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Am J Vet Res. 1993 Jun;54(6):901-7.

Comparison of kittens fed queen's milk with those fed milk replacers.

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Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg 24061.


Fifteen 2-week-old kittens were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 milk treatment groups as the sole source of nutrition for 4 weeks: queen's milk, commercially available kitten milk replacer (CMR), and an experimental milk replacer (EXP). Kittens fed queen's milk suckled ad libitum, whereas CMR- and EXP-fed kittens were tube-fed every 6 hours. Kittens were weaned at 6 weeks of age and were fed a feline growth diet ad libitum for an additional 4 weeks. Kittens were examined at 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 weeks of age; the procedure included an ophthalmic examination and blood sample collection for CBC and serum biochemical and amino acid analyses. Kittens fed CMR and EXP diets had weight gain greater than that for queen's milk-fed kittens. The kittens fed CMR, however, had diarrhea throughout most of the milk-feeding trial and developed diffuse anterior and posterior lens opacification and vacuolation at the posterior Y-sutures. The lens opacities noticed in the kittens during the milk treatments resolved to a residual perinuclear halo, and a few incipient cortical opacities were observed by the end of the growth diet-feeding period. Serum arginine concentration was significantly (P < or = 0.05) lower in the CMR-fed kittens, but was not different during the growth diet-feeding period. We concluded that the EXP diet supported normal growth in 2- to 6-week-old kittens; CMR supported normal kitten growth rate, but resulted in diarrhea and cataract formation; and serum amino acid data indicated that low arginine concentration may have been related to the CMR-induced cataract formation.

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