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J Nutr. 2002 Jul;132(7):2037-42.

Cats require more dietary phenylalanine or tyrosine for melanin deposition in hair than for maximal growth.

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Department of Molecular Biosciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, USA.


In 1986, the NRC recommended a dietary concentration of 4.0 g/kg of phenylalanine and 8.5 g/kg of total aromatic amino acids for growing kittens on the basis of maximal growth rate and nitrogen balance. Black hair-coated cats were given purified diets containing the following phenylalanine + tyrosine (Phe + Tyr) concentrations (g/kg diet): 4 + 2, 4 + 4, 4 + 6, 4 + 8, 10 + 0, 10 + 2, 10 + 4, 10 + 6, 10 + 8, 10 + 10, 24 + 0 for at least 6 mo. All other amino acids were present at about twice the requirements. Total melanin and the oxidation product of eumelanin, pyrrole-2,3,5-tricarboxylic acid (PTCA) were measured in hair. There was a significant linear relationship between the concentrations of tyrosine in plasma and PTCA in hair. The relationship between PTCA concentration in hair and Phe + Tyr in the diet had a point of inflection at approximately 16 g/kg Phe + Tyr. Cats fed diets with <16 g Phe + Tyr developed "red hair." We confirmed the anecdotal reports that the black hair of cats can change from black to reddish brown. An aromatic amino acid concentration > or =18 g/kg is recommended for the prevention of visually discernible red hair in black-coated cats. Dietary concentrations >18 g total aromatic amino acids/kg diet promote a greater ratio of PTCA:total melanin in hair. We are unaware of a secondary nutrient requirement being so much greater than the requirement for growth.

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