Kitten Basics: Important Facts About Protein

Every kitten food has protein, but here are some important facts about the different types of protein to help you choose the right food for your kitten. It is impor¬tant to remember that the source of protein is vitally important to kittens because one of the principle nutritional philosophies is that kittens are best fed as carnivores.

Some pertinent facts when listening to the claims and advertising of various manufacturers:

1. Recommended kitten food protein levels are established by nutrition experts from around the world and published as NRCs (Nutrient Reference Charts). These protein requirement levels are determined by meeting the animal’s need for essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein; and by monitoring/calculating the nitrogen balance (a comparison between the intake of nitrogen in the diet and the losses through urine, feces, and evaporation from the skin and mouth). Nitrogen balance has been the recognized method of determining protein requirements for many decades. Variations in levels from what has been established for many years should be validated by convincing research. If the change in level isn’t backed by sup¬porting evidence of a tangible benefit, then there may be hazards. Studies in several species have found a link between diets with high protein levels (greater than 40% protein), bone loss, and urinary tract stones.

2. Protein from plant sources may elevate the amount of protein, but may not be as beneficial as animal-based sources of protein in kitten food because of lower digestibility, effects on muscle-to-fat body composi¬tion ratio, and the range of amino acids they provide.

3. There are only three sources of energy in any kitten food diet–fat, protein, and carbohydrate (starch). If the amount of one element is raised, the amount of one or two of the others must be lowered to maintain a proper energy level in the food for your kitten’s life stage and life¬style. A balance of nutrients is important to your kitten because each of the nutrient groups supplies something very specific for the kitten’s body. Excess protein above your kitten’s actual needs cannot be stored for future use and will be converted into fat.