Cats have limited Δ6 desaturase activity. However, γ-linolenate (GLA) feeding may by-pass the Δ6 desaturase step allowing arachidonate (ARA) accumulation via Δ5-desaturation. Alternatively, high dietary linoleate (LNA) may induce limited Δ6 desaturase also resulting in ARA accumulation.

Fatty acid profiles were determined after feeding high LNA, high GLA, or adequate LNA diets. Adult female cats (n = 29) were assigned to one of three groups and fed for 8 weeks. Plasma samples were collected at weeks 0, 2, 4 and 8 for plasma triacylglycerol (TAG), total cholesterol (TC), lipoprotein (LP), and plasma and red blood cell membrane phospholipid fatty acid determinations. Time, but no diet, effects were observed for TAG, TC, and LP fractions at weeks 2 and 4 with significant increases likely due to increased dietary fat. However, all values were within feline normal limits.

The GLA diet resulted in increased dihomo-γ-linolenic acid (DGLA) and ARA as early as week 2, supporting a ∆5 desaturase. Further evidence of Δ5 desaturase was found at high dietary LNA with the appearance of a novel fatty acid, 20:3 ∆7, 11, 14, apparently formed via ∆5 desaturation and chain elongation of LNA. However, Δ6 desaturase induction at high dietary LNA concentration was not observed.

Cats are able to maintain plasma and red blood cell ARA when fed a practical diet containing GLA using what appears to be an active Δ5 desaturase enzyme.