Omega 3 acids include (excuse the long crazy names): alpha linolenic acid (or ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (or EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (or DHA).
Omega 6 acids include: linoleic acid (or LA), gamma linolenic acid (or GLA), and arachidonic acid (or AA).
Alpha-linolenic (or linolenic) acid cannot be converted into arachidonic acid by cats. Humans/dogs can. This is because cats do not have enough of this enzyme for this step. Arachidonic acid is found mainly in meat, especially red meat. This is why cats are carnivores only. This is why dogs can survive without eating real meat sources. Arachidonic acid is primarily used for maintenance of the skin and coat, kidney function and reproduction.
Essential fatty acids are found in the cell membranes all over the body. The membranes of the skin, fur, and hair are made from these essential fatty acids.
Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids play a role in inflammation. It is very important that the amount of Omega 3 and Omega 6 in the body is relatively equal. Omega 6 sources are generally easier for the cat to acquire, as it comes from sources like corn and sunflower oil. Omega 6 fatty acids are good for infections. Inflammation is a good thing, in moderation. It helps fight these infections. That’s why Omega 6 fatty acid sources are go-to sources when infections arise. However, too much of this fatty acid can actually cause discomfort and pain. This is because the end products of Omega 6 fatty acids are highly inflammatory. End products from Omega 3 fatty acids are far less inflammatory, so the damage to the cell is far less severe. The ratio should be ideally 1:1 to 5:1, Omega 6 to Omega 3.
Essential fatty acid deficiency (usually the Omega 3 sources) can result in eczema, dermatitis, and allergies. These allergies can lead to poor coat texture, scratching, constant licking, and wounding resulting from any of these. This is because the inflammation caused by the Omega 6 sources are too extreme, causing this itching and scratching.
Sources of Omega 3 fatty acids: Fish oils contain both EPA and DHA. Tuna, Trout, Cod liver, Salmon, Anchovies (you see a pattern here?) Also, walnuts, flax seed.
Sources of Omega 6 fatty acids: Canola, corn, peanut, olive oils. Flax seed.