Most cat owners know that cats need to eat more protein than many other animals do. Cats break dietary protein down into amino acids, which they burn for energy or use to make new proteins. Cats cannot make all 22 amino acids they need; they need to get eleven of these (the essential amino acids) from food. This is why they need diets containing animal protein; its amino acid content more closely matches their needs than plant proteins do.

Traditional thinking has been that cats needed at least one gram of good quality animal protein per pound of healthy body weight each day, assuming that the food was processed properly so protein quality was not reduced during manufacture.

This thinking recently has changed. In 2011, a study of more than 100 adult cats showed that when given the choice, cats consistently selected foods that contained 2.3 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. This is an amount similar to values reported for feral cats living in the wild.

In another study using 24 adult neutered male cats, researchers found that cats needed to eat at least 2.3 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day to maintain muscle mass. More research is needed to determine the effects of age, sex, and activity on feline protein needs.

How can you be sure that your cat is getting this much protein? It can seem a little complicated, so here it is step by step.


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