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J Feline Med Surg. 2013 Aug;15(8):691-7. doi: 10.1177/1098612X12474448. Epub 2013 Jan 29.

Discrepancy between use of lean body mass or nitrogen balance to determine protein requirements for adult cats.

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Nestlé Purina PetCare Company, Floyd, VA 24091, USA.


This study was undertaken to contrast the minimum protein intake needed to maintain nitrogen balance or lean body mass (LBM) in adult cats using a prospective evaluation of 24 adult, neutered male cats fed one to three different diets. Following a 1-month baseline period during which all cats consumed a 34% protein diet, cats were fed a 20% (LO), 26% (MOD) or 34% (HI) protein diet for 2 months. During the baseline period and following the 2-month feeding period, nitrogen balance was assessed using a 96-h complete collection of urine and feces, and LBM was assessed using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Weight loss increased in a linear manner with decreasing protein intake (P <0.01), despite no significant difference in calorie intake. Linear regression of the data indicated that approximately 1.5 g protein/kg (2.1 g/kg(0.75)) body weight is needed to maintain nitrogen balance, while 5.2 g protein/kg (7.8 g/kg(0.75)) body weight is needed to maintain LBM. This study provides evidence that nitrogen balance studies are inadequate for determining optimum protein requirements. Animals, including cats, can adapt to low protein intake and maintain nitrogen balance while depleting LBM. Loss of LBM and an associated reduction in protein turnover can result in compromised immune function and increased morbidity. Current Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and National Research Council (NRC) standards for protein adequacy may not provide adequate protein to support LBM. The minimum daily protein requirement for adult cats appears to be at least 5.2 g/kg (7.8 g/kg(0.75)) body weight, well in excess of current AAFCO and NRC recommendations. Further research is needed to determine the effect, if any, of body condition, age and gender on protein requirements.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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