How much crude protein should be in cat food? 

The norm of protein consumption depends on the cat’s life stage. 

Kittens 

Since kitten is a quickly growing organism, it needs a higher amount of protein, amino acids, and minerals for healthy muscle development and a higher level of energy. 30-40% of kittens’ energy should be sourced from protein – the best way to cover this nutritional need is to serve specially formulated kitten food in the first year. 

Adult cats

Cats aged 1-6 years should get about 35-40% protein. It’s easier to cover this nutritional need with wet food, but everything depends on the product. For example, meals based on meat by-products will provide only 20-35% of protein, which creates the gap (which might be filled with unhealthy carbs). 

According to the research organized by AAFCO and National Research Council (NRC), “only 1.5 g protein/kg body weight was needed to maintain the cats’ nitrogen balance, while 5.2 g protein/kg body weight was necessary to avoid a loss in lean body mass.”

Senior cats 

The diet of cats older than 7 is a bit tricky. On the one hand, a high amount of protein might cause chronic kidney disease. On the other hand, a lack of protein will cause loss of muscle mass. What’s the way out? Pay attention to the quality of protein: it should be sourced from natural chicken and lamb and other lean non-fatty meats. Don’t forget to diagnose the cat’s kidneys bi-annually. 
If your cat gets diagnosed with CKD – you should shift to specialized kidney food that will decrease the load on its kidneys. Also you should check the specialized cat food additives for kidneys but please, consult your vet first.

Please, note that no matter how old is your furry friend, it’s crucial to pick well-established high protein cat food brands that put the focus on the quality of components. Protein sourced from peas, soy, and by-products are way less useful and lack essential amino acids. This is why our ultimate list contains only high-quality products with at least 35-40% of protein. 

Is high protein cat food a panacea?

Can you serve too much protein for cats? In many adult pets, excessive protein will be simply removed from the body with urine. However, according to certain studies, an excessive amount of protein puts a high load on kidneys and might be harmful.

Not recommended for senior cats 

Yes, senior cats need protein for sustaining lean muscle mass. However, their metabolic processes are slower, and the body cannot digest excessive protein as easily as in adults. Thus, old cats are under the risk of developing chronic kidney diseases – protein might damage the organ.

Not recommended for cats with kidney disease 

The same applies to adult cats with weak kidneys. Their metabolic processes are slower, and even enough water consumption is not enough to diminish the side effects of excessive protein consumption. Cats with kidney diseases are not recommended cat foods with 40%+ protein content.

Not recommended for breeds predisposed to kidney disease 

Some cat breeds (especially long-haired ones) are genetically predisposed to kidney diseases. Those include:

  • Persian cats
  • Angora cats
  • British cats
  • Maine Coon
  • Siamese cats

Owners of such breeds should take care of pets’ healthy from an early age to prevent Chronic Kidney Disease. Diet is the number one factor that matters.

FAQ’s

What percentage is high protein cat food?

Generally, 40-50% is considered to be high-protein food. In our guide, though, we mostly list 35-40% protein recipes because the quality of ingredients matters. High-quality protein is way more useful and digestible than protein sourced from grains, soy, and meat by-products.

What dry cat food has the highest protein content?  

The percentage of protein is not the only factor that defines the ratio. There is no such thing as the highest-protein food because products are served in different portions. For example, cats eat much smaller portions of 50% protein dry food than 35% analogs. The overall protein intake does not change as a result.

What is hydrolyzed protein cat food? 

‘Hydrolyzed’ protein is the substance with unchained long protein strands into smaller chains of amino acids. During this process, the peptide bonds holding amino acids are broken with the help of enzymes. Hydrolyzed protein is easier for cats to digest – such food can be recommended to cats with the weak pancreas and intestinal problems. 

In a word 

True carnivores in the animal world, cats cannot live without consuming enough protein. This is what supports their muscles and recovery processes. Make sure to define the nutritional needs of your pet and follow the veterinarian’s recommendations and guidelines.

Remember that not all high-protein cat foods are created equal. The source of nutrients matters a lot! Lean meat and meal are the most appropriate sources of protein. When it comes to animal by-products, soy, grains, and dried eggs, those are harder for a cat to digest. Plant-derived protein lacks essential amino acids, so it cannot be the foundation of healthy nutrition. 

The recipes reviewed above contain high-quality protein and all essential vitamins and minerals. They are perfect for daily nutrition of kittens, adult, and senior cats. Figure out the most appropriate product and watch your four-legged friend thrive.

I am Claudine, a College of Veterinary Medicine alumni and cat health & lifestyle specialist. In this blog, I share my personal experience and recommendations on improving cat’s diet, behavior, and both physical and psychological state.

One Comment

  • Mary A Serapin

    Really enjoyed your food article! I just bought a 17 month old mother and her 13 week old son Maine Coons. I can’t afford the very premium cat foods. The breeder was feeding nulo freestyle dry. I am feeding american journey dry and nulo wet. My concern is that the american journey may make them fat and the mom has 1 copy of the bad heart gene hcm. Vet said she is fine now. I have been looking at Taste of the Wild, Whole Earth, 4health and a few others. Is there anything you can suggest? As you know Coons need high protein.
    Also the mama cat who is 12 lbs beat up my 7 lb cat who is 12 and has been stuck in the bedroom for a week now. I know it is probably due to her baby.
    HELP, any suggestions??
    Best, MARY ANN

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