Protein Requirements For Cats

What are the protein requirements for cats? Adult cats need twice the amount of protein as dogs. If their diet is low in protein, break down of muscle occurs (called muscle catabolism). Two amino acids are also needed by cats. These are arginine and taurine. Meat contains an adequate supply of arginine. It would seem therefore to be hard to deprive a cat of arginine unless the diet is specially formulated and defective in this essential amino acid.

On the contrary, it is quite easy for a cat's diet to be deficient in taurine. Cats have a limited ability to synthesise taurine whereas most animals can synthesise it meaning manufacture it. Cats therefore need to ingest it in their diet. Foods that contain taurine are meat, milk and fish (particularly shellfish). Feline milk (colostrum) contains high concentrations of taurine.

What is taurine needed for?

Answer: bile acid conjugation and felinine biosynthesis. Felinine is an amino acid in the cat's urine. It is formed in the kidney and excreted in the urine. Its function is unknown but may be used in marking territory.

High concentrations of taurine are found in the cat's heart, retinal and brain tissues. A deficiency of taurine can result in central retinal degeneration and blindness, heart disease - dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), reproductive failure and neonatal abnormalities.

Retinal damage due to taurine deficiency can be rectified on reintroducing taurine into the diet provided the changes are slight.

Also reversible by introducing taurine into a cat's diet is dilated cardiomyopathy.  Although the disease can be fatal.

Mothers who are a deficient in taurine often reabsorb their kittens or the kitten is stillborn or perhaps have a low birth weight. Kittens have low survival rates, poor growth rates and can have abnormalities.

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