she thinks the pill bottle sound means a treat is coming. That's it.

Stop reading so much into it and either ignore her, or, if you want to make sure she continues to bug you every time you take any pill for the rest of her life, offer her a cat treat.

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I don't think the op was reading the FDA article correctly. I wish she included the link for me to read over myself. Those recommended vitamin D levels don't sound to me to be for daily intake per kilo of cat. They sound like levels that cat food manufacturers should include per kilo of cat food. Big difference.

Given how susceptible cats are to kidney diseases, and how their livers process food and chemicals differently from how humans do, I would recommend the slow and easy route instead. 500 IU of vitamin D per 10lb and over adult cat per week would be my target. Not per kilo of cat; per cat.

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Do NOT give supplements! Excess Vitamin D can cause all kinds of terrible disorders in cats. I just read about a case in the UK, where a kitten became gravely ill from a natural canned cat food that was distributed as a complimentary gift with their dry food. The dosage of vitamin D in the cans alone was too high and caused terrible life-threatening conditions in the poor kitten.

Also, as mentioned earlier, cats do NOT synthesize Vitamin D from the sun, like people do.

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    Welcome to Pets, please maybe include the link to said article you mentioned, thanks.
    – lila
    Jan 21 at 18:48

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